Why don't they ditch big money and decide No. 1?

January 04, 1994|By Skip Miller | Skip Miller,Newport News Daily Press

MIAMI -- It's time to tell corporate America to find another writeoff and get out of the bowl business. If companies want to name something after themselves, let them try a charity. Division I-A college football doesn't need them anymore. It's been nice, but now it's playoff time.

What Florida State coach Bobby Bowden had to do Sunday morning was the best reason of all for a playoff.

The night before, his Seminoles beat Nebraska, 18-16, in the Orange Bowl. It was everything a college game should be. It was exciting and controversial. It had final-second drama.

But Sunday morning, Bowden had to stand before the microphones and thank those who voted his team No. 1.

"To be a national champion in both polls is really surprising to me, and I'm thankful," he said.

The only people Bowden should have to thank are his players and coaching staff. He shouldn't have to thank media types who vote on the Associated Press poll, all the while opining too much about why they did it. He shouldn't have to thank coaches who vote on the Cable News Network/USA Today poll.

When last heard, Notre Dame's Lou Holtz was whining his team deserved consideration. "We've got as good a record as anybody else," he said. He did not mention the regular-season loss at home to Boston College.

He didn't have to. The pollsters have considered the loss an indelible violation for weeks. Oh, there was one way out. If the Irish scored a bucket of touchdowns against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the pollsters would consider Holtz's plea. But Notre Dame only won by 24-21. Sorry, Lou; maybe next time.

That left Florida State. Since the preseason, the top perch was the Seminoles' to lose. They made football fun, and that pleased those accustomed to yawning through ball-control struggles. The loss at Notre Dame was quickly dismissed as a bad day. You can do that in Division I-A football, the only game around that doesn't believe in the final score.

Bowden understands that more than most. For six years in a row, he coached teams into No. 1 consideration only to be voted two or three or four.

Last year could have been his year. But Dan Mowrey missed a ZTC field goal that would have tied Miami, and Bowden could only say "maybe next year" when Alabama was voted No. 1 after its Sugar Bowl swamping of Miami.

Imagine Bowden's anxiety when, a year later, he needed a field goal to beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Scott Bentley was the kicker this time. He knocked in a 22-yarder with 24 seconds left to give the Seminoles an 18-16 lead.

Wait. There's more. Imagine Bowden's feelings when Nebraska had a chance to win on a 45-yard field goal with one second left. Byron Bennett's try was wide left. After all that, Bowden had to say thank you for the No. 1. Some call it the national championship, being voted No. 1 in the final poll of the year. It's not. It's the opinion of a group of people who have too many opinions.

That's why it's playoff time. It's time to cut the regular season to 10 games and add a four-game playoff. Champions from eight major conferences are automatic. Eight wild-card teams are selected by record and strength of schedule. A 16-team field. Nice and neat. No votes. No corporate writeoffs. Just college football.

Does that make too much sense or something?

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