You probably do not remember when there were only four Bowl Games: The Rose, the Cotton, the Sugar and the Orange.
Those four Bowls represented the epitome of success. To get there was an unparalleled seasonal hallmark. My father, a former football player, then a tea salesman who in turn became a meat packer, felt there should also be a Sausage Bowl dedicated to all the men in his industry.
I, of course, thought he was delusional. He passed away many years ago, but I know wherever is, he is smiling. In fact, practically every fruit and vegetable has a bowl game. Plus there are others thrown in sponsored by large companies. Yet there still is no Sausage Bowl.
So it was with great confusion and perplexity that I started trying to figure the “musical conferences” being played among NCAA teams. They are saying that this will mean bigger TV revenues for these super conferences. Perhaps they are right.
However, I only looked to what happened to the sport of boxing. For years there was only one governing body, the WBA. The promoters looking for larger purses came up with the WBC. For a while, one man could hold titles in both bodies. Then the promoters decided a man could only hold one, or the other. The IBF was added. In fact, to the best of my knowledge the only time two undefeated heavyweight champions ever clashed in what is now known as a unification bout was one I was involved in, Ali v. Frazier, March 8, 1971.
It was electric!
The purpose was to avail promoters an opportunity to increase the significance of certain fights and increase their cash flow. For a period of time, the ploy worked, but then the overwhelming number of unimportant, insignificant so-called championship fights became meaningless.
So, when I see what’s going on in college football, I have to feel the inmates are running the asylum.
This brings me to many conversations I have with a friend of mine, Charles “Chuck” Young. For almost 40 years, Chuck was the Chancellor at UCLA. As such, he was deeply involved in making recommendations for the good of sports.
As I write this column, I have in front of me a large document titled The NCAA Special Committee to Study a Division I-A Football Championship, May 5 -6, 1994. It is a very revealing document.
It is thorough and in depth. It starts with an overview and summary of previous discussions held at NCAA Conventions in 1976, 1988 and 1993, which centered on having 16-Team Tournaments over four weekends.
What an unusual idea! Did you ever hear of March Madness? I did! For me, that is the best sporting time of the year. Of course, it has grown from 16 teams to a great many more. Last year, there were 65 teams. I felt it was watered down a bit, but now in their wisdom, the FINAL Four will start with 68 teams. Time will tell how that will work out.
Getting back to football, there is no true Division 1A National Championship. Basketball does achieve this, and over the years the NCAA Final Four has consistently enjoyed television ratings comparable with college football bowl games.
Chuck’s committee studied all the factors affecting the need for a Division 1A football national championship tournament. Among the factors studied were game attendance, TV ratings, TV revenue, conference realignments, and the declining number of independent football programs. They studied the economic trends of bowl games including attendance, TV Ratings, television revenue, sponsorships and the net income available for distribution.
They also looked at pre-season games and available stadia for game sites in January. They even looked at the availability of on-campus practice facilities. The length of season, the recruiting calendar and the injury rates also were discussed at length. They did not overlook the NFL regular season and playoffs.
This ad hoc committee, which featured many outstanding knowledgeable educators including presidents and chancellors of top Universities, held numerous consultation meetings. They met with student-athletes, the American Football Coaches Association, the Collegiate Commissioners Association, selected Football Bowl Association representatives, the Football Writers Association of America, the Associated Press and the major TV Networks on the desirability of a Division 1A championship tournament.
In brief, the student-athletes professed a desire for a competitively determined national team champion. They wished to maintain the “Bowl” system in addition to having a NCAA Division 1A Championship.
The coaches were concerned about the state of college football at that time. They had varied views on bowl games and a national 1A championship tournament. They were concerned about the public perception of what constitutes a “successful program.”
The football writers were also concerned about the perception of college football as well as the perception of the bowl games. They all compared bowl games to the success of March Madness. There was unanimous concern over the use of media polls in the bowl coalition process. There was a strong sense of the need for major change in college football and most decried the BCS system. The same feelings apply today.
The bowl officials saw the need for a centralized post-season calendar and major revenue agreements. Overwhelmingly they expressed their willingness to utilize bowl games in a Division 1A championship structure in mid-January. One thing that concerned them is the need to maintain a positive economic impact on local communities. In interviewing a select few of these officials, the consensus seems to be the same today.
The committee in its thoroughness way back in 1994 (the date of this report) saw and recommended the need for a Division 1A championship. Admittedly this is 15 years ago and I have only touched on a few elements that the report covered. However, the important thing was their recommendation to the NCAA. Who in their infinite wisdom consistently has decided against such a tournament?
I only quoted from one part of the report. Chuck has three additional books of equal size with backup material for the committee’s findings.
The report noted that since 1973, Divisions II and III have had a successful 16-team tournament over four weekends (the third weekend in November through the second weekend in December) and since 1978, Division I-AA has had theirs from the fourth weekend of November through the third weekend of December. All these tournaments have proven successful, as well as fulfilling a need.
The “Big Dog,” Division 1A, needs a real champion, not one determined by one-sided polls and manned by biased people.
What do you think? Let us know. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Balderdash State against Whose U in the Sausage Bowl for the National Championship? My dad would love it!