BCS Protecting Its Financial Turf

Phillip Marshall writes about the motivations behind changes in the Bowl Championship Series.

It's about the money.

The much-criticized BCS made news last week when commissioners decided to add a fifth bowl game to placate the schools that have been watching from outside like a child with his face pressed against a window pane.

The commissioners didn't have the guts to take the obvious next step and create a real championship game between the highest ranked teams from the four BCS bowls. That would be too much like a playoff, they said. Presidents at Division I-A universities, along with their shill, NCAA president Myles Brand, wanted no part of it.

Those presidents will tell you a playoff would be so evil that it would damage higher education. It would overemphasize college football, they say. How are the boys going to study if they are always preparing for football games? Once again, they take hypocrisy to a new level.

In the interest of full disclosure, I think a full-blown playoff for Division I-A would be a bad idea, but it has nothing to do with academics or overemphasis of football. No matter how much anyone says otherwise, it would be the ruin of the bowl system as we know it. The regular season really would be diminished. The importance of every game is one of the things that makes college football so attractive. I don't have a problem with split national champions. Players at USC and LSU view themselves as national champions. They all wear championship rings. I don't see that as a bad thing.

But those aren't the reasons presidents are really opposed to a playoff. Football players miss fewer classes than most other scholarship athletes. Those presidents who even understand what a bowl is wouldn't mind throwing them overboard. p> It's about the money.

If Division I-A went to a playoff along the lines of the other divisions in football, it would be run by the NCAA. That would mean the NCAA would distribute the money. And above all else, the BCS schools want to make sure their millions don't get divided up with the schools in the hinter lands.

For all Brand's talk of reform, money is still the driving force in college football and basketball. And that's not going to change anytime soon.

TOUGH YEAR FOR COACHES

Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville jokes that he doesn't return interim president Ed Richardson's telephone calls. I don't blame him.

In all Auburn's athletics history, there's never been a year quite like this one. Men's and women's basketball coaches and the baseball coach all are gone. Only women's basketball coach Joe Ciampi went on his own. Athletic director David Housel will retire at the end of the year and has already handed over day-to-day control of the athletic department to Hal Baird.

Dr. Ed Richardson

Richardson has wielded his axe in an area he admits he knows little about. He fired baseball coach Steve Renfroe over the objections of Baird, the former baseball coach who is now athletic assistant to the president.

While Richardson has certainly been the lead man in firing people, Baird has been the lead man in hiring them. And he seemingly has done well. Men's basketball coach Jeff Lebo and women's basketball coach Nell Fortner appear to be the right people in the right place at the right time, though no one will know for sure until they have had time to build their programs. Baird will certainly attract a baseball coach with the credentials to make Auburn a big winner. When that's done, maybe Richardson can turn his attention to the things on which a university president should really be spending his time.

But Richardson is a bright man. He knows that he could hire a dean, fire him or her, and few people would notice. Only the way he deals with SACS probation will have more impact his legacy more than how coaches perform.

Maybe that's right and maybe it's not, but it's the way of the world.


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