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Progress in BCS Will Take Time

The presidents of 11 colleges meet with the hope of resolving the major issues that affect football.

September 09, 2003|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — Change is coming in college football, but if Monday's meeting of 11 college presidents is any indication, it's going to take time, and it may be tedious.

"It's tricky," University of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said of the process. "It's hard to put these things together."

Presidents representing the six bowl championship series conferences that control major college football organized Monday's meeting with the leaders of the five non-BCS conferences playing Division I-A football in the hope of resolving serious issues that face the sport.

The 11 school presidents met for four hours at a Chicago airport hotel in what was generally described as a first step in a long process toward a civil resolution.

No proclamations were made, and no scrolls were unfurled.

The two sides will meet again Nov. 16 in New Orleans.

The rhetoric that inspired the summit was significantly toned down. Only months ago, Tulane President Scott Cowen called the BCS a cartel and said he would prefer it be disbanded.

The non-BCS cause had threatened litigation as a last resort, but Cowen's tone Monday was more conciliatory.

"What is the point at this stage to keep that rhetoric up?" Cowen said after the meeting. "The point at this stage is to come together. Don't do anything that is divisive now. We're coming together."

The issues are many and complex. The non-BCS conferences feel the BCS represents a monopoly and is exclusionary.

The BCS comprises 62 schools from the Pacific 10, Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big East conferences, plus Notre Dame. It was formed in 1998 as a way to create a No. 1 vs. No. 2 national-title game.

A non-BCS school can earn access to one of four lucrative BCS games -- Rose, Fiesta, Orange or Sugar -- by finishing sixth or higher in the final BCS standings.

Since 1998, no team from a non-BCS conference has played in a major bowl. Tulane came closest in 1998, finishing 10th in the standings.

Before the BCS, however, major bowls made their own deals, and there was no automatic access.

The BCS also shares revenue with the other conferences that they did not receive before 1998.

The non-BCS conferences, though, want a larger slice of the financial pie. Last year, the 63 BCS schools shared $104 million in television and bowl revenue while the non-BCS schools shared $5 million.

The non-BCS conferences would prefer an all-inclusive playoff when the BCS contract expires after the 2005 season, but that option is highly unlikely.

The two sides appear headed toward a protracted, nuance-filled compromise.

The BCS could, for example, loosen the automatic bid requirement from a top-six ranking to top eight. The BCS could add a fifth major bowl game that would feature a non-BCS conference champion.

"We would be insane not to at least think about options as all the contracts that form the BCS are now going to be up for renewal," Perlman said.

"We have to have a sense about where we want to go. If we can make it better, we'll make it better."

Any new BCS deal, however, would have to be attractive to the television networks and bowl games that sponsor college football.

"We don't have our head in clouds," Cowen said of the economic realities. " ... Is it attractive to the networks, is it attractive to the bowls, is it attractive to the fans? Any kind of resolution has to meet those tests."

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