SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
8/03/2007 01:27:00 AM
Pac-10 Commish Not Dealing in Reality
Thomas C. Hansen fears that a plus-one format would interfere with the Rose Bowl's traditional Pac-10-Big Ten showdown.
Shelly Castellano/Icon SMI
When it comes to college football, I'm what you might call a "semi-traditionalist." I openly embrace many of the more modern elements of the sport -- overtime, conference championship games, spread offenses, etc. -- while at the same time grumbling about Tuesday night TV games, mocking the oversaturated bowl lineup and cherishing what remains of the Big Ten-Pac-10 Rose Bowl.
Pac-10 commissioner Thomas C. Hansen, on the other hand, is what you might call an "ultra-traditionalist." Hansen's affiliation with college football dates back to his years as an undergrad at Washington in the late 1950s. He first worked for the Pac-10 when the league was still called the Athletic Association of Western Universities and had only five members. He's been around long enough to remember when only the conference's champion went to a bowl game and nobody really cared about the "true" national champion.
From his comments over the past few years, one gets the impression he'd gladly return to those days in a heartbeat. At the very least, if he had to do it over, he never would have let his conference and the Rose Bowl get sucked in to the BCS, which disrupted his league's most treasured annual tradition and, on two occasions (2001 Oregon and 2003 USC), jobbed one of its members out of the title game. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Hansen is threatening to cut ties with the BCS if it were to adopt a "plus-one" game (a title game played after all teams' bowl games) when the current contract ends in 2010.
Last week, Hansen told the Sporting News, "Our presidents have no interest whatsoever in a plus-one model -- none. It's a little annoying that my colleagues continue to float this idea as though it has merit. If they continue to push it, and try to push us into a corner ..." What? The Pac-10 would leave the BCS? "Yes," he said. "No question."
Hansen elaborated further during an ESPN Radio appearance on Thursday. "My understanding of a plus-one model is it would include seeding of the teams," said Hansen. "... We oppose it primarily on the basis that we might be seeded out of the Rose Bowl."
Hansen’s comments come in response to a recent New York Post article, citing unnamed conference and network sources, that indicated "support is steadily growing for a plus-one." The article said that the current BCS bowls would rotate hosting two "Final Four" games before the championship, and that a sixth bowl would be added to the lineup.
Keep in mind, the powers-that-be have yet to hold any formal discussions about the future of the BCS, and the majority of the nation's commissioners and athletic directors -- including current BCS coordinator Mike Slive -- have already indicated for some time that they'd be open to the possibility. The fact that the title game has already become a stand-alone entity played a week after New Year's would make for a logical segue.
However, leaders across the sport have also known since long before Hansen's comments that the advent of a plus-one is far from a done deal -- and that the primary opposition will come from the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl.
Hansen said his league was "very reluctant" to sign off on the BCS originally but that "we felt it was in the best interest of college football." Clearly, he does not feel that way about a plus-one. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has made no such threats himself but did say last winter that the league's relationship with the Rose Bowl is "more important than the BCS." Complicating matters is the fact that while the BCS's contract with FOX expires in three seasons, the Rose Bowl has a separate deal with ABC that runs an additional four years.
So what's my opinion all this? Well, the traditionalist in me empathizes with Hansen's protectiveness toward the Rose Bowl and understands why it's so important to him. But the modern realist in me says -- "You've got to be kidding, Tom." Do you really think your members would sign off on a deal that precludes them from playing for the national championship? Their fans would be livid and you'd be run out of town. I love the Rose Bowl, too, but I'm afraid that ship has already sailed.
Ultimately, I see this playing out one of two ways. Either the Rose Bowl factor will prove to be such a significant obstacle that the other BCS conferences will put off reconfiguration until the ABC contract expires. Or, more realistically, the parties will reach some sort of compromise that exempts the Rose Bowl from further dilution. In other words, if the Big Ten or Pac-10 champion is ranked No. 1 or 2, it would still be moved to whatever bowl is hosting the semifinal (which is really no different than today); however, if those teams are No. 3 or 4 (or lower), they'd still play in the Rose Bowl, with the next-rated team moving up to take their spot.
It certainly wouldn't be a perfect solution, but then again, when has the BCS ever been perfect?
