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Inside College Football | Chris Dufresne / ON COLLEGE

Suddenly, a Rivalry Seems Trivial

September 09, 2004|Chris Dufresne

A week ago, we couldn't wait for Florida State at Miami on Labor Day night.

The game was ballyhooed as a stand-alone, nationally televised extravaganza to showcase the reconstituted Atlantic Coast Conference, suddenly a powerhouse with the additions of Miami and Virginia Tech.

Then a hurricane changed everything -- the game's tone and tenor, travel plans, lives.

A week later, the party balloons have gone flat.

Hurricane Frances cut a swath through the state and left a trail of destruction and tears.

The Weather Channel replaced ESPN as our 24-hour cable channel of choice.

At first it appeared Frances would be a minor distraction in terms of the football.

As Frances threatened the mainland, officials simply moved the game from Monday to Friday.

No big deal.

But it was.

In rescheduling, the ACC violated its policy of not playing games on Friday nights, the time-honored domain of high school football.

In the world of money talks, however, college football recently has taken to a policy of playing games whenever it pleases, even as it sucks revenue from prep-game ticket takers and vendors.

"It was nothing we wanted to do," Miami Coach Larry Coker, a former high school coach, said Wednesday.

College football did it anyway.

The ACC said moving Miami-Florida State to Friday night was a one-time, act-of-God, extenuating circumstance.

"I would reiterate that this is an exception," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a statement.

The problem was the ACC never consulted Florida High School Athletic Assn. officials, who were, understandably, livid.

So much for establishing goodwill in a state that supplies oodles of major college talent.

The ACC faux pas paled in comparison with what came next.

Frances took tiles off houses and the sheen off Florida State at Miami.

Devin Hester, a Miami defensive back, reported that the roof of his parents' house in Riviera Beach collapsed and that a fallen tree crushed his mother's car.

Coker, the Miami coach, lost the electricity at his house for two days.

The news got worse, far worse, when it was learned Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden's 15-year-old grandson and his former son-in-law were killed in a traffic accident when their car was struck by a utility truck that was in service to restore power outages caused by Frances.

Bowden said on a conference call Wednesday that he had not mentioned the tragedy to his players.

"I would not dare try to use that as any motive for my team to play harder," he said.

Today, Bowden will attend funeral services in Fort Walton Beach and then take a private jet to Miami, assuming the threat of Hurricane Ivan does not postpone Friday's game yet again.

"To me this is life, this is life," Bowden said of the death of kin. "I experience it with my players a lot. I have a player that loses a mother, a player that loses his father, a player that loses a brother.

"Of course, after it happens to you, you realize: Somebody can't tell you how it feels when it hadn't happened to them. Well, now it's happened to me.... "

A week ago, Bowden engaged in the banter of how Miami has been his biggest nemesis, inflicting more heartbreak on him than any other school.

Bowden's running joke has always been that his epitaph will read "But he played Miami."

That's not so funny now.

A lot can change in a week.

Another hurricane looms in the Caribbean.

As it gathers strength, the experts here at the Football Forecasting Center have downgraded Miami at Florida State to a tropical depression.

Now or Never

Who says there is no playoff in college football?

This week, a handful of non-bowl championship series schools continue their quixotic quests for postseason inclusion.

It's the WACkiest thing you've ever seen, a single-elimination tournament in which, if you lose at the beginning of the season, you are


"It's a reverse-order playoff," Fresno State Coach Pat Hill said this week.

On tap this weekend:

Fresno State plays at Kansas State.

Boise State plays host to Oregon State.

Utah is at Arizona.

No school from a non-BCS conference has qualified for a BCS bowl (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange), yet you'd be amazed how many are out there trying.

Starting in 2006, thanks to the threat of litigation, a game will be added to the BCS rotation, creating two more at-large spots that qualified non-BCS schools can vie for.

A coalition school in 2006 will have to be ranked only in the top 12 to get an automatic bid.

Last we checked, this is still 2004, though, meaning for now it is business as usual.

This year and next, a non-BCS school has to finish in the top six to be guaranteed a BCS bowl spot (top 12 to be considered), and the Fresno States of the world continue to chase the BCS pot of gold against overwhelming odds.

How it works: Fresno State front- loads its nonconference schedule with BCS schools and hopes a couple of early upsets will get it in position to make a longshot run at the No. 6 BCS spot.

"In most sports, your goal is to climb as the year goes on," Hill said. "In football, it's a descending order."

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