- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Growing up in Michigan, we always had New Year’s Day and the bowls. The ones we watched usually involved the Big Ten. We watched the Rose Bowl, especially because Michigan was in it so many times in the late ‘80s. I grew up knowing that on Jan.1 I was going to get together with a bunch of my buddies and watch the Rose Bowl, the Peach Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, etc.

Each bowl had a tradition. But since then, a lot of those traditions have been broken because of sponsorships. Now it’s not called the “Cotton Bowl.” Now it’s “some sponsor and the Cotton Bowl.” Some bowls aren’t around anymore. And some bowls don’t have a name anymore, just a sponsorship.

Everything always changes because of money. The leagues get so much money. And that’s a good thing because it doesn’t just benefit football. For instance, my wife was a swimmer at Michigan, and she got a lot of benefit from the money football and basketball made. And it goes on down the line. A team like Marshall makes some money in a bowl game, and it helps its whole league.

But one of the bad things is that the money has ruined the traditions. The way the BCS has evolved, come Jan.1 you have one game that means something. All the rest of them are just there to fill TV time or to give guys an opportunity to play.

Everybody has certain attachments; I obviously have one to the Rose Bowl because I was able to go there and it was a Big Ten bowl for so long. But those attachments aren’t as strong as they used to be. I think that’s been stolen from that time of year, when everybody used to look forward to the bowls. Now you’ve only got one game that means something.

You might think I would want a BCS system. When I was at Michigan in 1997, we so-called “shared” a national championship. But being the traditional guy that I am, I can deal with that because I got a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. And that was my dream growing up.

Some people would say, “Well, if we were able to play Nebraska that year, there would have been a cut-and-dried No.1.” Yeah, there would have been. But in a lot of years there’s a question about who should be No.2 and whether No.3 might have a better shot to beat the top team or whatever. There’s always going to be controversy until there is some kind of a playoff system.

I don’t believe that’s the right way to go. I don’t think a playoff system is going to happen in college football. The universities won’t let it happen, even though the money obviously would be good because you would have 16 or 32 teams and a lot of interest in every game that’s played.

The season as it is, guys get to school before school starts, and freshmen never get a chance to get acclimated to their classes and get a good jump on their education. A lot of that time that should be spent in the first semester is made up during the second semester. And if you have a playoff, you start digging into that semester as well.

The reality is that 90 percent of college football players aren’t going to play in the NFL for any length of time. They’re not going to make a life out of it. They need that education and that degree to get a job and to be successful in other areas of life. In my opinion, I think it would be a great disservice to 18- to 22-year-olds to give up so much in academics just to make some money for other people.

In my perfect college season, I would throw the BCS, the playoffs and everything else out the window and go back to the traditional system. I would make every guy in every bowl game at the end of the year feel like he was playing for something. Let’s go back to something that’s traditional, something that’s worked for many, many years.

Time for the readers. One wrote in to correct me on something I wrote last week. I said that Fielding H. Yost designed the winged helmet at Michigan; a reader correctly noted that the helmet was designed by Fritz Crisler in 1938. Yost was athletic director when Crisler was hired.

I wasn’t completely sure about that last week. I ended up going home and finding out it was Fritz Crisler. It was my mistake, and I appreciate one of the readers pointing that out to me.

Several other readers had things to say about our play-calling, questions about why we seem to be passing when we could be running. One noted that I appeared to be angry on the sideline in the Miami game.

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