Alcorn State and the Liberty Bowl can say, "Pretty please," all they want, but the NCAA is not going to allow the Division I-AA team and its Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Steve McNair, to play in the Dec. 31 game.
If it were up to Liberty Bowl officials, Alcorn would receive an invitation to face either East Carolina or hometown Memphis. It makes sense: McNair's presence would sell lots of tickets; it would give television viewers an actual reason to watch the game and it could provide the struggling bowl a unique regional matchup, what with Alcorn in neighboring Mississippi and the possibility of Memphis as the other team.
"We'd love to have him," Liberty Bowl spokesman Chris Bork said. "He's a great player. But it's not going to happen. The NCAA won't allow it."
That's because the NCAA requires bowl teams to have at least six victories against Division I-A teams. Alcorn plays exclusively in Division I-AA.
"At this point, it's dead," Alcorn Coach Cardell Jones said. "We're just hoping and praying the NCAA will sanction it and let us go."
Liberty Bowl representatives contacted the NCAA about an exception to the rule but didn't receive much encouragement. Jones said Alcorn might make a similar request.
If the NCAA doesn't change its mind--and it won't--Alcorn and McNair will have to hope for an at-large bid to the Division I-AA playoffs or an invitation to the Division I-AA Heritage Bowl in Atlanta.
"I'd rather play in the Liberty Bowl," Jones said, "because of the exposure and because this is something that hasn't been done in the history of college football. I think it would be great for Steve to play against a Division I-A ballclub before he graduates."
We'd love to see McNair get his moment, too, but for the NCAA to change the rule for Alcorn would be unfair to every Division I-A program that wins those six required games.
Just in case any of the Associated Press voters covering last Saturday night's Kansas State-Colorado game needed a reminder, the Folsom Field scoreboard operator offered a not-so-subtle ballot hint. Read the huge screen at the conclusion of Colorado's 35-21 victory:
\o7 1 Penn State Is Idle\f7
In other words: \o7 We played. We won. We deserve No. 1.\f7
The voters weren't swayed, but Kansas State might have been. The Wildcats have played Nebraska, the former No. 1, and Colorado in successive weeks and limped away from each defeat thinking they could have won each game.
Instead, they lost to the Cornhuskers by 11 and the Buffaloes by 14. So who wins when No. 2-ranked Colorado travels to No. 3 Nebraska on Saturday?
The vote is nearly unanimous: the Buffaloes.
"They have so many weapons and with (Cornhusker quarterback) Tommie Frazier out, that negates Nebraska's whole plan," Kansas State strong safety Chuck Marlowe said.
"I think Colorado will win," wide receiver Tyson Schwieger said. "It will be a great game. I think offensively, they are a lot better than Nebraska was."
Said Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder: "If Nebraska has some balance in their offense, they have a chance. I don't know who is the better team. A week ago I would have said Colorado. Right now, I think Colorado has great balance and they can be as good as any team in the country."
We have mixed feelings about picking Colorado. You would too if you heard Buffalo quarterback Kordell Stewart make the following offer: "If we come out with a big win, I'll kiss all of you (reporters)."
THE ANSWER MAN
College football's three most-asked questions:
--When will UCLA drop to Division I-AA?
--Who's No. 1?
--When will there be a national playoff?
For now, we'll concentrate on the playoff issue, mostly because UCLA is beyond help and Penn State is No. 1 . . . this week.
Asked by ABC's John Saunders if they supported a playoff, Colorado Coach Bill McCartney and Auburn Coach Terry Bowden offered some fresh views on the subject. Misguided, but fresh.
Bowden, who coached on the Division I-AA level before arriving at Auburn two seasons ago, has seen how a 16-team national playoff tournament works and he didn't like it. True, one champion is decided on the field, but Bowden said there always were questions and complaints about the selection and seeding process. In other words, a controversial title--even with the playoff.
McCartney, whose team split a national championship in 1990 with Georgia Tech, favors a 16-team playoff, but with a selection twist. He wants a media panel to choose four teams from each of the four major regions of the country and then let the playoff begin, like the NCAA basketball tournament.
It is a nice thought, except for one teensy-weensy problem: What happens if there aren't four teams in a region worthy of selection? Take this season as an example:
East--Penn State, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Miami.
South--Duke, Florida, Alabama, Florida State.
Midwest--Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan.
West--Arizona, Utah, Brigham Young and, uh, the San Diego Chargers?