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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO

No. 2 Against No. 3 Is Meaningless Show

January 02, 1998|LARRY STEWART

Had enough football yet?

There are still two more bowl games today and then four NFL playoff games this weekend.

The Orange Bowl was supposed to be the game--deciding the national championship and giving CBS a large viewing audience.

But with Michigan of the Big Ten finishing the regular season ranked No. 1 and committed to play in the Rose Bowl, CBS didn't end up with the premier bowl game.

The network will be lucky if it ends up with an Orange Bowl rating that is even close to ABC's rating for the Rose Bowl.

Still, CBS play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough said earlier this week that with No. 2 Nebraska and No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl "it is the most meaningful bowl game."

"It has national championship implications and Nebraska is the best team in the country because if Nebraska and Michigan were to play, Nebraska would win," McDonough said.

Of course McDonough might be a little biased since he and Terry Donahue will be calling tonight's Orange Bowl.

PLAYOFF ADVOCATES

Add McDonough and Donahue to the growing list of those who think Division I-A is overdue for a playoff system.

"The two major arguments against a playoff system are that it would take players out of the classroom and that it would damage the current bowls," McDonough said. "Well, they have players in Division I-AA, Division II and Division III who are able to participate in playoffs, and the bowl alliance has already damaged the bowl systems.

"I worked the Orange Bowl last year, and we had Nebraska and Virginia Tech, two 10-1 teams. But there were only 40,000 in the stands because the game wasn't meaningful under the bowl alliance setup."

Donahue, repeating what he said on ESPN's "Up Close," said: "I've gone 180 degrees on this. I was always a proponent of the bowl system. It was exciting and meaningful to have so many teams happy to go to a bowl game and half of those end their season with a win.

"But I thought Penn State, which had done everything in its power, was done a tremendous injustice three years ago when it went 12-0 and didn't get a share of the national title.

"With the alliance, the structure of the bowl system isn't the same. Now we have only two meaningful bowls each year--whichever game is for the national championship and the Rose Bowl because of its tradition. A lot of illustrious bowls are suffering and scrambling to find teams that can sell tickets.

"Imagine how much more interest there would have been in Kansas State and Syracuse in the Fiesta Bowl had it been a quarterfinal game."

Donahue said it was something Tom Landry once told him that made him a supporter of the old bowl system. "He cautioned college football about the dangers of a playoff years ago when he said the idea of one NFL team having a successful season wasn't particularly healthy," Donahue said. "That always stuck with me."

COUNTERPOINT

One person casting a dissenting vote regarding a playoff system is CBS' Lou Holtz. "We are going away from a playoff because of the super alliance [which takes effect next season and will include the Rose Bowl]," Holtz said. "If you go to an alliance bowl you are going to get something like $10-$12 million per school and the conferences share in that. That is why we are not going to see a playoff."

Does it always have to come down to money?

HERE WE GO AGAIN

Century Cable subscribers and others were deprived of seeing UCLA's closer-than-expected basketball victory over Illinois on Tuesday night because the game was on Fox Sports West 2.

Well, the Bruins' Pacific 10 Conference opener against defending national champion Arizona on Saturday night will be available in even fewer Southern California homes.

It will be televised on FX, which is available to only 65% of L.A. cable households and, because it is exclusive to cable, is not available at all on any satellite systems.

But there is some good news. Time Warner in Chatsworth, which serves 110,000 cable homes in the West San Fernando Valley, has just added FX and it is now available on Channel 49 in 35,000 homes that have upgraded equipment. To accommodate the additional 75,000 households, Time Warner will show the game on public-access Channel 25.

The announcers will be Steve Physioc and George Raveling, who also called Tuesday night's game.

DEALING WITH TRAGEDY

CBS' Tim Ryan, who announced Wednesday's Sun Bowl, recently staged a tennis benefit in Boise, Idaho, near his home in Sun Valley, in which thousands of dollars were raised for the Alzheimer's Assn.

The affair was held in honor of Ryan's 59-year-old wife, Lee, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease and resides in a nursing home in Santa Barbara.

Ryan said about 5% of the 4 million people who suffer from Alzheimer's disease are under 65.

"Lee was a young, vibrant, beautiful woman of 51 when the first signs of Alzheimer's, confusion and forgetfulness began to show," he said.

The versatile, respected and well-liked Ryan, a 1960 Notre Dame graduate, has been with CBS for 20 years.

SHORT WAVES

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