Quick Quacks

ONE MORE GAME The NCAA Board of Directors recently voted to allow a 12th football game beginning with the 2006 season. Certainly this is good news for football fans in general and Oregon football fans in particular as it will advance the Autzen appearance of the Oklahoma Sooners by two years, moving the game from the 2008 schedule to 2006.

The decision isn't without controversy and irony. Chief among the reasons offered in refusing to construct a bracketed play-off to determine each season's champion has been the notion of the additional impact on the academic obligations of the players such an extension of the season would bring. At first glance, this decision – which was opposed by the Knight Commission, an academic oversight commission within the NCAA membership – would fly in the face of that stated concern.

To some degree, surely it does. It is worth noting, however, the additional game has been allowed previously when there were 13 Saturdays between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, as was the case in 2002 and 2003. By allowing the additional game in future seasons the NCAA isn't extending the calendar length of the season as most teams schedule with a bye week into their present 11 game schedules. The 12th game would mean the season would be played from start to finish without a week off.

The impact of this decision is far reaching. Obviously a 12th game has a significantly positive impact on revenues for the athletic departments. However, the extra game is likely to be a negative in terms of injuries; more opportunity for them to occur and no opportunity for a timely week off to allow injured players to receive treatment and recover.

Additionally, the athletic department staff assigned to manage the game event will have an extra day of duty and an extra week of preparations added to their workload.

Academically, a 12th game will eliminate a quiet week for the players, a week when assignments and studies can be readdressed to either get caught up or become better prepared in the classroom.

As the NCAA has also eliminated the "pre-season" or "coaches classic" games that proliferated a few years ago, there will be no opportunity for the number of games scheduled to reach the numbers seen in those years, with some schools having played 15 games by the end of the season.

Those conferences that have a conference championship game may reach 14 games a season but the added game may force a re-evaluation of that format. The Big-12 in particular is exploring options for regular season scheduling that would eliminate a championship game.

It would, however, be hard to imagine the broadcast networks finding such a change in philosophy to be appealing. The championship games are aggressively advertised by the networks and draw both significant advertising revenue and a large number of viewers, a true nirvana for any programming director.

If any conference were to eliminate the championship game, it would be the Big 12. When the old Big Eight conference absorbed four teams from the extinct Southwest Conference it required the combined schools align in divisions and resulted in several traditional rivalries, Nebraska/Oklahoma most prominently, becoming semi-annual events.

The Pac-10 has publicly expressed its intent to utilize the extra game to structure a true round-robin regular season schedule, where every team plays every other conference member each season instead of having a rotation of skipped opponents. This may force the Ducks to open the 2006 season with a conference game against UCLA instead of a non-conference foe as is universally preferred unless the non-conference portion of that schedule can be rearranged.

Another possible impact of a 12th game is an initiative by the American Football Coaches Association to increase the number of scholarships to 90 from the current 85 as a means to address the increased attrition likely to impact rosters due to injury. The coaches association is also seeking a 5th year of eligibility for athletes as a means maintaining adequate roster numbers.

Lastly, it is probable the NCAA will be forced to change its bowl eligibility standards to allow teams without winning records to be invited to participate in post-season games. Presently a 6-5 mark is necessary and in past seasons when a 12th game was played, the NCAA required a team to win seven games to be eligible. With 28 bowl games sanctioned by the NCAA it is probable the selection committees will need to be allowed to select teams with 6-6 records once the 12 game season is a reality.

It is also probable the NCAA will allow Division 1 programs to schedule non-conference games against Division 1A opponents without discounting those games when determining bowl eligibility as they currently do.

The decision to allow a 12th game, combined with the expansion of the BCS from four to five bowl games after the 2006 season, it would seem a decision to allow that additional bowl game to become a "championship" contest, matching the top ranked winners surviving the earlier traditional bowl games would be a logical extension. All indications are this will not be the case anytime soon; the "Plus 1" model as it became known, too closely resembles a playoff in the eyes of the university presidents. That is too bad, but that is also the subject of another column.

All of which proves there is no such thing as an off-season in college football

Until the next time.

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