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Kids see sights while others make money

December 23, 2007|Jim Litke | Associated Press

If you thought the PGA Tour was greedy for tacking on a few unofficial paydays at the end of the real season, get a load of college football's "silly season."

It kicked off Thursday night with the Poinsettia Bowl and stretches all the way to the BCS National Championship on Jan. 7.

That's 32 games in all and somehow the folks at the Bowl Championship Series, their Chamber of Commerce pals and the college presidents who unlocked the door to all that postseason loot still have the chutzpah to say that each and every one is being played "for the kids."

They tell us that all the kids who have been working hard in the classroom and on the practice field deserve a break -- not just the ones on teams that would be going to a playoff.

They tell us the kids are stressed out with exams as it is, and the last thing they want is for the season to spill over into next semester.

They tell us a few days in the sun spent soaking up the sights and playing one final game is their reward. That, and the Nintendo Wii those same kids will be digging out from the bottom of a gift bag even before their suitcases hit the bed.


It would be easier to believe if just once the kids were pocketing some of the cash being handed over by sponsors whose names are slapped on, wedged in or embedded in the bowls' names in every way imaginable. And if some of those bowls weren't being played in sun-drenched garden spots like Detroit, Toronto and Boise, Idaho.

And the talk about a playoff being tougher on academics might be the silliest excuse of all.

No less an old-school authority than Penn State Coach Joe Paterno shot holes in that alibi a while back.

"Whenever the talk turns to having some kind of a playoff, they say you can't miss classes and yet we've already got NCAA playoffs and everything else. I mean, who's kidding who?" he said. "They've got to try to figure out a way to get rid of it and the hypocrisy of money, money, money."

Now we're getting somewhere.

The real student-athletes in college football's lower divisions have been competing in playoffs for years. For all the hype you're about to be fed in the coming weeks, the truth is the best story of this college football season has already been written.

It's about little Appalachian State, which beat Michigan to begin it and last week beat Delaware to notch its third straight 1-AA national championship. The bus the Mountaineers rode from their campus in Boone, N.C., to the championship game in Chattanooga broke down on the way back, but Coach Jerry Moore didn't let it ruin the celebration.

By the time we get to the end of the New Year's Day marathon -- an even dozen bowls kick off on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1 -- you'll be watching schools with athletic budgets that rival emerging nations but graduation rates that are meager at best.

Plus, some of the games will be shown on channels too few people get or they'll shoehorned into time slots only a TiVo could love.

Fans of long-suffering Indiana will have to find a bar with the NFL Network to watch their Hoosiers kick off against Oklahoma State at the Insight Bowl -- and try doing that in any bar on New Year's Eve. And anybody who wants to catch Missouri playing Arkansas in the AT&T Cotton Bowl should forget going out on New Year's Eve altogether. That game kicks off at 8 a.m., PST, which is about the time most people on the West Coast will just be coming home.

Worst of all, at the end of the whole "silly season," we could still be left with a half-dozen, two-loss teams jabbing their index fingers into the air -- "We're No. 1" -- and a computer could wind up picking among them. If that doesn't sound like a scam somebody cooked up to make money, well . . .

But hey, at least the kids will be able to play "EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour '08" on brand-new consoles.

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