Playing the name game

Maisel's Mailbag

Originally Published: June 24, 2004
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

First of all, thanks to everyone who wrote in with suggestions for the renaming of the mailbag. And thanks to everyone who wrote in with suggestions for renaming the BCS championship game. Lovely of you to do, even if that had nothing to do with the contest (and good luck on the comprehension portion of your SATs).

About the mailbag contest -- in the case of duplicate ideas, the earlier submission will be considered the "owner" of the entry. There were a few that went over my head, and a few more that were funny but not practical. For instance, a reader named Roscoe Plikerd suggested:

"The Maisel Sports Ministry Presents -- Whimsical Responses To Inquiries From Followers Who Are Clearly Uninformed And Who Are An Embarrassment To Those That Helped Raise Them."

And then Roscoe added:

"Thank you for your consideration. I am blessed to have this opportunity to contribute to your fine column that currently has a rather lame-ass name."

Ladies and gentlemen, let this be your guide to funny writing. Roscoe, if we could fit all that into a logo with my picture on it, you'd be right up there.

On the other hand, I don't want to criticize everyone who submits his (or her) thoughts and ideas. Craig Bursch of Minneapolis suggested "Ivan Goes Postal," which is funny, and has the added benefit of being politically incorrect. Nate Pahl of Olathe, Kan., suggested "Write Me So I Can Mock You." Direct, catchy, but not entirely accurate. I don't mock everyone, not even Nate, who clearly doesn't have a life, because he writes me often.

Maisel E-Mails may sound lame, but as Brant Mackey pointed out, E-Mails is an anagram of Maisel. Where is this guy when I need a Scrabble partner?

We'll announce the winner in the next mailbag. Any input you care to give on the finalists, as always, is appreciated.

As for the rest of the college football world, June is the time when coaches put on camps, which is a euphemism for recruiting when you're not supposed to. July is the time when coaches put on their bathing suits, or their golf bags, or their daddy hats, and try to approximate a civilian lifestyle for a month.

July is also the time when players take a class or two a day, then meet their teammates on the practice field for 90 minutes of sweating. The sun is hot, the air is thick, the gnats are playing press coverage, and the players discover a new meaning for sacrifice, and for team-building.

Enough waxing poetic -- the I-A conference commissioners continue to meet and try to tune up the Fiat that is the BCS. The New York Times has withdrawn again from participating in the BCS formula, leaving Jeff Sagarin as the only guy standing between us and a bunch of anonymous mouse jockeys determining who gets into the championship game.

Do you ever wonder whether the guys who thought of the BCS helped plan the postwar occupation of Iraq?

Michael Moore has denied that his new movie will be named Gridiron 9/11, an expose of what happens when the new BCS formula matches No. 9 Ohio State and No. 11 Tennessee.


Being a Michigan fan, the obvious name would be the "Maisel & Blue Pile O' Letters" but that doesn't quite do it. After exhaustive research (Googling till my fingerprints went smooth) I think I may have it..."Iterations to Ivan".

Maybe too high brow for anyone south of Ann Arbor...especially Columbus. In that case try "E-Mail I-Maisel".

Let me know.

Mike Corathers
Summerville, SC


Maybe you can help me out. I thought the BCS setup was being re-reworked to address two problems, namely providing a truer consensus on the national champion, and allowing schools from the mid-major conferences access to a big-money BCS game.

It looks like if this new system was in place last year, LSU & OK would have played in the "Week After Bowl", and Texas would have played Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl. What problem did they solve?

Pete Unterlander
Thiensville, Wis.

First of all, we don't know who would have played in the Week After Bowl because the BCS has yet to release the new formula it will use. Second, just to be clear, the WAB is no different than the current national championship game. It is not a "play-in" game, in which the best two teams after the bowls will be matched up. Third, what problem did they solve? That's simple. They got their pinstriped butts out of a Congressional sling, that's what. The non-BCS schools went to Washington and played their duly elected representatives like a Stradivarius. The presidents flinched. The rest is history, piggyback style.


I think I have an idea that would make this whole thing with the BCS a lot easier. I think that if a team fails to win its own conference that it should not be allowed to play in the national title game. This would have solved all the controversy this past year. I am a big fan of the conference title game, and think that every conference should have one, even if they don't have 12 teams. I understand how some feel that the conference title game is unfair to those teams because they have to play an extra game. I think that if they lose that game it is because they were not the best team and that they overlooked that other team. I saw my own team do this a few years ago. I wasn't mad that they had to play that extra game. I was mad at them because they did not have the championship-caliber mindset of not looking over anyone. I think the BCS should maybe make a clause in the formulas to exclude any team from the national title game that does not win their own conference title.

James Vaughn
Knoxville, Tenn.

James, what happens when Miami loses to Florida State in the opener, then runs the table? Florida State could then lose a conference game and lose to Florida, be 9-2 and ranked, say, 8th, while Miami is 10-1, ranked second, and ineligible.

The problem with the BCS, and I say this as someone who is Not A Playoff Guy, is that there is no way that the BCS can plan for every contingency. Whoever made the rules works like a shade tree mechanic on a '67 Chevelle. The thing runs but only because of some chewing gum and baling wire applied in the right places.


