1998 means a whole new bowlgame

Matthew Cross

CHICAGO — The public, the players and the coaches have all cried for years about how college football does not have a true national championship game.
At the 27th annual Big Ten Conference Kickoff Luncheon on Thursday, the newly formed Bowl Championship Series unveiled its plans to guarantee that game takes place in January.
Several officials at the luncheon expressed their excitement about the way bowl matchups will be decided this year and how much they feel the fans will appreciate it.
“We have a new system in place, and we support it,” said American Football Coaches Association president Grant Teaff. “This is going to be one of the most exciting formats of bowls in our history.”
The winner of the national championship will no longer have to wait for days after their bowl game to find out if they’ve been voted No. 1, like in the past. Now, the winner of the title game will be awarded The Sears Trophy directly after the game.
Even if the teams in the championship game do not play well, the No. 3-ranked team on the BCS poll will not be considered for the title, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. He added, however, that the loser of the championship game will not necessarily be No. 2 after the final calculations are made.
The BCS, which was formed after the Bowl Alliance could not guarantee a matchup between the nation’s top two teams, includes a partnership with representatives from the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl.
On Jan. 4, the Fiesta Bowl will play host to the first-ever title game whose participants will be decided by the BCS’ rankings system. That system takes into account four major components: 1) the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls; 2) computer polls from The Seattle Times and the New York Times; 3) schedule strength; and 4) the team’s overall win-loss record.
After considering that information, the BCS will determine the top two teams in the country. Those teams will then play in a national championship game, which will rotate between the four bowls in the BCS. The Sugar Bowl will have the game after the 1999 season, the Orange Bowl will have it after that and the Rose Bowl will have it last, on Jan. 3, 2002.
The conferences with automatic berths to the four bowls in the BCS are the Atlantic Coast, the Big East, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pacific-10 and the Southeastern. Those conferences will keep their original ties to their bowl game except in years when it hosts the national title game or when the conference participants are ranked No. 1 or No. 2.
For example, the Rose Bowl always has featured the regular season winners of the Big Ten and Pac-10. However, say Michigan is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in December. It will play in the national title game at the Fiesta Bowl instead of playing the Rose Bowl, like it has in the past. In that case, the second-best team in the Big Ten would play a Pac-10 team in the Rose Bowl.
Likewise, if Michigan is ranked among the top two teams in 2002, it will play in the national title game at the Rose Bowl because that is the designated site for the national championship game that year.
All of the Big Ten coaches at the luncheon said they were in favor of the BCS because it will finally offer them a chance to prove they’re No. 1. In 1994, Penn State went 12-0 and did not even receive a share of the national title. In 1996, Ohio State, which was ranked No. 1 for part of the season, went 11-1 and got a No. 2 ranking. Even last year when Michigan went 12-0, they only received a share of the national title.
While none of the coaches are saying the BCS’s system is foolproof, Penn State coach Joe Paterno at least said it is a step in the right direction.
“I hope it gives the best teams a shot to win the national title,” he said. “I think it has a good chance to do it. In lieu of a playoff, this is the best we’ve done so far. I think it’s a very sincere effort.”