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Good, but could be better
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2000
NEW ORLEANS -- All week, the streets of New Orleans, from the wide Canal to the legendary St. Charles to the volatile Bourbon, have been teeming with hopeful and enthused fans of Florida State and Virginia Tech.
But it could be so much better. So much fuller. What if college football's national championship conclusion were the 15th game of a four-week tournament? Oh, yeah, I'm playoff politicking again.
What if the FSU route to this Sugar Bowl stage, after a solid regular season, was to knock off Purdue in a first-round playoff at the Outback Bowl, then beat Michigan in the Cotton and eventually Tennessee in the Orange?
Imagine that momentum.
What if the Hokies had shockingly made it to the Sugar Bowl mountain by whipping Penn State in the opening round at the Citrus Bowl, then smacking Alabama in the quarterfinals at the Fiesta Bowl, followed by a win against Nebraska in the Rose?
America would have sizzled.
As imposing as Tuesday night's BCS deal might have appeared, this football-nutty country would have been three or four times as captivated had it been the climax of a 16-school tournament.
What if the NCAA basketball national championship were settled by a mere match of teams rated 1-2 at regular season's end? How dumb would that be, now that we know the mushrooming zeal and rewards of March Madness?
There would be no Final Four. No chance for an incredible, rallying underdog story like North Carolina State in 1983. No chance to see Jimmy V dancing the floor. Basketball buries football in the categories of vision, imagination and entertainment value.
How can ABC-TV be so blah-brained as to continue bidding hundreds of millions of dollars for the shortfall of the BCS system? In this season's non-championship matches, Tennessee and Nebraska were paid $11-million apiece for appearing in the Fiesta Bowl. Same for Michigan and Alabama in the Orange Bowl. But only the Sugar Bowl gets any real attention.
TV can't be that stupid.
We should not expect the dinosaurs who serve as major conference commissioners to change anything on their own. If we had a legitimate football tournament, Roy Kramer of the SEC and Jim Delany of the Big Ten and their self-serving pals couldn't strut around as BCS fathers.
For years, the BCS boys have pushed The Big Lie. That their two-team "playoff" was in the best interest of the two dozen or so bowls that do not have The Big One. Protecting the traditional games.
Hogwash. How many bowls did you watch? I mean, except for games involving your favorite school? Did you see all the empty seats in Jacksonville, where the Gator Bowl, with Georgia Tech and Miami, had its smallest crowd since 1958?
Didn't those who cared to watch see gobs of unsold seats at the Orange, Outback, Citrus and many other bowls? Historically, the Tennessee Vols have among the strongest post-season following. This time, TV announcers doing the Fiesta spoke of Nebraska seeming to have a 4-to-1 edge in rooters.
It's obvious why.
Last year, Tennessee won the big one, beating Florida State in what passes for a national championship game. This season, the Vols again were powerful. But when they didn't qualify for the megadeal in the Sugar Bowl, a lot of orange-clad faithful obviously decided against making the expensive trip to Arizona.
Protecting the bowls? Indeed.
With a 16-team playoff, you can bet your last pompon that 15 bowls would not have difficulty selling every ticket. Television viewers would be hugely excited about all those games, because the national championship implications would be obvious.
I know, there are more than 15 bowls. But, frankly, if you're No. 16, 17 or 18, your status isn't going to be sourly affected by a national championship playoff. As now, it would be a case of "you are what you are."
Maybe it's time for the bowls themselves to unite and rebel. What if the Gator, Citrus, Outback, Peach, Liberty, Cotton and a few others banded to file a class-action lawsuit against the BCS? It's time they looked out for themselves rather than taking the shaky word of BCS poobahs.
Anybody want more empty seats?
In a way, I'm sorry both the Hokies and 'Noles made it to New Orleans with unbeaten seasons. That, to narrow minds, justifies the BCS scheme. You hear them saying, "Right two teams made it." I'd like to see maybe six 10-1 teams at next season's end. Four of them would wind up being extremely angry.
We need a revolt.
Hurrah for this season's champ. Good for Tuesday night's runner-up. Their accomplishments should in no way be diminished. But how could anybody with wide-ranging interest in competitive sports entertainment not be more excited about a 16-team bonanza?
Maybe it will never happen. Maybe the commissioners will be allowed to continue pulling their scam. Maybe the TV money guys never will wise up and apply the pressure for a real playoff. We handled Y2K, so how can America be that short-sighted?
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