Ok, them allow the pac 10 to cecede from the BCS. While they are at it, also make the pac 10 ineligible for any and all BCS bowl games. Including the Rose. The pac 10 does not OWN the Rose bowl. Incidentally, I am from Oregon, and all I and my friends want is a fair shake to win the National Championship.
If the Pac10 drops out of the BCS, or if both the Pac10 and Big10 do, then the BCS championship game might still continue on, but the winner won't be able to claim they're the best college football team in the country. I don't know what it'll be the champion of, but you can't have a "national champion" if several *major* programs can sit on the sidelines and dispute it. Will Ohio St., USC, Michigan, Penn St. continue to play football without the BCS? Sure. But the point of the BCS goes away without them as part of it.
I'm from Big Ten country and I agree with the commish. The Rose Bowl is one of the greatest traditions in college football and dear to the heard of all Big Ten and Pac Ten fans. Every spring, players, students, alumni and fans dream of making the winning the Rose Bowl. Seeing teams from other conferences play in the game tarnishes the tradition and history of it. The BCS, which is a ridiculous system as it is, would be a paper tiger without those two conferences anyway.
While it is possible that the Pac10 and or Big11 dropping out of the mythical national chapionship could sink the BCS (as bndg3d suggests), I think it is more likely to be the Pac10 that would lose steam and prestige. People will watch the plus one, regardless of whether USC is participating. Top athletes will want to play in it. The prize money and TV exposure will simply be split amongst a slightly smaller pool. Consider what happened when national powerhouses like harvard and yale decided to stand on principle regarding athletic scholarships and admissions. They faded into obscurity, relatively speaking. The Pac10 already suffers from poor exposure. If they pull out they become even more of a regional exposure sport, and fade further from the spotlight. It takes an incredible amount of hubris to suppose that ten schools, or 21, can destroy the BCS. At least equally likely, more likely imho, it will be the Pac10 who suffers.
And I would bet good money that Pac10 and Big11 players spend ALOT more time in the spring dreaming about national championships than rose bowls. Fans and alumni, especially those raised in the preBCS era, may be more apt to dream about the roses, but 18 year-olds? I doubt it.
I'm old school and agree with the commish... Open debate in the news and on TV about the coaches' poll and the press I think did more for the sport than this bizarre arbitrary computer-generated BCS crap. Again it's all about money, and before you know it all bowl games are going to be as boring as the grossly commercial-diluted Stupor Bowl. I used to love to go to the Rose Bowl to see the Big 10 rep play the PAC 10 rep. Now I have no interest in going to the game unless it involves a PAC 10 school.
The plus-1 is a stupid system. It only makes sense in certain years. If only one major program finishes undefeated after the bowls, then there is no need for it and it will only muck things up. For example if USC is 12-0 and wins its bowl and Oklahoma is 11-1 and wins its bowl, then why would USC have to play Oklahoma. What if you have two 12-0 teams and two 11-1 teams? Then do the two 12-0's have to play the two 11-1's to decide who plays in the title or do you just bypass the plus-1 and have the two 12-0's play each other for the title. What if each 12-0 has to play each 11-1 and the results are that all 4 teams are 12-1. Which two teams go to the title game?
The Pac 10 would never lose steam and prestige. The schools in the west are too big and well respected. We're not talking Montana and San Jose State here. (no disrespect here). Plus, I don't think the the commisioner is out to destroy the BCS. It would definitely hurt the BCS though if strong PAC- 10 representatives were left out of the (again) arbitrary computer-based system that is the BCS.
One thing Hansen-defenders are not taking into account...pulling out of the BCS would absolutely mangle Pac-10 schools' recruiting. Hansen is trying to play hardball, but the coaches would have his nuts if he pulled them out of the BCS. When I graduated hs a couple years ago, two of my best friends were heavily recruited by teams from multiple major conferences, including the Pac-10. If they had known that, unless the team won the conference championship, they wouldn't see action in a bowl game, and it could only be the Rose that they went to, they wouldn't even have given those teams a second look. For a kid with an eye towards playing pro one day...being able to play for bowls, for the championship is key. It plays in huge for draft stock. It gives you high profile exposure. A Rose-bound Pac-10 could do fine in recruiting two decades ago, maybe even a decade, but not any more. Not in this recruiting market.
