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Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2005

Wood: NCAA moves in right direction

May 12, 2005

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The NCAA, plagued with problems and questionable decisions pretty much every day, inadvertently might have done something brilliant -- if the right finishing touches are applied.

Amazing, huh?

Two weeks ago, the NCAA Board of Directors approved several proposals, two of which impact Kansas University's football program greatly. The big one, the optional addition of a 12th regular-season game every year beginning in 2006, means an extra weekend of money-making for athletic departments from Connecticut to California -- precisely the reason it was passed (the NCAA thinking of the bottom line? Never!)

The second approval allows a Division I-A team, like Kansas, to play a I-AA opponent every year and have it count toward bowl-eligibility. Previously, the rule stated that only one I-AA victory every four years could count.

The first one is fine by me and many college football fans. The more football, the better.

But the second, on the surface, seems to be a way to cut a corner toward a better overall record. No I-A team -- at least none from power conferences like the Big 12 Conference -- will schedule a I-AA game expecting a last-second field goal to decide the outcome.

But rest assured, plenty will schedule I-AA games anyway. Kansas probably will every season. Why? Because they're cheap opponents to bring to campus, the fans will come out and spend cash anyway, and, maybe most importantly, a decent effort will be rewarded with an easy victory.

After all, teams with annual records around .500 really could use another victory toward bowl-eligibility, right?

Not so fast, cowboy.

The NCAA still can take the I-AA corner-cutter out of the bowl-eligibility equation, especially in passing both of these rules together. One more major question regarding the 12-game schedule is yet to be decided: Will a 6-6 record be good enough for bowl-eligibility, or will 7-5 be the minimum?

Considering the I-A/I-AA legislation that was passed the same day, the NCAA had better consider seriously requiring a winning mark, no matter what hurdles need to be cleared to allow it. Otherwise, bowl-eligibility will be as watered down as the Titanic.

If a 7-5 mark is deemed the requirement, nothing much changes in Division I-A football concerning bowl-bound teams. Kansas -- and most other on-the-bubble programs -- will schedule a I-AA foe like Appalachian State, McNeese State, Southwest Missouri State or whoever. It supposedly will count toward bowl-eligibility. Fine. The I-A teams will win 95 percent of these games and feel a bit closer to that seven-win goal.

The other 11 games, the ones that have to be I-A opponents, will require teams to go 6-5 to get to that seven-victory minimum.

Sound familiar? It should. In the 11-game season the NCAA currently is playing, teams need to go 6-5 for bowl-eligibility, and three out of four years, a I-AA team can't count.

By passing these rules together -- and, hopefully, requiring a 7-5 mark when it's decided on in the near future -- the NCAA will make the annual I-AA showdown (or snoozer, in a lot of cases) completely harmless toward the quality of postseason play. Sure, a I-AA opponent is allowed every year. But now, another victory could be required, too.

By that logic, the new legislation could, if the NCAA finishes it off like it should, make bowl-eligibility even harder than it was under the 11-game schedule.

Considering the grumblings about mediocre teams playing in bowl games every year, the new legislation packaged together could turn out to be brilliant. If it's completed the way it should be, I'll applaud the NCAA for making great decisions and doing the right thing for college football fans everywhere.

Now THAT would be amazing.

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