On Neuheisel and Bowls to Start the New Year

Wasn't it just five years ago that Rick Neuheisel was busted down by the NCAA and his own employer for lying about playing in a March Madness basketball pool? Talk about coming back from the dead. Rick being named the head coach at UCLA didn't surprise me one bit, because he had it planned all along. He is back and he expected to be.

He's that kind of guy.

He never wanted to be fired at Washington and fought it and I think he won. They drug him through the mud, but he has methodically worked himself right back to where he was. Only now it's at his own school with a second chance and a higher salary. Go figure!

I watched intently as the whole scenario played out, and somehow I knew Rick would work his magic again. Poof! Here he is, the new football coach of the UCLA Bruins - the job he always wanted and certainly the job he would have left Washington for had they asked him to at the time. Too bad they didn't want him four years ago and maybe Washington would have avoided all the scandal and negativity that has hit the Husky program since.

Neuheisel was at his best on stage, and had a personality that equaled all the other Husky head coaches I had known put together. He was as warm as he was carefree. He believed he was special and made it common knowledge that he would embrace any opportunity to return to his own school. He worked behind the scenes this whole year in anticipation that the job may open up and when it did it, Rick was ready. He is now back in the league and immediately inherited one of the best recruiting classes in the conference. Just like at both Colorado and Washington, he will have the players to turn the thing around. He will certainly change the landscape for USC Head Coach Pete Carroll and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bruins contend as early as next year. UCLA is about to become a real pain in the Trojans' world because they both play on the biggest stage in America; Los Angeles. Of course, I never thought he should have been fired in the first place, just like I don't think Coach Jim Lambright should have been fired. Coach Keith Gilbertson was never even given a chance so I don't even put him in the same category as the other two because they were both fired and hired by the same person (someone who knew nothing about the sport of football).

I would estimate that close to 90 percent of all college football coaches have participated in some sort of college basketball pool. To single out Washington and Rick Neuheisel specifically was both hypocritical and unfair. And then to ignore and deny the infamous "Dana Richardson" memo that gave UW Athletic Department personnel the OK to participate in pools, and then to fire him for doing so was symptomatic of an administration that had allowed things to be out of control for over a decade. Essentially, Rick Neuheisel got screwed by the same people who had brought him in. All the lying about an interest in the 49'ers job was meaningless because Neuheisel never wanted that job. He wanted the UCLA job, and now he has it. To me it is all simply amazing!

On to the bowls. The Pac-10 finished strong in the bowls - going 4-2 - and there was no doubt after USC demolished Illinois that the conference represented itself well in the post-season. The only real loss was by Arizona State to Texas, because even UCLA had a 10-2 BYU team beaten until the blocked field goal at the end. I thought Oregon drew an outclassed South Florida team in the Sun Bowl, and was not surprised to see Hawaii lose like they did to Georgia. The Huskies would have beaten the Warriors the last game of the season had it been played anywhere but in Hawaii. With those refs, the Dawgs had little chance of upsetting Hawaii back in early December but the fact that they took an undefeated team right up to the last minute made me wonder just how good Hawaii was. Georgia showed me when they pounded Hawaii with the run and I've got to think if Washington had stayed with the run instead of trying to throw in the second half that they too would have beaten the Warriors.

Oregon and USC were the most impressive conference teams in their bowls, with the Trojans also drawing a team that didn't belong in the BCS. To me there is no way Hawaii and Illinois belonged in the BCS when Missouri got snubbed. Especially after Kansas, a team beaten by Missouri, demolished Virginia Tech in the Fiesta Bowl.

I watched all of the bowls that Husky opponents played in, as well as parts of at least 12 others, and I really think this was the worst job ever by the BCS of matching the right teams. Usually the BCS only messes up the final game, but this time there were lots of teams that didn't belong. Hawaii, despite being undefeated, obviously didn't belong and Missouri obviously did. Gary Pinkel and his team got robbed and proved they should have been playing in one of the main games when they throttled Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Georgia should have been matched with USC and Illinois and Hawaii both belonged in minor bowls playing each other (by the way, I thought the Michigan-Florida game in the Cotton Bowl was the best of all the games, followed by the Fiesta Bowl and West Virginia's demolishing of Oklahoma).

The destruction of the Sooners by the Mountaineers' spread offense option was particularly interesting, considering the Huskies play them next September. I believe nine Husky opponents played in bowl games and that has to have led the nation.

I still maintain that the bowls are good for college football. With 32 games that means 64 of the 119 teams in the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) get to go bowling and there are 32 teams that got finish their year on a winning note. I don't understand how the International and GMAC Bowls qualify for playing after the beginning of the year, especially with 7-5 teams. What are Bowling Green and Ball State doing playing after New Years when only one Pac-10 team does? This is what I don't understand about the Pac-10 Bowl arrangements. We're a second-class league as long as they continue to play this arrangement. The ancient administration of the Pac-10 Conference should recognize this and at least get the top-two teams from this conference playing on New Year's Day.

I like the "and-1" concept of a playoff I kept hearing about, but I'd prefer "and-2", with an NCAA committee picking the four best bowl teams and playing two games the next week and a championship game the following week. That way we could still have the bowl system and then out of the bowl winners pick the four best teams for a two week playoff. That way the bowls would be sort of like an elimination process and they could have a selection committee just like in March Madness to pick the final four.

I just resent the idea that computers get to decide who are the best teams and not the players. The bowl system isn't flawed, the BCS is. Keep the bowls, eliminate the BCS, and have a two-week playoff after the bowls are completed. No bowl games are played after New Year's Day and all bowl winners are put into consideration for the Final Four.

Once you have all the winners, then use the BCS criteria to help the committee decide the four finalists. Put the major conferences back into their original bowls and make all teams quit playing by the First of December so the bowls can be set. Then eliminate all the conference championship games or make them be over by the end of November. Make all bowls end after January 1st, and take two more weeks to find a true champion. I would even suggest they have the networks bid each year for the rights, or put it on pay-per-view, like boxing does. The financial windfall would help all the FBS schools fund their athletic departments.

Any sort of playoffs would be welcomed by the players and ultimately decided by them. For years they used the excuse that asking the players to play in a playoff would lengthen the season too much and the kids would miss too much school. Excuse me, but why are they playing 12 games now instead of 10 and why do they play all the way into December? It is because of television money, and when we get right down to it that is exactly what dictates the bowl system.

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