I love the Rose Bowl, I went to three growing up with my dad, but when it comes down to it, no one in my generation cares much about it. Honestly. Pete Carroll is an amazing recruiter, but even he won't be able to pull in four- and five-star recruits without a chance to play for the championship, and with a chance of having no bowl game at all, when he's competing with SEC and Big-10 and -12 schools. I'm not saying USC, Cal, Oregon would disappear, but...it would seriously sap their roster strength.
I grew up watching the Rose Bowl (I went to USC) and I love the Big Ten/Pac 10 matchup. But to be left out of a chance to play for national championship is insane. The Pac 10 commish needs to accept the inevitable. If the highest honor USC could get was winning the Rose Bowl while some other team gets to claim the National Championship, I would be extremely angry.
I think the Pac 10 would support it if the "plus one" were installed after a return to something resembling the traditional bowl matchups across the board for the other big bowls. SEC plays at the Sugar, Big 12 goes to the Orange (to resume the old Big 8 tradition), Big 10 and Pac 10 play in the Rose, etc. But the Fiesta would undoubtedly throw a fit since they didn't have a conference tie-in under the traditional lineups.
See, if the Pac-10 commish was walking away from an actual playoff system, fans around the country (including within the league) would be calling for his head. However, this system is just more of the same garbage that the BCS has been feeding us for the past decade, and the system has screwed over the Pac-10 more often than any other league.
And it wasn't just 2001 and 2003 that the league got screwed out of the title game; UCLA in 1998 (though this was due more to mother nature than anything) and Washington in 2000 (a situation that was worse than USC, IMHO) were also screwed out of title games. Why should the Pac-10 agree to a system that simply allows for more of the same, when they aren't even considering putting a playoff on the table?
The Rose bowl was around 45 years before it went to the PAC-10/Big 10 Champion format (1947). Current SEC/ACC (GT won one while in the forerunner to the SEC, the SIAA) teams have a 7-3 record in the Rose Bowl. Perhaps that's why west coast schools stopped having teams from the south play there.
You know, the Big Crappie System (BCS) was not created for the pac-10.It was created for the sec,big east, a10,,big12 and notre dame(who can't win a bowl game let alone a bcs game). The east coast media only thinks that the state of california has football. If your not USC or UCLA you will never advance to a title game from the west coast. [see oregon 01, boise state 07, California. So I say pull us, the pac 10 ,and keep the stupid little tie in bowls. We the pac 10 don't play anybody from the east coast in a bowl games anyway and they won't schedule pac-10 teams. So who cares the big ten pac ten rose bowl is a great game. Yes I do know that the bowls are a private and can invite anyone they want(see over rated notre dame)So stop telling us about how the great games will be when the irrelevent pac 10 is no longer there. I kept thinking that maybe there should be a super division like texas,nd, fsu,florida,lsu,usc,osu,Oklahoma,tennesee, ect. Let them play each other all season. put them in the "bcs" games and put everyone else in a divsion with a playoff format. nl/oregon
Here's a bright idea...go to a full playoff system like I-AA has...solve it on the field. Allow the conferences to still have bowls for bottom-feeders but a 12 or 16 team playoff system makes more sense...
As a University of Washington Alum, I'd be very happy to go back to the days of the Pac-10/Big-10 New Years Day Rose Bowl rivalry. Face it, you're never going to have a true national champion... ever. A playoff system just changes where the argument cut-off is. Case in point, many pundits point to the NCAA hoops tournament as the model albeit on a smaller scale for football. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but every year at least a couple of very deserving teams get left out of the "Big Dance". You hear bitching, read columns on-line and in the paper as to the injustice of it all. Hell, if you get 65 teams into a tournament, and several teams are still bitching about being left out, how is a football playoff supposed to work? The football tourney at the very best could include 8-16 teams. Bring back the Grandaddy, the way it's supposed to be.
the bcs could not survive w/out the pac-10. in fact, it couldn't survive without any of the major conferences. the conferences all being together in the bcs is the only way that it works (arguably) at all. the bcs will give in to the pac-10 and somehow preserve the rose bowl tradition. there is NO WAY that they will call his bluff and let them go. college football would fall apart.
