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Savran: BCS folks need to take a stand

Saturday, December 07, 2002

In the end, we will sit down in front of the television, or not. We will watch the games with the matchups presented, or not. The only choice offered? Take it or leave it. But our options would improve and increase if choices -- make that ultimatums -- were issued to the bowl committees.

The Bowl Championship Series system was established to give, at the very least, college football what's tantamount to a national championship game, resulting in as clear-cut a national champion as possible.

The four major bowls were solicited as venues, each to get the big game every fourth year. The others in the rotation would get conference champion/at large teams, presumably those ranked three through eight in the BCS standings.

But that has not been enough.

The bowl committees -- an army of local, profit-seeking do-gooders, outfitted in citrus colored sports coats, polished at schmoozing athletic directors over cocktail weenies and dry martinis -- seemingly can't break the habit.

Instead of being glad to be a part of the system, they try to create their own. They attempt to subvert the process by recruiting the teams they want, rather than taking what they're given. So much so that when the Orange Bowl began batting its eyelashes at Notre Dame, flirting with the Irish to come to Miami, the Big Ten engaged in a preemptive strike to protect Iowa, trying to ensure it gets a BCS bid.

For this I blame the BCS, whoever makes up that largely anonymous, amorphous group.

If they're going to run at least the top end of the postseason, then they absolutely must stand up to the four major bowls and state the following:

"When you're not involved in the national championship game, we will pair two of the remaining top eight teams in the country for you. For the privilege of these guarantees, you will not actively recruit schools. You will accept what we give you. If you violate these tenets of participation, you're out. Simple as that. There are plenty of bowls itching to take your place. Take it or leave it."

You think the Orange Bowl wouldn't back off, fully understanding that being on the outside, nose pressed up against the national championship window, is no place to be?

There's another way to approach this, only this time a choice should be presented to the BCS itself.

Where the BCS begins to get consumed by the morass is in trying to play matchmaker for the other three major bowls. Maybe it would work better if the BCS limited its authority to just pairing No. 1 vs. No. 2. After that, make it a free for all. Pastel coats from warmer climes, on your marks, get set, go!

The golden fly in the ointment, of course, is Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish managed to wrangle a special dispensation for themselves based on their perceived status, which, by the way, is exaggerated. I certainly don't blame Notre Dame for any of this. They made the most beneficial deal when they struck their favored-nation agreement with an all-too-accommodating BCS.

But when the contract expires after the 2005 season, Notre Dame should be presented a new option:

"Under the old arrangement, if you finished in the top six of our rankings, you were automatically awarded a BCS bowl slot. You are, in effect, receiving the same treatment as a major conference champion ... with the notable exception that you don't have to share your bowl revenue.

"So from this day forward, if you want to be treated like a conference champion, you must join a conference! If not, there will be no guarantees of any kind. Take it or leave it!"

In this game of high stakes football poker, who's bluffing whom? Would a January without Notre Dame sound the death knell for college football? I think not.

Notre Dame shouldn't be able to have it both ways. They're not as important in the grand scheme of things as they would have you believe.

In fact, the Big East should insist the Fighting Irish join the conference in football or toss them out entirely.

With their guarantees from the BCS eliminated, what could they do?

The Big Ten should demand that they join the conference as a full-fledged member, or they won't allow any of their member schools to schedule them. Michigan doesn't need Notre Dame to sell out the Big House. Michigan gets 100,000 for Northwestern.

None of this is likely to happen now. Or even in the near future.

For the present, we either take it or leave it. I guess I'll take it. But like you stubbornly told your mother when she cooked something for dinner you didn't much care for, "All right, Ma. I'll take it, but I won't like it!"

Stan Savran is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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