Thursday, December 14, 2006

The yearly college football playoff debate

Jim Williams, The Examiner
Dec 14, 2006 3:00 AM (3 hrs ago)
Current rank: # 9 of 12,347 articles

WASHINGTON - For as long as I can remember, the most common end-of-the-year sports question has remained the same: Why can’t there be a Division I college football championship?

It is a fair question given that every other NCAA sport has a champion decided by a playoff.

So each year I ask some learned people if we will indeed ever see a true college football champion. I chatted with ESPN college football analysts Lou Holtz and Barry Switzer, legendary coaches and two of the sports best talkers around. Both were more than happy to share their opinion.

» “If you’re talking about the system that is used by the NCAA for the Division I-AA college football championship, then the answer is no way,” Holtz said. “The reason here has to do with the college presidents and alumni loving the bowl system. There is nothing better than taking a team to a bowl game as a reward for a good or in some cases a disappointing season. A playoff system, even if you used the bowls, would just not happen. I still like the plus-one concept where you could use the BCS Bowls with No. 1 playing No. 4 and No. 2 plays No. 3 with the winners facing off a week later in the National Championship. That is something I think can be done.”

» Said Switzer: “I agree with coach Holtz on the plus one, it could work. But I do not think a team that does not win their conference championship should play for the national title. Also, I would like to see the conference champions play in their traditional bowls. The Big Ten and Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl, Big 12 and Big East in the Orange Bowl, the SEC and ACC in the Sugar Bowl and use the Fiesta Bowl for Notre Dame and the other top teams. Then have your championship based on the bowl outcomes.”

OK, no true national champion based on a playoff. But I could live with the plus-one system, couldn’t you?

Magic, Bird ... Sidney and Alex?

Make no mistake about it, the National Hockey League feels its future lies in the budding rivalry between the planet’s two best young players. NHL brass hopes the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby can do for it what Magic Johnson and Larry Bird did for the NBA in the 1980s.

Ovechkin and Crosby have already generated some of the NHL’s best TV ratings this year in Canada, where the duo is treated like rock stars and can’t walk the streets without being mobbed.

The United States is another matter. Both can and do walk around Washington and Pittsburgh with little fanfare.

VERSUS hockey analyst Ed Olczyk, a former NHL player and coach, knows both players well and discussed their roles in the NHL’s future.

Olczyk on what each player does best: “Crosby is a creator. He likes to set other guys up to move the puck along and he can score with the best of them but that is not his first thought when he is on the ice.

“Ovechkin is a scoring machine. If he is inside the blue line there is not a goalkeeper or a defenseman that can shut him down. You may stop him once or twice but you can’t keep him from scoring and he does it with such flair.”

Olczyk on casting them as Magic and Bird: “I would say that Crosby is the Magic Johnson here. He can fill a number of roles and fits in on a multitude of packages. Ovechkin is clearly the Larry Bird of the NHL. He can shoot from anywhere and his passing is off the charts.”

Both young stars figure to be around for a long time. But it won’t get truly dramatic until the Caps and the Pens get better and the talk shifts to whether Ovechkin or Crosby will hoist the Stanley Cup first.

Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer.


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