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When Game Day Is Every Day, the Hypocrisy Grows

October 02, 2006|Chris Dufresne

If you worked the double-shift Saturday and couldn't catch Michigan State Coach John L. Smith slapping himself in the face or any of the Iowa inaction, don't fret, because they play college football on all the other days now.

The only thing left is to adopt the "Happy Days" theme song.

Last week featured games on Tuesday, Thursday (two) and Friday, while this week you get unfolding drama Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Brigham Young won't participate on the Sabbath but Baylor, the world's largest Baptist university, has already played pass the ball (and the collection plate) with a Sunday tilt in early September.

The only real holy day of obligation is Monday, because you wouldn't want to interfere with the Holy Grail of professional football.

Even the missing Monday time slot, however, was satisfied before the NFL regular season started when Florida State and Miami combined for three rushing yards on that moon-over-Miami stink bomb to end Labor Day weekend.

Is there anything wrong with any of this?

Not if you have a passion for pigskin and don't have an 8 a.m. chemistry lab.

Not if you desperately need the weeknight football cash to help pay for water polo.

Not if you don't care how a televised Friday night game affects the high school programs that feed your universities with an endless supply of relatively cheap labor.

Not if you crave the exposure weeknight football offers a program that has no shot of getting its own television deal (Notre Dame) or onto ABC's Saturday night prime-time show.

No wonder Southern Mississippi, starting last week, is playing on consecutive Tuesdays.

You have to swallow hard to play Fridays, for sure, because that day has long been the sanctuary for preps. In the end, though, you take the money at the expense of John Doe High's 50-50 raffle.

Rutgers played at South Florida last Friday night in an ESPN game -- not that there were any high school games going on that night in Florida.

Rutgers won, 22-20. It was a terrific game. You wonder how many people blew off their local high school game to catch the exciting conclusion.

This is the kind of stuff that makes guys like Joe Restic, the former coach at Harvard, almost glad he got out of coaching.

Restic is of the age (Bronze) when coaches believed kickoff should always be 1 p.m. on Saturday.

"Football only belongs on the college level if it is about amateurism, fair play and sportsmanship," Restic said. "Once those things get away from you, the commercialization settles in. It doesn't belong."

Restic's views may be heroic even as they are unrealistic.

The biggest problem with major college football's mission statement, however, is the hypocrisy.

You can't blame television for following revenue streams where they flow. ESPN would make a reality show based on a suspiciously beefed-up baseball player if it thought it would sell.

The gut-busting comes when university presidents use "missed class time" as a reason for not wanting a playoff system in major college football.

But it's OK for Southern Miss to play consecutive Tuesday games on the road?

It is not a crime if presidents don't want a playoff.

They just need to come up with a better story than that.

Weekend Wrap

* The argument: West Virginia shouldn't play for the national title because it doesn't play anybody. That was certainly true last weekend -- the school was idle. As punishment, West Virginia dropped from fourth to a tie for fifth with Florida in the latest Harris poll. There is no secret about this: West Virginia's chances of making the national title game hinge on its finishing 12-0 and being the only undefeated team or one of two.

* How badly has Oregon been hurt by the Oklahoma officiating fiasco? Not much. The Ducks keep moving up, from 13th to 11th in Harris and from 12th to 11th in the USA Today coaches' poll. Oregon is three spots ahead of No. 14 Oklahoma in Harris and two spots ahead in the USA Today index.

* Getting a grip. Ohio State took away two first-place votes from USC and one from Auburn in galvanizing its hold on No. 1 in the USA Today coaches' poll. Despite struggling to beat Washington State, No. 2 USC actually gained a few points on No. 3 Auburn, which struggled to beat South Carolina.

In the Harris poll, USC's lead over Auburn was trimmed in half, from 22 points to 11.

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