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College Sports in the Carolinas


View from the East
Friday, September 5, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Fighters approach ring in BCS showdown


ACC commissioner Johnny Swofford expects the bowl championship series to survive beyond its current contract, which runs through the bowls for the 2005 season, although he acknowledges that there may be some adjustments to the existing format.

"I think it will survive," Swofford said recently after returning from BCS business meetings in Chicago. "How much it changes remains to be seen. I think it's premature to predict but I suspect there may be some tweaking. I don't know if there will be any dramatic changes."

There are several bowls which want to join the BCS rotation and the conferences whose champions aren't directly included are pushing for a greater share of the BCS' financial rewards. The BCS is also dealing with the Rose Bowl's reluctance to lose its traditional Big Ten-Pacific 10 champions pairing.

"Adding a bowl is one of the changes on the table," Swofford said. "But I think we're six to 12 months away from knowing the course of action that will be taken."

The Cotton Bowl, once a major New Year's Day bowl in Dallas, could become an additional BCS bowl, especially if a plan to build a new 100,000-seat stadium for the Dallas Cowboy goes through. An additional bowl or bowls could be used to provide a great degree of involvement for leagues which are currently not directly included in the BCS.

Now hear this

The BCS' antitrust status was examined in House Judiciary Committee hearings in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. BCS interests believe they are protected from antitrust challenge based on the fact that it provides for the inclusion of teams if they finish in the top six in the BCS standings. That, of course, has never happened, not even when Tulane was unbeaten in 1998.

The BCS also distributes about $5 million annually to "non-BCS" teams. C-USA receives $1 million annually from the BCS that goes into the league's bowl revenue pool. East Carolina, which didn't go to a bowl game in 2002 for the first time since 1998, didn't get any bowl revenue funds from C-USA last year, according to Nick Floyd, interim ECU athletics director.

"That's part of the issue," Floyd said. "Members of BCS conferences who don't go to bowls receive substantial revenue."

C-USA has five bowl ties. Its league champion goes to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, which has a payout per team of $1.3 million. The league also has berths in the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala., the New Orleans Bowl, the new Fort Worth (Tex.) Bowl and the Hawaii Bowl.

As in most conferences, all of the bowl payouts for C-USA teams go into a league fund, which redistributes money to the bowl participants based on a formula which takes expenses into account. A C-USA team playing in the Hawaii Bowl gets a greater allowance for travel than a team playing closer to its campus.

Floyd said ticket sales and expense management helped ECU realize a net of roughly $40,000 on its last bowl trip, the GMAC Bowl in 2001. That's obviously a far cry from the millions that members of the BCS conferences divvy up.

Projected revenue for the four 2004 BCS games is $90 million, but only about $6 million will go to the 55 non-BCS schools while more than $80 million ends up with the 62 BCS schools, according to the House committee.

"You're throwing the baby out with the bath water by allowing this to continue," Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, said of the BCS.

Tulane president Scott Cowen, who has organized non-BCS institutions to challenge the existing college football structure, doesn't favor congressional action to initiate changes. The disparity should be rectified, Cowen says, by college presidents.

The Associated Press reported that former NFL quarterback Steve Young, who played at Brigham Young, said the disparities between BCS and non-BCS programs hurts recruiting at non-BCS schools, since athletes will sometimes choose to attend schools that have a better shot of going to a bowl game. Steve Logan came to the same conclusion while coaching at ECU.

"In soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, etc., equal access is granted," Young said. "Not so in football."

Only BYU in 1984 among non-BCS schools has won a national championship since World War II. Cowen's Presidential Coalition for Athletic Reform and BCS representatives are scheduled to meet on Monday in Chicago to discuss the future of the BCS, which includes the champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific-10 and the Southeastern Conference — as well as independent Notre Dame and two at-large teams.

"This conglomeration of money and power is having a cascading impact far beyond major college football, as the de facto exclusion of non-BCS schools from major bowl games is resulting in those schools having lower athletic budgets, inferior athletic facilities, and rising deficits," said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the committee's top Democrat.

Former North Carolina basketball player Jim Delany, now commissioner of the Big Ten, spoke at the hearings on Thursday.

In interviews following the hearings, Delany said, "There's been way toomuch credit given to the BCS for creating disparities between football programs. Those disparities have existed for 20 to 30 years. The BCS has existed for five. We've created a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game. To say the BCS created a disparity makes no sense to us. The bowls are more open than before and more revenue is being shared than ever before."

Delany emphasized that the disparities in college football were in place before the BCS was established.

"Conferences with automatic bids to BCS bowls have produced 57 of 58 national champions since World War II," he said. "In the 20 years leading up to the BCS, 159 of the 160 participants in the four BCS bowls (Fiesta, Sugar, Orange and Rose) came from conferences with automatic BCS bowl bids."

Delany said the BCS has succeeded in creating a national championship game between the top two teams in the BCS standings.

"How good did the old system work?," Delany said. " In 1984, a BYU that finished No. 1 played a 6-5 Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl. Under the BCS system, they could have played a No. 2 team for the national championship."

Nebraska president Harvey Perlman also commented after the hearings.

"We don't see anything that raises a concern about antitrust," Perlman said. "We are concerned about the plight of the Division I-A schools and we're meeting with them on Monday, Sept. 8, to hear their concerns."

Perlman defended BCS revenue distribution.

"We are currently sharing revenue with schools that don't have automatic bids to BCS bowls," Perlman said. "We give them $5 million a year under the BCS, which is $5 million more than before the BCS.

"The consequence of us (BCS) shifting money to them are it forces us to take money out of our academic programs so they can take less out of their academic programs to pay for their (shortfall) in the athletic budget. How fair is that to our students?"

How fair is the BCS is the question that the hearings were exploring. Although Cowen prefers that congressional intervention be avoided, he has said that he has been advised by legal counsel that an antitrust suit would have merit. BCS interests are confident that they are not vulnerable to such action.

No reply

ECU chancellor William Muse said he had invited Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese to attend the West Virginia game in Greenville on Saturday.

"I did invite him since we were playing a Big East opponent," Muse said. "I haven't heard anything back so I'm assuming he won't be in attendance."

The Associated Press and BCS media relations contributed to this report.

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02/23/2007 12:41:39 AM

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