Here's a thought... Let's preserve the traditional/regional matchups and then add a championship bowl thereafter. Take the two best bowl winners and let them play for the championship. Therefore, if both the Big11Ten and Pac-10 Champs are in the top four, they play in the Rose no matter what. Even if they are 1-2. Hey, that's the price you pay for preserving your tradition. The only time that the Rose would lose it's matchup is if only one of the Big11Ten and Pac-10 champs are ranked in the top four. The SEC would go to the Sugar, the Big East and ACC would go to the Orange and the Big XII would go to the Cotton, oops, I mean Fiesta.
It is infuriating that so many short-sighted fans and media members think that a plus-one or even a true playoff tournament would actually solve all controversy. It would not.
Winning one game does not make you the better team, it makes you the better team that day. Plus we'd have to deal with complaints over seeding and who gets included, as well as a devaluation of the regular season. What would UCLA's victory over USC last year have meant if the Trojans could then just enter a playoff system?
People need to stop whining and appreciate the positives that do exist rather than always obsessing about the negatives. Personally I almost wish that the old bowl traditions had been preserved, clarion calls for a "true national champion" be damned. As far as I can tell, the world didn't end when two different teams split championship accolades.
I'm with Tom Hanson on this. First off, college football is still "officially" an amateur sport and unless you modernize the whole deal (stipends for players, fix the NCAA rules, etc.) you should go back to tradition. Tacking on a +1 is like adding a kitchen onto an outhouse - doesn't make sense. Overhaul it all or leave it alone and go back to what worked. I mean, is a +1 series is any better then the current BCS BS?
The compromise I see is let all the traditional bowls match up go on as in the past (before the BCS crap), let the Pac 10 play the Big 10, then figure out who's the final four and play 2 more games. If you need to use polls, computers, whatever...fine. If a team is in the top 4, great, if not they still get to eat their cake.
So who plays in the plus 1 game in 2006. Do we have a rematch of Florida (12-1) vs Ohio St. (12-1) please no! I will give you Florida but who do they play? USC (11-2), LSU (11-2) Wisconsin (12-1) Louisville (12-1) or can an undefeated Boise State (13-0) actually sneak in there. How about an undefeated Utah in 2004. It's not football it's a beauty contest. Anything that eliminates the BCS so that we can finally have a playoff works for me. Please just play it on the field. There is nothing like March Madness and I wish college football would undertand that.
Can we make Hansen the president of the NCAA? I would love to go back to the time when there were far fewer bowl games and getting an invitation to one was really a distinction. As much as I love college football, by the time each of the BCS games have been played out (sometime around Valentine's Day isn't it?) I've long since lost interest in them. The prospect of yet another college bowl game after New year's Day is about as welcome as a glass of long-curdled egg nog.
Stewart, in your abundant free time, it'd be interesting to see if you or a SI lackey could go back and look at the last 50 years of college football and see what the ramifications of the BCS or +1 system would have on many of the past 'national champions'... If you go back far enough, you'll find some 'champs' got blown out in their bowl games (ie far worse system than the BCS)...
I think ml_8000 is right on this - it will be a hard sell to dump the bowl system, so let's use it the best that we can. Play the traditional matchups, with whatever works best in the 'new' bowls, and after the games are played, use a selection committee to pick the final four teams. the Semifinals could be played 1 to 2 weeks after New Years, and the Championship game could be played the weekend before the Super Bowl, when there is no other football being played. Rotate the sites for those games as they do for the Super Bowl, and it will become a HUGE event.
You're all missing one important point: The commissioner of the Pac 10 is an idiot. Every west coast fan knows this. When conferences were arranging deals to get their members into bowl games, he sat idly by, so that now the runners-up in the Pac 10 are going to things like the Seattle Bowl and the Weedwhacker Bowl. Every football fan west of the Rockies has been screaming for him to be axed -- let's hope this recent stupidity is the event that gets him canned!
We already have the ultimate beauty contest. With strength of schedule being a politically incorrect factor in the voting we have Brennan at Hawaii in the Heisman race. Can anyone imaging Hart & Michigan, Tebow & Florida, or McCoy & Texas going up against the Hawaii schedule? We have LSU widely acknowledged as perhaps the most talented team in the country, but WV and USC picked for the BCS championship bowl game because they are more likely to go undefeated than LSU, not because they are thought to be the two best teams. TCU beats OK one year & Texas Tech the next, then immediately loses to an inferior team the following week, as have all the mid-majors recently when they have played elite teams. How anyone can think these schools would survive the marathon Florida faced last year with successive games against Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia is beyond me. It's just a matter of time before political pressures put a Boise St in the championship game. We need more of a playoff if we are to know we are crowning a worthy team.