What exactly is meant by the letter from Quinn Filla of Boulder, when she wrote, "If the only reason their kids went to Boulder is football, go somewhere else then, maybe Nebraska. Those parents should be embarrassed that they put athletics above their children's education, especially since many get scholarships to pay for their school."

From what I get out of this is that winning football games at any expense is what NU is about. Based on that, here is some info you can pass along to your uninformed reader:

Nebraska leads the nation with 76 football Academic All-Americans, including 59 first-team selections. In all, Nebraska leads all schools with 208 Academic All-Americans.

Under Coach Frank Solich, 89 percent of Husker seniors have received their degrees, including nine current players who are playing with their degrees in hand.

Nebraska has been honored five times by the AFCA for high graduation rates, including 2002 and 2003

The Huskers lead the Big 12 in academic All-Big 12 honors

Nebraska leads the nation in Top Eight Winners (the highest honor that an NCAA student-athlete can receive) and NCAA post-graduate scholarship winners.

Nebraska also boasts of two Vincent dePaul Draddy Award winners (Rob Zatechka and Kyle Vanden Bosch), which is considered the Academic Heisman. Nebraska's graduation rate for all student-athletes who complete their eligibility is 90 percent, a figure that leads all Big 12 schools.

Ivan, feel free to also educate the rest of the country with these facts.

Scott Eaton
Phoenix, AZ

P.S. New name for Maisel's Mailbag: "I Guess Its the Idiots Turns to Speak."

The intense rivalries in college football make this sport more dramatic and entertaining than any other sport at this current time. However sometimes these sentiments can be pushed a little far. As I have read the articles about the problems at Colorado I had a lot of compassion for that program. As a Nebraska fan I know that the actions of a few players can make an otherwise good program look bad (read: Lawrence Phillips). However, Colorado fans need to stop scapegoating their problems on the University of Nebraska. Yes, we love our Huskers. Yes, we are a football-crazy state. But our passion and love for football does not give CU fans a reason to value the rights of a football team over their academic peers. Rivalries and passion are one thing, but dragging another school into your problem is another. I wish CU all the luck on the field, because the last thing I want to see is damage to the sport that I love. Adam Knowlton
Lincoln, NE

This is better than Adam's first response, which was "And the horse you rode in on, Barnett."

OK, actually, Adam didn't write that. I made that up. The truth is, anytime we get a matured, reasoned response, we print it.

Right after we have the author drug-tested.


I've heard a lot about how hypocritical Nebraska was when it fired a 9-3 football coach. Coaches, fans and sportswriters can't have it both ways. For years all I've heard was that big time athletics is a cut-throat business that cares about nothing but wins and losses, then Nebraska fires a very successful coach. I guess that Coach Solich's job evaluation wasn't all about wins and losses. OK, so it was, but it was Solich's lack of CEO type moxie that led the AD to make a change. In Nebraska, style matters. Its not solely if you win, its how you win. Beating up Utah State, McNeese State and Kansas doesn't get it when you get blown out by K-State. The three "ugly" loses were considered by many Nebraskan's to be a harbinger of things to come. Check the NFL draft and see how many Huskers were taken this year. You don't hang with USC, LSU and Miami with a few late rounders and group of free agents. You can't hide your inadequacies behind a soft schedule forever. Eventually you have to put up or shut up against the big boys and Nebraska wasn't cutting it. We'll know Nebraska was wrong when we see where Coach Solich ends up. Big talents don't sit around for long.

Dean Tickle
Lexington, NE

Nebraska fans accuse me of making fun of them, and then one of them writes in and says, "In Nebraska, style matters." They're just not playing fair.


I have a theory as to how they came up with piggybacking the 5th BCS Bowl Game. They had a contest to see who could come up with the stupidest idea. Then they were so drunk, they decided to use the winner's idea. Bill Strahl
Pensacola, FL

Bill, any chance you saw them stumbling out of Seville Quarter?


Considering there is not a championship game until next year, has the ACC come up with a tiebreaker for the chance that two teams (example:Miami and Maryland) who don't play each other end up undefeated in conference play? Eric Wade
Washington DC

Eric, the ACC has expanded (or, my preferred verb, pillaged) but its tiebreaker has not changed. If two teams don't play, and are co-champs, then the higher-ranked team in the final BCS standings gets the bid. If neither team is ranked, then the bowl selects one or the other.


Mr. Maisel, I have been a fan of the Oklahoma Sooners, through good and bad times. In that time, I have had very few complaints about the variety of systems that have pervaded the college football landscape, largely because I have believed in the ultimate fairness of the system, even when it allows for multiple national champions (as it did last year, and as it did three other times in recent memory). Is it truly that important to have one best team in college football? Is the championship what makes college football so wonderful?

These questions may seem rhetorical, and they are meant to be so. College football is more than a championship. It is not NCAA basketball, where the only possible outcome of a season is to be one of two champions (NCAA or NIT, respectively) or to end your season in a loss. No, college football is about the bowl games. A win at the end of the season is promise for the next. A championship is wonderful, but so many teams can end the season on a positive note, and the bowl season is as fun to watch as the championship game.

