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Tulane president still wants reform

11/14/2003

NEW YORK -- Even if TCU busts the system and makes it into a lucrative Bowl Championship Series game, the leader of the coalition against the BCS still believes the system needs big changes.

TCU's success has altered the issues heading into a meeting
Sunday in New Orleans that will help determine the next system for
college football's postseason.

If the Horned Frogs (9-0) win their final three games and make
it to a BCS bowl, the leaders of the six big conferences will argue
that the system is truly open for any school no matter its
conference.

Tulane president Scott Cowen, the leader of the Coalition for
Athletics Reform, said it would be an aberration.

"I've felt all along that if TCU is in or out doesn't change
the fundamental issue regarding access," Cowen said Thursday.

"It's one team in six years when there's a unique confluence of
circumstances where TCU went undefeated and almost everybody else
had multiple losses. That doesn't mean the system worked."

The two sides met in September in Chicago and are expected to
exchange ideas Sunday in a meeting among university presidents from
the 11 Division I-A conferences and NCAA president Myles Brand.

"There are some who believe we're not that far apart," said
Oregon president Dave Frohnmayer, a member of the BCS Presidential
Oversight Committee. "We have to see what develops. I don't know
what concrete options might emerge."

The current BCS contract expires after the 2006 bowls, and
negotiations will begin next year on a new system. The hope from
both sides is that there is enough common ground to eventually
reach an agreement without intervention from Congress or the
courts.

"Each side will give examples of structural changes for
postseason play and see if there's any commonality of interest,"
Cowen said. "If there is, we'll spend a lot of time in there
putting some things together."

Created in 1998 by the six most powerful conferences, the BCS
guarantees the champions of those leagues -- the Big East, ACC, SEC,
Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10 -- will play in one of the four most
lucrative postseason bowl games, leaving only two at-large berths.

One of those bowls pits the top two teams in the BCS standings
in a championship game, which will be the Sugar Bowl this season.
The Orange, Fiesta and Rose bowls host the other games.

Smaller schools complain that the BCS makes it impossible for
them to win the national championship and puts them at a financial
and recruiting disadvantage.

The BCS bowls generate more than $110 million a year for the big
conferences. The BCS gives about $6 million a year to smaller
conferences.

However, in the 20 years before the BCS started, only one school
other than independent Notre Dame that's not currently in the six
conferences played in one of those four bowls.

TCU, one of two undefeated teams in Division I-A, would be
guaranteed a bid if it finishes in the top six of the BCS
standings. The Horned Frogs were sixth this week.

"If TCU continues to win throughout the course of the season,
no doubt they will be well-placed," Frohnmayer said.

While the BCS conferences have said there won't be an NFL-style
playoff, there are other possibilities that could work.

A game could be added to the BCS format, which would make room
for more conferences. Also, the top two teams after the bowls could
play for the championship.

"That kind of model has the potential to work," Cowen said.

There would be many details that would need to be worked out in
that plan, including finding bowls and television partners that
would pay large sums of money for games involving less-prominent
programs; figuring out how the teams for the mini-playoff would be
chosen after the bowls; and determining which conferences would
have automatic bids.

"We don't want to get very excited about any options,"
Frohnmayer said. "Each has a downside. There's the possibility
that additional games are not revenue gainers but revenue losers.
We're trying to figure out whether any change to the system is
actually value added."

There is also a possibility of staging one or two play-in games
among the smaller conferences to determine which schools play in
the biggest bowls.

"There are various methods or ideas about how to play into the
BCS group," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said. "The best method
is to have automatic access for all conferences. I know that will
not be the outcome of the negotiations going on now. We're hoping
that the access become fairer and more reasonable."