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Playoff is only way to settle football champ

By HUBERT MIZELL, Times Correspondent
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

Congress is blitzing the BCS. Too bad it isn't a body with clout, like TV networks.

I've screamed for NCAA Division I playoffs since Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno had pimples on their coaching cheeks.

Bowl Championship Series manipulators don't have the guts to put it to a public referendum, I'm convinced, from Maui to Montauk, the vote would be a landslide approaching Reagan over Mondale.

Congress doesn't have the gumption to break up the brotherhood. There are too many arm-twisting lobbyists for a closed cast of six heavyweight conferences, four bowls majoring in collusion, plus Notre Dame.

Wouldn't you rather have the Mizell Championship Series?

My deal would be a 16-team playoff, covering four weekends, playing the final seven days before the Super Bowl.

You know I'm right. I mean, if you're not a BCS lackey. Human frailties would be only temporarily involved, helping select the Sweet 16.

From there, everything would be decided by pure competition. Far more bowls would be involved, using 15 venues from Pasadena to Jacksonville.

Just for fun, let's say the 1-to-16 rankings for the MCS wound up with (1) Oklahoma, (2) Miami, (3) Ohio State, (4) Texas, (5) Kansas State, (6) Georgia, (7) Michigan, (8) Southern California, (9) Florida State, (10) Notre Dame, (11) Nebraska, (12) Tennessee, (13) LSU, (14) Florida, (15) Colorado and (16) Washington.

In the opening round, we'd have Oklahoma-Washington meeting in San Diego, Miami-Colorado in San Antonio, Ohio State-Florida in Houston, Texas-LSU in Memphis, Kansas State-Tennessee in Dallas, Georgia-Nebraska in Nashville, Michigan-Notre Dame in Atlanta and FSU-USC in El Paso.

Nice little weekend, huh?

Let's say, for clarity's sake, the eight higher seeds win. In the national quarterfinals, that would mean Sooners-Trojans in Tempe, Hurricanes-Wolverines in Jacksonville, Buckeyes-Bulldogs in Tampa and Longhorns-Wildcats in Orlando.

Are you with me?

Sure, there would be upsets. I'm just trying to avoid complexities of explanation. By the third weekend, the MCS would have OU-Texas playing in Miami and UM-OSU in New Orleans.

Finally, the big one at Pasadena.

If you are of fair mind and competitive heart, how can this not be a better, fuller system than the BCS? Wouldn't you think Congress would be for what is more open, more invigorating and more legitimate? I mean, shouldn't Congress?

I'm afraid the MCS has no chance. BCS heavies and TV execs are a snooty brotherhood, with a firmer lock on college football than the Mafia ever had on New York's fish markets.

But the odor is familiar.

POOCH PUNTS: Remember when only a high fastball could handcuff Jose Canseco? ... Ask me to name college football's most entertaining league, I'll say "Conference USA." ... He won't get the plaque, but if I had a vote for AL Manager of the Year, it would go to Lou Piniella, who did more imposing work with the cheap, young D-Rays than during his 116-win season with the Seattle Mariners.

DIFFERING ON BONDS: Mark Johnson of Tampa agreed by e-mail with some of my "best-ever" stance on Barry Bonds, but takes issue with the total package.

"He is and will be regarded as the best hitter in history," Johnson said, "but Barry's defense, which you noted as excellent,' really is not. ... Average outfielder with, at best, an average arm. ... Would you take Bonds over Willie Mays in his prime?

"Don't let go of (your personal hero Hank) Aaron just yet. ... He's still No.2 behind Mays and just ahead of Ruth, Mantle, Musial and Bonds."

Johnson is a solid baseball man steeped with 32 years experience as a coach and player. I cheer his debate.

LOBS: For a long and rainy time, I figured U.S. Open tennis might dump USA/CBS and schedule matches on a more appropriate network, the Weather Channel. ... John McEnroe does smashing commentary, but when does the "You can't be serious!" fellow nudge into the 21st century by ceasing to refer to female tennis players as "girls"? ... Watching the NFL's beefy opening weekend, along with a load of college football, I saw no athlete with more grit and competitiveness than 5-foot-5 U.S. Open (and French Open) winner Justine Henin-Hardenne. ... Andy Roddick is a sensational new Grand Slam champ, so I'm shocked TV ratings were so low; though my pal Donna T. suggests it's because A-Rod can't match Andre Agassi's "piercing eyes." ... Put me down as refusing to join all the voices I've heard, saying, "It was more fun and a better tournament without the Williams sisters."

Whatever happened to Kevin Stocker?

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