Feature | Notebook
There's a reason nothing got done at the hyped meeting between BCS and non-BCS presidents Nov. 16 in New Orleans. Apparently, only one side was ready to move forward.
The non-BCS presidents made a proposal that day but did not get a reciprocal proposal back from the BCS presidents, sources told SportsLine.com. The proposal was for a fifth bowl to be added to the BCS system and greater access for non-BCS teams.
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Two highly placed BCS sources disputed parts of the report, but both reiterated their side is upset details of the meeting have been leaked.
"There are only so many political trumps you can pull," said Oregon president David Frohnmayer, clearly referring to his Tulane counterpart Scott Cowen, who has driven the non-BCS side. "A question of good faith comes into issue.
"We're pretty tired of people thinking they can jerk us around in the political process, which has never solved a problem like this in its life. I say that as a recovering politician. I have the credentials and battle scars to say that."
Frohnmayer is the former attorney general of Oregon.
"I'd just rather not comment on the rumor out there," Cowen said. "Usually I'm pretty straight, but there are times when I'd rather not comment."
Another source told SportsLine.com the non-BCS presidents presented a printed document to the BCS side but got nothing on paper in return. The issue might come down to semantics -- what both sides consider a proposal.
"There were proposals from both sides," said Frohnmayer, chairman of the BCS Presidential Advisory Committee. "The one made from the BCS side was capable of many permutations."
What emerged from the meeting, it seems, is the enmity that still exists between the two sides. Cowen's Presidential Coalition for Athletic Reform (PCAR) has been successful in raising awareness in public and in Congress about non-BCS schools' plight in the BCS.
Frohnmayer's group is willing to talk but remains steadfast in its belief it is protected legally from an anti-trust challenge. Now the sides are arguing over the rules of the talks.
"(The Wall Street Journal) is not entirely accurate," Frohnmayer said. "The second thing is that we had an agreement that we would not be talking to the media about our various proposals because they were tentative and exploratory.
"There's more than a little irritation on the part of the BCS institutions that that much was even said, because it wasn't entirely accurate. We agreed to an (media) embargo ... A number of us regarded that as a breach of good faith."
Cowen indicated before the meeting he expected progress in the New Orleans talks. The two sides first met in September in Chicago. It is known the BCS commissioners and presidents had already discussed more access among themselves before Cowen first made public comments in July.
One BCS source said if the non-BCS presidents keep pushing the issue publicly, the BCS commissioners could scrap the current system and go back to the old bowl structure. In that system, the major bowls made their own deals with schools. Some of those deals were clandestine and were made long before the regular season was over.
The BCS evolved out of that system in 1998 because over the years it was frequently difficult to arrange a true national championship game. By going back to the old system, non-BCS schools might have even less access than they do now.
In the BCS, the champions of six major conferences are guaranteed spots in the four major bowls. Two other at-large berths are reserved for other teams that qualify. No non-BCS team has ever automatically qualified for one of those spots by finishing in the top six of the final BCS rankings.
Still, the mood between the two sides in New Orleans seemed to change from one of confrontation and legal challenges to one involving consultants evaluating the marketplace.
It was speculated by sources the BCS presidents might have held off on a proposal because it had been waiting to see if TCU finished the season undefeated. That would have strengthened the BCS' position. TCU was considered a strong candidate to become the first non-BCS school to go to a BCS bowl before losing Thursday at Southern Miss.
On Nov. 16, both sides came out of a four-hour meeting vague about what they had accomplished. They discussed "a range of options" according to both sides. The only thing that was ruled out was a 16-team NFL-style playoff.
"Quite honestly, we all agreed to take it off the table for different reasons," said Cowen, who has been a playoff proponent. "Given where we are right now, we're not going to get to that solution."
He added, "Everything else is on the table."
Both sides agreed to meet again in 60 to 90 days after instructing commissioners to hire consultants to study the viability of various plans.
At least in the BCS there is some stated access for non-BCS schools. That didn't exist in the old structure. In fact, since World War II, only one current non-BCS school (Louisville in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl) has played in a current BCS bowl.
Other than rancor, it was evident both sides brought their legal muscle to New Orleans. Since the system began in 1998, the BCS has retained attorneys from firms in Kansas City and Washington, D.C. At least one of those was in attendance in New Orleans.
The PCAR has retained Covington and Burling of Washington D.C. Cowen has said on many occasions if the issue cannot be worked out by sitting across a table, legal action was possible.