December 29, 2000 - by
A Primer: National-Title Sharing 101

Dec. 29, 2000


By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer

MIAMI – Splits happen.

Not even a No. 1 vs. No. 2 in a national title game can prevent college
football from having two champions.
“Share?” Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke asked. “We’ll share …
as long as we get ourselves a championship.”

If Miami beats Florida in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night, and Florida
State
beats Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl the next night in the BCS’ title game,
there’s a good chance there will be split national champions for the fourth
time since 1990.

Here’s why:

In the two polls that crown champions – The Associated Press media poll
and
the coaches’ poll – Oklahoma, Miami and Florida State were 1-2-3 going into
the
bowl games. But under an agreement between the Bowl Championship Series and
the
American Football Coaches Association, the coaches’ poll automatically
declares
the Orange Bowl winner its champion. The sports writers and broadcasters in
the
AP poll vote independently.

In the final BCS standings, Oklahoma (12-0) finished first, Florida
State
(11-1) second and Miami third (10-1), even though the Hurricanes beat the
Seminoles 27-24 on Oct. 7.

Florida State won over Miami in the computer rankings component of the
BCS
standings, which uses the AP media poll and the coaches’ poll, eight
computer
rankings, strength-of-schedule and number of losses to determine who plays
in
its title game.

A casual survey of 20 of the 71 AP poll voters revealed many would vote
for
or seriously consider Miami as national champs if the Hurricanes and
Seminoles
win their bowl games.

“If Miami’s win is not a flukey one, and Florida State’s was something
less
than dominating, I’d vote for Miami,” says AP voter Gary Long of The Miami
Herald.

AP voter Andrew Bagnato of The Chicago Tribune says: “If Miami and
Florida
State both win, I won’t hesitate to make Miami No. 1. One of the beauties of
college football is that the regular season still matters.”

Mark Blaudschun of The Boston Globe adds: “I would vote for Miami over
Florida State, but would have to weigh in with what Washington did.”

Washington (10-1), fourth in the polls and BCS standings, beat Miami
34-29
in early September and plays Purdue in the Rose Bowl on Monday.

Miami coach Butch Davis can only hope the Hurricanes are in position to
claim a piece of the championship.

“You can’t predict how other people are going to vote and how people
are
going to see it,” he said. “Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.
We’ve just got to make sure we take care of our business and win the game.”

John Swofford, BCS coordinator and commissioner of the Atlantic Coast
Conference, has said the BCS minimizes the chance of split national
champions,
but hasn’t eliminated it.

“We are all agreed on this system,” he says. “Is it perfect? No. But
I’m
not sure anything is perfect.”

All this hubbub becomes moot, of course, if Florida beats Miami or
Oklahoma
defeats Florida State to complete a perfect season and win its first
national
title since 1985. The Gators are six-point underdogs, the Sooners are
12-point
underdogs.

Because school presidents are against a playoff for major college
football,
there’s always a chance for season-ending confusion. However, there are not
many voices screaming that having split champions is a bad thing.

“I’ve got no problem with a split,” says Grant Teaff, executive
director
of the AFCA. “It can happen this time because of the AP poll. We’ve had
splits
before.”

Roy Kramer, the brainchild of the BCS formula and commissioner of the
Southeastern Conference, has often said arguing over who’s No. 1 is great
for
the sport.

In two of the last three splits – in 1990 and 1997 – the No. 1 team in
the
coaches’ poll dropped despite winning its bowl game. In the other split – in
1991 – two teams were tied at No. 1 in the coaches’ poll entering the
postseason.

In the AP poll, the pre-bowl No. 1 team in ’90, ’91 and ’97 came away
with
the national title by winning its bowl game.

The first two years of the BCS produced no argument over title-game
matchups, with Tennessee beating Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl for the
’98
title, and Florida State beating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl for the ’99
championship. In both cases, the teams were ranked 1-2 in both polls and in
the
BCS standings.

The BCS includes six major conferences – ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big
12,
Pac-10 and SEC – and four bowls – Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta. The six
conference winners, plus two at-large teams are chosen for the four games,
with
only the top two finishers in the BCS standings automatically matched in its
title game.

Before the BCS, there was no designated title game and the Big Ten and
Pac-10 champs were still under contract to play in the Rose Bowl, which
greatly
reduced the chances of a 1 vs. 2 game.

In ’97, Michigan and Nebraska were undefeated and ranked 1-2 in the
polls
entering their bowl games. Michigan, the Big Ten champs locked into the Rose
Bowl, beat Washington State, while Nebraska beat Tennessee in the Orange
Bowl.
The Wolverines stayed No. 1 in the final AP poll, the Cornhuskers moved up
to
No. 1 in the final coaches’ poll. The sentiment at the time was fellow
coaches
thought Tom Osborne deserved a piece of the title in his final season.

In ’91, Miami was No. 1 in the AP poll and tied with Washington for No.
1 in
the coaches’ poll. Miami beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, Washington beat
Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The Hurricanes were AP’s national champions,
while
the Huskies won in the coaches’ poll. At the time, there were questions
raised
about Miami’s decision to stay home and play the lower ranked Huskers
instead
of higher-ranked Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

In ’90, Colorado and Georgia Tech were 1-2 in the polls, and both won
their
bowl games – the Buffaloes beat Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl, the Yellow
Jackets beat Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl. Colorado was AP’s national
champion,
but Georgia Tech was the top choice in the coaches’ poll. An argument for
Tech
grabbing a share of the title was that the Irish would have beaten the Buffs
on
a late-game punt return for a TD, but a penalty nullified the play.

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