This Isn't the One
Don't be bowled over by college football's new alliance
Although the public has been clamoring for a postseason playoff in college football, excuse us for not being thrilled at the arrangement announced last week by a consortium of four of the major bowls (Cotton, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta), five of the most powerful conferences (SEC, Big Eight, Big East, Southwest and ACC) and Notre Dame.
With much chest-beating and tub-thumping, the participants congratulated themselves for doing their utmost to guarantee a New Year's Day game between the teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final weekly polls. The deal, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 1993, should at least eliminate some of the unseemly politicking and premature commitments that have marred the closing weeks of the college football regular season in recent years.
As is currently the case, the Big Eight champion will go to the Orange Bowl, the SEC winner to the Sugar and the Southwest Conference champ to the Cotton. The other five spots will be filled by the winners of the Big East and the ACC and three at-large teams. One of those teams will almost always be Notre Dame.
This is a cozy deal for the Irish, the conferences, the four bowls and the TV networks, but it doesn't guarantee a national title game. If, say, Oklahoma is No. 1 and Alabama No. 2, forget it. They'll go to the Orange and the Sugar, respectively. Ditto if one of the top-ranked teams comes from the Big Ten or the Pac-10, whose champs are committed to the Rose Bowl.
Finding the true No. 1 team in the nation is not what the alliance is about. It is, however, about looking out for No. 1. For example, in choosing the Fiesta Bowl over the Blockbuster Bowl and the Florida Citrus Bowl, the alliance was concerned less with the fact that Arizona still hasn't made Martin Luther King Day a paid state holiday than with the $3.1 million guaranteed each team that will play in that bowl. "Dollars were a base aspect to this," says Sugar Bowl executive director Mickey King, "but they were far from being the only things in our minds."
Oh, please. Spare us the high-minded rhetoric. Just get us a true college football championship.
—WILLIAM F. REED
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