I suppose what I am getting at is my displeasure at the Bowl Championship Series commission. These self-absorbed clowns are destroying college football in the name of the almighty dollar. True, money is important to the schools vying for success at the end of their seasons, but it should not be the sole motivating factor in the development of college football's future. I am outraged at the latest "development", allowing a "Major Bowl" to host two games in a bowl season. Who will be the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, or Rose champions, when there are two of them? Will it be the "National Champions", or the first winners? And whatever happened to the Cotton Bowl? It used to be a major bowl when the Fiesta was still playing host to Arizona State and whoever would play them.

I feel that the bowl commission is a tired institution and needs to disappear. Forget playoffs and forget additional games. Accept multiple champions and drive on. CPT Nate Crain
Ft Leonard Wood, MO

Well first, how about Ivan's iMail??

But anyway. Concerning the BCS bowls, I dislike this "Flying Pig" model (Pigs will Fly before this model solves anything) because it continues to make January 1st meaningless. Further, it makes all of the bowls meaningless too. The Rose Bowl will never again host a championship game. Championships will be played AT the Rose Bowl, but not IN the Rose Bowl. It'll be the Microsoft National Championship Game or something.

If we're not going to have a playoff, then at least the BCS games should all be played on or about Jan 1st, IN one of the traditional bowls. Under this model the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar Bowls are meaningless. They have sold their souls so that their facility gets to host a game.

I would do away with the rotating championship. If each conference is linked to a BCS bowl, then the champion with the highest BCS seed gets to host the NC game at their bowl. They then invite the No. 2 seed to come face them at their bowl. Obviously, the bowls prefer the sure thing of knowing they get the NC game once every four years, as opposed to being tied to the fortunes of their associated conference(s), but short of an actual playoff this is the best way to keep the championship game on Jan 1st.

Scott Macmann
Cincinnati, OH

Wow, some true-blue bowl fans. A throwback. I bet Nate and Scott miss Lindsay Nelson doing the Cotton Bowl, Bill Flemming on ABC Sunday Morning Highlights, and the Wishbone. One thing I've never understood about the BCS moving its games to Jan. 2 and 3, if not Jan. 4, is how willingly the sport's powers that be surrendered their identity with New Year's Day. They took the money in exchange for tradition. Too bad.


I still think that one of the biggest mistakes that the BCS made in its formula is the elimination of the margin of victory component from the computer rankings. I don't mean that 70-0 scores should be encouraged, but a 28-point defeat is much worse than a three-point defeat (and yes, I am referring to OU and USC from last year). I think they should require the computer polls to use a limited margin-of-victory component that would be capped at 21 or 28 points. That would keep teams from gratuitously running up the score on a defeated opponent, but it would still indicate whether the game was close or whether it was a blowout. What do you think?

Steve Stucky
Wichita, Kansas

Now that we no longer consider the final score, I say do away with the score entirely. That works for my seven-year-old's soccer league. We don't keep score. The funny thing is, the kids do. Inevitably, one of them will ask me, "What's the score?" I say, "I don't know. Play hard." And one of the other kids will say, "We're losing, 6-4." The fact is, we all keep score, and we always will. No reason to pretend otherwise.


I noticed that the '05 senior class at Texas A&M will most likely graduate without beating Texas or Texas Tech. That got me thinking about rivalry week months ahead of time. Could you provide some insight on the rivalries between Miami, Florida, and Florida State? I've always wondered about the dynamics among the Florida powers. I'm assuming that each school has one program they enjoy beating more than the rest. Much like Oklahoma vs Texas supercedes Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State, although both games are very heated. Anyways, let me know how it works down at the beach. Thanks.

Toby Cole
Houston, TX

The Florida State-Miami rivalry is spirited but there's a lot of respect between the two schools. They bond because they are both perennially good, and because they both share a distaste for Florida. As THE University of Florida, Gainesville historically looked down its snout at the FSU, formerly a women's college, and Miami, formerly a small private school in Coral Gables. The Florida-Miami rivalry has all but petered out because the schools haven't played annually since the mid-1980s. But the Florida-FSU rivalry remains bitter, two state schools that compete in everything, from athletics to diving for state dollars.


While Penn State helps bolster the Big Ten academically and has done well in non-cash-earning sports (women's sports especially) they would seem to (as you alluded) be a much better fit in the Big East. The Nittany Lions are a geographic anomaly when compared to the rest of the Big Ten and while that provides the Big Ten a larger television market, the struggles of Penn State in football and men's basketball in the last 3-4 years and the travel costs may not be worth that northeast foothold.

So the question is, would the Big Ten be willing to let them leave in the next few years and would Penn State take that opportunity?

Robert Ranney
Lebanon, IN

Neither side is interested in a divorce. The rest of us are, though. I have a friend who broke up with her college boyfriend, got married, got divorced, and 15 years later got a letter from her college boyfriend. They got married, have three kids, we're all delighted. I may be channeling "Tales From the Front" here, but Penn State belongs in the Big East.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel's Mailbag.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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