Theismann calls controversy 'ridiculous'

Updated: December 10, 2003, 10:45 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Joe Theismann was incredulous when he saw the matchup for the Bowl Championship Series title game.

The newly inducted Hall of Famer knew there were problems with the BCS, but leaving the No. 1 team out of the title game was beyond belief.

"I hope they realize how ridiculous it looks when USC is No. 1 and not playing for the national championship," Theismann said Tuesday.

Theismann wasn't the only Hall of Famer miffed by the BCS controversy. Many of the inductees couldn't understand how the Trojans, the top team in both polls, were beaten out by Oklahoma and LSU for the BCS title game.

The Trojans, who were hurt because of the computer rankings and strength of schedule, instead will play No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

"I can't think of any other sport where the champion doesn't play the next best team in a playoff," said Hayden Fry, the former coach at Iowa, SMU and North Texas State. "We are the only sport that does not have it. The best way to do it would be to take the four winners of the bowls and have a playoff."

Fry and Theismann, the former Notre Dame quarterback, were two of the 13 people inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday. They will be enshrined at the Hall in South Bend, Ind., in August.

The other Hall of Fame players are Southern California running back Ricky Bell, Dartmouth defensive back Murry Bowden, Minnesota guard Tom Brown, Pittsburgh offensive tackle Jimbo Covert, SMU end Jerry LeVias, Alabama tackle Billy Neighbors, Arizona State linebacker Ron Pritchard, Georgia quarterback John Rauch, Oklahoma State tailback Barry Sanders and Missouri defensive back Roger Wehrli.

Former Tennessee and Florida coach Doug Dickey also was inducted.

The Trojans can still win The Associated Press title if they beat Michigan. However, the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll has agreed to give its trophy to the winner of the BCS title game.

That sets up the possibility of a split national championship -- something that was supposed to be eliminated when the BCS was started in 1998.

"It's like being split Super Bowl champions. Championships should be decided," Theismann said. "If you have a competition there should be a winner and loser. Life is that way. Life is not made up of ties. Life is made up of winners and losers."

Theismann and Fry both proposed a modified playoff system that would be used after the bowl games to determine an undisputed national champion on the field.

The conferences that run the BCS are considering a similar plan beginning in 2006 -- taking the top two teams after the bowls -- but even that could cause controversy.

"Then there would be a debate about who those teams are," Covert said. "If you have four bowl winners and only two teams go to the championship, you'll have an issue."

Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen, who criticized the BCS after having one of his teams left out, said there won't be a full-blown playoff.

"I think we've got to work on the methodology of picking the teams rather than the structure," he said.

Fry's induction couldn't have come at a better time. He goes in with Dickey, whom he coached with as an assistant at Arkansas, and Jerry LeVias, whom he recruited as the first black scholarship athlete in the old Southwest Conference.

LeVias broke the color barrier in 1965 and said his faith in God and lessons from Fry were the only things that got him through those lonely years at SMU.

"In four years of college, I never had a roommate. No one wanted to room with me," he said. "Coach Fry told me, 'If you don't want them to get your goat, don't let them know where it is.'"

Also honored Tuesday were the National Scholar Athletes, selected from all NCAA divisions. The Division I-A winners are offensive tackle Robert Droege of Missouri, cornerback Nathaniel Jones of Rutgers, quarterback Craig Krenzel of Ohio State, quarterback Eli Manning of Mississippi, offensive tackle Rodney Reed of LSU, linebacker Dontarrious Thomas Auburn, linebacker Jonathan Vilma of Miami and running back Renaldo Works of Oklahoma.

The Division I-AA winners are tight end John Frieser of Colgate and offensive lineman Jason Whaley of Western Carolina. Linebacker John Edmonds and quarterback Keith Heckendorf of St. Cloud State were picked from Division II; and receiver Flynn Cochran of RPI and running back Justin Napotnik of Thiel College are the Division III honorees.

Receiver Daniel Woodburn of Hastings College was the NAIA selection.

Gen. Tommy Franks, who commanded the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan, received the National Football Foundation's Gold Medal Award for his contributions to college football.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press