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BCS Plans to Add a Game

The fifth bowl would increase revenue sharing with non-BCS schools and essentially end the threat of legal action.

March 01, 2004|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

University presidents Sunday agreed in principle to add a fifth major bowl game to college football's bowl championship series, which would increase access and revenue sharing with "non-BCS schools" and essentially end the threat of legal action by schools that are not members of the six so-called "power" conferences.

NCAA President Myles Brand, who presided over the six-hour meeting in Miami, called the decision "a significant victory for college sports and higher education."

Increased access and a larger piece of the financial pie were two key demands made by the Coalition for Athletics Reform, led by Tulane President Scott Cowen.

BCS schools generate about $110 million in annual revenue but share only about $6 million with non-BCS schools.

"We should no longer talk about two sides," Cowen said of his long fight with the BCS. "We are one side."

The fifth bowl would be added to the BCS rotation in 2007 and was contingent on the market supporting an additional game.

Oregon President David Frohnmayer, spokesman for the BCS presidential oversight committee, said he believes that the BCS can sell a fifth game to the TV networks.

"College football has a tremendous capacity to attract viewers," Frohnmayer said.

And what if there is no network interest?

"Then we'll sit down and talk some more," Frohnmayer said.

Details regarding how future money would be shared were not disclosed, with Frohnmayer saying only, "We have adjusted revenue distribution formulas .... "

Under the current BCS contract, the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls rotate college football's annual national title game.

The top two teams in the BCS standings participate in the BCS championship game, which became a maelstrom of controversy last season when USC finished No. 3 in the BCS despite being No. 1 in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches' polls.

Frohnmayer admitted that many of the specifics of Sunday's tentative resolution had not been worked out.

It has yet to be determined whether the fifth BCS game would be a new bowl or an existing one.

Frohnmayer said the fifth bowl would be "of equal stature" to the other BCS bowls.

The BCS contract expires after the 2005 season, and the decision Sunday by college presidents provides a template as the BCS begins contract negotiations in the coming months.

It is unclear how many of the BCS bowls in the next contract would participate in the national-title game rotation.

The Rose Bowl has a separate agreement with ABC, which is negotiated before the BCS and ABC contract.

Sunday night, Rose Bowl Chief Executive Mitch Dorger rebutted speculation that the Rose Bowl might not want to remain in the BCS title-game rotation in the new contract.

"No one associated with the Rose Bowl has said anything about dropping out," Dorger said.

Dorger said it would be difficult to go back to life before the BCS.

"The issue is, can you really go back to where you were before?" Dorger said.

Dorger said, "There's a lot of ways a fifth bowl could fit in," adding that "the devil, as always, is in the details."

Cowen said Sunday's decision would satisfy the "non-BCS" concerns about college football's power structure.

Cowen and other officials representing the five major conferences not affiliated with the BCS argued that college football had become a rigged game between "haves and have-nots."

There are 117 major-college football schools -- 62 of which belong to the BCS conferences -- Pacific 10, Big Ten, Big East, Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Southeastern -- plus football independent Notre Dame.

The top six conferences shared more than 90% of college football revenue, and their conference champions received automatic berths in one of the four major bowls: Rose, Sugar, Orange or Fiesta.

Under the current contract, a "non-BCS" school receives an automatic BCS berth only if it finishes sixth or higher in the final BCS standings.

It can be considered for a spot if it finishes in the top 12.

Since the BCS was formed in 1998, no non-BCS school has played in a major bowl.

A fifth BCS game would increase from two to four the number of "at-large" berths available to schools that finish ranked in the top 12.

The Rose Bowl would retain its Pac-10/Big Ten relationship in years that it was not playing host to the national-title game and other bowls would have a chance to keep their conference tie-ins.

Cowen said that under proposed system, a non-BCS team would have made a major bowl in "four out of the six years."

Cowen's charges of monopoly against the BCS resonated all the way to Washington.

In September, the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on whether the BCS might be violating antitrust laws.

Cowen said Sunday that if a fifth bowl were realized, it would end the legal discussion.

"As far as I'm concerned, the coalition has gone out of business today," he said.

"We're all one system," Cowen said.

Cowen hopes that Sunday's agreement will end what he calls the derogatory "branding" that has resulted from being affiliated with a non-BCS conference.

The agreement to pursue a fifth BCS game all but ended any near-future playoff hopes for college football.

There had been discussions about adding another "championship" game after the four major bowl games.

But Frohnmayer said that plan was "not a significant matter of discussion today."

Frohnmayer also said that despite the controversy that had enveloped college football in recent seasons, presidents had no interest in exploring an NFL-type playoff format.

"There is no sentiment of any significance for a national playoff," Frohnmayer said.

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