Dick Harmon: Pac-10, Big Ten hold us all hostage

Published: Tuesday, April 29 2008 12:36 a.m. MDT

A true college football championship is being held up by two conferences — the Pac-10 and Big Ten.

The elitism, greed and threats of these two conferences are at the center of the blockade that prevents the BCS from moving forward to a national playoff. They hide behind a pious self-serving "protection," their Holy Grail — the Rose Bowl — while all remaining conferences, schools, college football fans and even TV contracts remain hostage to their fantasy.

That's right, the outcome of college football's championship is currently dictated by three parties who faithfully watch one another's backs — the Pac-10, Big Ten and Rose Bowl.

I say let college football move toward a national playoff championship. If the Pac-10/Big Ten/Rose Bowl coalition makes threats to withdraw from the plan, let them have their wish. Call their bluff. Cut off the Three Amigos and let them enjoy their parade, flowers and hallowed game in Pasadena.

I don't think USC fans, nor their potential recruits, would go for that very long.

Pete Carroll: "Come to USC, where you can't win a national title, but, by golly, you certainly could play the Buckeyes or Wolverines in the Rose Bowl."

It's time to move on. If our sporting events had never evolved, we'd still be watching lions eat men.

These are the issues on the table at the BCS meetings Sunday through Wednesday in Hollywood, Fla., where Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson joins 10 other conference commissioners and BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe is representing MWC athletic directors.

One of the items on this week's agenda is discussion of a four-team playoff — a start. It would take No. 1 versus No. 4 and No. 2 against No. 3, and the winners would then play for a national championship.

Of course, the Pac-10 and Big Ten want no part of it, never have and, if their administrators have their way, never will.

Their Rose Bowl enjoys favored nation status, it's own exclusive TV deal, favored Jan. 1 kickoff for ratings, is protected from ever having to deal with a Utah, Boise State or Hawaii, so precious ratings won't dip, and it is the only bowl that gets to waive a $6 million annual fee to be one of the four BCS games, even if it means weaker matchups that don't involve Florida or Georgia.

That's not football in Pasadena, it's a pair of poodles dancing under strobe lights.

The way it stands now, the Pac-10 and Big Ten are running the show. They dictate the agenda, the discussion and the outcome. In short, they are holding every college football fan in America in jail. This is why you had USC kill No. 13 Illinois in the Rose Bowl this past January, while more deserving teams certainly could have faced the Trojans.

If these two leagues don't want to play, just let them go. Their fans would be so ticked off, they'd demand this Rose Bowl cartel be trashed.

Four BCS conferences (ACC, Big East, SEC, Big 12) and Notre Dame want to move on and can envision a time for a playoff, perhaps starting with a four-team-plus-one system. The BCS system of determining a national champion is universally hated right now, but at least folks are trying to find a better way, even potentially adding a fifth BCS bowl.

Even ABC, whose separate TV deal with the Rose Bowl and Pac-10/Big Ten, says they can work with a plus-one system if its done before their contract expires in 2014.

These four other BCS leagues have worked and successfully progressed to the inclusion of non-BCS leagues like the Mountain West and WAC to the table. They've tried being more accommodating in finding ways to get qualified non-BCS schools like Utah, Boise State or Hawaii a piece of the pie.

But the Pac-10 and Big Ten? They want it their way. They can't give up their own incestuous pact and insist on their own TV arrangement. If British and European countries had never evolved, we'd still have their royal families breeding.

Grow up.

The thing is, the way the BCS is structured now, all six BCS conferences have to unanimously agree on a proposal like a one-plus playoff system. Guess who'd spoil it?

I dare the Pac-10 and Big Ten presidents, chancellors, athletic directors and commissioners to keep up this obstructionist attitude by withdrawing and keeping their hallowed tie to one another.

It would go against the desires of their fans — all to stubbornly appease the folks in the funny-colored coats and their sponsors.

Do it.

Let's then see what happens to a college football championship.

We'd likely learn just how fast the Pac-10/Big Ten could experience a bout of humility and beg to be allowed back.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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