News from the Tennessee Valley Sports


No easy fix to playoffs in college

The NCAA board of directors has approved a 12th game for college football, but it still won't go for a playoff.

In case you missed it, the board will allow Division I-A schools to add a 12th game to their schedules beginning in 2006. The season won't be extended a week, which eliminates the bye week.

Board Chairman Robert Hemenway, the chancellor at Kansas, gave a couple of reasons for the change: more money for cash-strapped athletic departments and flexibility in scheduling.

A couple of immediate arguments against that line of thinking: If you need money that badly, then a playoff would produce plenty of cash, and large schools likely would use that extra game to schedule the Western Kentuckys and Utah States of the world.

But would a playoff actually serve as found money for Division I athletic programs?

If you had a football playoff, the bowls likely would be worthless, and especially with Bowl Championship Series games, they pump a lot of money into college football. The lower-tier bowls paid $750,000 a school last year. A mid-tier game like the Cotton Bowl paid $3 million each to Tennessee and Texas A&M. The four BCS games paid $13.5 million a school.

If the NCAA began a playoff, the bowls might hang around, but in a much less lucrative form. Could you guarantee that a playoff would significantly exceed what conferences and schools receive from bowl games?

If you think the Peach Bowl is a bad trip now, wait until it's reduced to NIT status.

Also, would conference championship games earn as much in a world with a playoff? SEC schools receive almost $500,000 each from the league's title game, but would television still be willing to pour that much money into a game that doesn't mean as much?

Would fans be as interested in a conference championship game if both teams already have qualified for 16-team NCAA playoff? Think about the SEC basketball tournament and how its popularity has plummeted.

Sure, it's easy to sit in front of the television set, watch a few games and say that a playoff will fix college football's troubles.

But there are other issues to consider.

  • Barthel is No. 2: Even though former Decatur High standout Cole Barthel hasn't played football in four years, he showed enough this spring at Arkansas that he is bracketed with redshirt freshman Alex Mortensen at No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart.

    Head coach Houston Nutt has judged that sophomore Robert Johnson a "slight edge" over Barthel and Mortensen and placed him first.

    "Cole kept coming and got better as spring went on," Nutt said in his post-spring review.

  • Haves and have-nots: If you need any more proof that football at Kentucky and Vanderbilt simply don't carry much weight at their schools, look at the spring game attendance figures for SEC

    With 58,500, Florida had the highest figure, followed by South Carolina (38,806), Auburn (35,600) and Alabama (25,000). Vanderbilt at 1,000. Kentucky had 1,000.

    Return of the wishbone: Georgia featured the wishbone offense for a couple of series in its spring game.

    With three-year backup D.J. Shockley at quarterback, Georgia put sophomores Danny Ware and Thomas Brown at halfback and Des Williams at fullback.

    Shockley has rushed for 329 yards in three seasons of backing up David Greene, who is out of eligibility.

    Brown rushed for a team-high 875 yards last year, while Ware had 692 yards. Also, Kregg Lumpkin is back after missing last season with knee surgery. He led Georgia with 523 rushing yards in 2003.

    With three solid tailbacks in the mix and a quarterback who hasn't shown he can throw well consistently, maybe using the wishbone a series or two wouldn't be a bad idea.

  • Mark Edwards Mark Edwards
    DAILY Sports Editor

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