I don't understand how presidents of public universities think they can dictate policy as if they weren't funded by their respective state governments. With the exception of Stanford, I cannot think of any private institutions in the PAC10. If it is indeed such a big deal, put it to a referendum and let the taxpayers vote it up or down.
In other words, stop complaining and sign on with the times.
+1 does absolutely nothing for college football. If there's 4 teams in, then #5 will complain to no end. If there's 6 in, then #7 will complain. There's rarely a giant difference between #1-10 in college football so there will continue to be controversy. I think the backlash against +1 comes on many levels, but I believe what we're seeing is a fundamental problem with college football becoming/being a business more than a pastime. If this Pac-10 guy's ideal is going back to the days when "training camp" was "spring practice", and players actually go to college to get degrees, then I'm in. After all, who the heck cares about 6-6 teams fighting it out in the "Irrelevant Bowl" and teams like Texas, LSU, and Florida who buy football programs with multimillion dollar facilities and coaches...isn't it time to end the NFL minor league and return college football to some semblance of an amateur contest between real student athletes? Call me an idealist, but I think college football should really take a hard look about what it wants to be.
Hooray to Boise State for letting Oklahoma know that West Coast football still exists (The Oregon game needs to be removed)...The BCS has its flaws, but unless they decide to go to a Div 2 format and play and play and play until a National Champion is figured out, then we might as well keep quiet about it. It will never go away, Pac 10 commish...From top to bottom, the Rose Bowl will always be known as the "Grand Daddy", it happens to be the National Title game every so often, ask Vince Young about that....
Charles...you da man. Hit it right on the nose. Also, don't forget the dollars. If PAC10 pulls out of BCS, they're likely to lose out on a LOT of other bowl tie-ins. Those Rose Bowl checks are nice, but they won't keep the league competitive on their own.
Thanks, Chip, for FINALLY pointing out a sad truth for the Pac-10: our bowl affiliations SUCK and Tom Hansen is largely to blame. What incentive (other than the obvious) is it, really, to aspire for for second place in the Pac-10 knowing you're only going to get to face the FOURTH-PLACE Big XII team in the Holiday Bowl?? Where is our Capital One Bowl? The Pac-10 Nos. 2 and 3 teams ought to be facing similarly-placed teams from major conferences.
I'm all for maintaining the integrity of a traditional Rose Bowl, but I think if Hansen wants to leave any sort of admirable legacy, he should expend his remaining time and effort working to lift the caliber of the Pac-10's bowl tie-ins to the level it deserves.
I am recent fan of college football and my memories only serve back to as recent as 2002. However I personally feel there isnt a better tradition that watching your team play in the rose bowl on new year's day. I am not in agreement with Hansen but tradition is a very large part of football and i hope it isnt destroyed.
Has anyone noticed that the elite Texas/OSU games are disappearing? Why should a BCS team risk it when an undefeated season almost guarantees an appearance in the championship. And after last season there is no reason for a Boise St to risk the embarassment it faced at Georgia two years ago. It lost the following game as well. Notre Dame announced it would no longer try to carry its tough schedule two years ago. Baylor followed with a statement it would lighten its non-conference schedule and Colorado St announced it would stop scheduling so many BCS teams. Whether it is an extra 2 games, or a bonafide playoff we need something.
The BCS existence is based in large part on the value of its tv contract. The 6 major conferences realigned and then banded together to form the BCS to improve their bargaining position for tv money. If the Pac 10 opts out of the BCS, it severely dilutes the value of the contract. You lose the schools that cover some of the largest tv markets in the country.
It makes business sense for the rest of the BCS to compromise with the Pac 10 rather than say "ok, take a hike."
Note to Commissioner Thomas C. Hansen, NOBODY CARES about your Rose Bowl tradition. Sorry, but I wasn't born during the great depression... College football doesn't need to be taken back to 1958. It needs some kind of playoff. We are the future. Get out of the way.
Have the Pac 10 v Big 10 on 1/1 in the Rose Bowl. Sugar, Orange & Fiesta have Conference Champ vs. Conference champ as well (assuming all conference champs included are #16 or better, else at-large from the top, no more than 2 teams per conf.)