||Thursday, December 20
Updated: December 24, 7:19 PM ET
State of the Game
Former Georgia coach Jim Donnan and former Arizona coach Dick Tomey will put their coaching knowledge and skills to the test on Verge Friday on ESPN.com during the Culligan Holiday Bowl (Fri., Dec. 28, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Donnan and Tomey will also be contributing articles on bowl preparation and provide their game plans on Washington and Texas.
What do you think about the BCS?
My solution would be to try and incorporate the bowls in a playoff. Somehow you could still have the big bowl games with two or four teams and play it off there. Or incorporate it throughout the bowl system. There are a lot of different ways you could project that.
There is no question that Colorado was playing as well as anybody at the end of the season, but it's hard for me to see a team with two losses play for the national championship. The team with the most legitimate gripe would be Oregon. The Ducks had a great year. Who would have thought they'd lose a home game after winning 23 straight games at Autzen? So, they've got a lot that they can talk about.
With the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl, you'll probably see a split national champion -- that's what will evolve out of all this.
I think it obviously needs some tweaking. Many people question how Nebraska, who didn't win their conference, could compete for the national championship. Well, look at Arizona, when they won the national title in basketball, they finished in fifth place in the Pac-10. I think obviously the tweaking that's necessary has to do with head-to-head competition -- particularly late in the year. It needs to be given more weight.
When I say head-to-head competition, when and where it happens is really important. The situation with Miami and Florida State last year is a good example. Miami traveled 3,000 miles to lose to Washington in their second game and they beat Florida State. Florida State lost in their own state later in the year. Those two events should not be viewed as the same.
Tweaks for points for conference championships would also be good. The fact that not all conferences have a championship game somehow needs to be considered as well. But, I believe that the overriding thing is the head-to-head competition. The last month of the season should be a huge factor.
In 1998, we (Arizona) were 11-1 and ranked fifth or sixth in the nation and ended up in the Holiday Bowl because the championship game was in the Fiesta Bowl and the Rose Bowl had -- at least in my mind -- the second best team in the Pac-10 at the time. We were not attractive to the Sugar or Orange Bowls because our fans would have had to travel across the country. That still goes on -- I think it has effected Kansas State recently.
Overall, it's a little better, but the bowls are still governed by the attractiveness of an opponent nationally. For instance, if the Fiesta Bowl had hosted this year's national championship game and Oregon somehow finished second in the Pac-10, they might not have gone to the Sugar or Orange Bowls. That's just how those people operate.
They need to adjust it a little bit based on this year's experience. The biggest thing people have trouble with this year is Nebraska being in the Rose Bowl instead of Colorado. The Buffaloes lost their first game to Fresno State, but finished so strong beating Nebraska soundly in their last regular season game and avenging their regular season loss to Texas with a win over the Longhorns in the Big 12 Championship. Many fans don't understand that how Nebraska passed Colorado. I can sympathize.
What are your thoughts on the national championship game?
Nebraska looked like a great teams all year -- to get beat like that by Colorado was surprising. Particularly with my background having coached at Oklahoma, you just don't see someone physically dominate Nebraska like Colorado did. That loss takes a little luster off the game itself.
If you go back and look at last year, Oklahoma had to listen for weeks about how they didn't belong, how they weren't in Florida State's class -- even though they were undefeated -- and how they couldn't win. OU had a lot of pride and Nebraska does too. You'll see a lot more competitive game than I'm hearing people say it will be.
Should there be a playoff system?
I disagree with critics who say the students would miss too much class time. Football actually misses less class than any other sport. Then consider the revenue situation: there comes a point when you've got to involve the athlete and give them some sort of stipend. It's hard for the athletes to see the dollars from TV and bowl games, going only to the program and not to the athlete.
As tough as it is to even talk about a playoff with the commissioners and the presidents, I don't think you get more than an eight-team playoff down the road. I don't think people would go for more than three games.
Ever since I can remember, bowls have been a part of everybody's college football life -- waiting to see who's going to be picked and who'll be playing. With so many bowl games, a lot of teams have the opportunity to continue their season. So, it's very difficult to get after somebody who's been so good to you like the bowls in college football.
Most coaches do want to keep the bowls because it gives so many teams a positive end to their season. There's not any experience like it in college athletics. I've been to the Final Four and the College World Series and seen how those operate -- you lose and you go home and you're there for a short time. The enjoyment for the players and fans is totally different in football.
What was the strongest conference this year?
Certainly, with Colorado, Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma, you can make a case for the Big 12. All four of those teams had a chance to compete for the national championship.
I can't really put a finger on what's wrong with the Big Ten. Even though Illinois had a great year, there were a lot of upsets back and forth. When you see that over and over, it indicates that the league is probably not as strong as it has been.
With more equity, there are a lot of good athletes in every conference.
You always hear about the Big 12 being a physically tougher conference. In '98 when we (Arizona) played Nebraska, we heard how a Pac-10 team couldn't beat them, can't play their run -- and we stuffed their run. Oregon played well against Texas last year. There is a lot of physical, tough play in the Pac-10. Somehow, people think that when people grow up near an ocean, they're not tough. I disagree with that. If they don't grow up in the heartland of the United States, they aren't physical. I disagree with that.
There is less parity in the Big 12, but they had some of the better teams in the country. With Colorado emerging at the end and Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas, the Big 12 arguably had four of the best teams in the nation and I don't think the Pac-10 could claim that this year. Year in and year out there is just more parity in the Pac-10. There is a lot of outstanding football played in the Pac-10, but this year those big four teams give the Big 12 the edge.
Who will contend for next year's national title?
In the SEC West, LSU and Auburn seem to have a lot of young players too.
If Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas continue to have national recruiting prominence keep an eye on those teams. Colorado also has a lot of good players returning.
But until someone beats Miami, they're my No. 1 for next year too.
The truth is that the three teams in Florida just continue to have terrific football teams. There are so many outstanding players in the state and high school football is different there than in most other states. You don't see the emphasis, number of players and full-time staffs at high schools in many other states. They all have outstanding talent all the time and do a great job of coaching. If you are looking for a champion, start in Florida.
It's just so difficult to tell who is going to emerge from one season to the next. Someone like a Maryland or Illinois can come out of the blue. That's what makes college football tremendous. You have the opportunity for someone to put together a great season. That's the magic of it, that someone can come out of nowhere.
What's your best bowl memory?
At Oklahoma, the Orange Bowl national championship victory over Penn State ranks up there in my coaching memories.
As a head coach at Georgia, knowing that it was probably my last game, it was nice to beat Virginia in the Oahu Bowl in Hawaii last year.
What would you change in college football?
Football players should not be mandated to stay on their campuses all summer. The NCAA needs to take control of summer conditioning programs so that the players can have part of their summer and enjoy themselves in good physical condition. I think it's come to the point where now under the guise of voluntary workouts, players are expected to be on campus all summer -- that's ridiculous.
The other thing I believe -- and this not a college football issue as much as it is a college athletics issue -- is with coaches making the kind of money they're making across the board in all sports, particularly football and basketball, scholarship aid in all sports needs to be increased. If you look at how salaries have increased in the last 10-15 years and look at how scholarship checks have increased, there is a tremendous discrepancy.
What should the Heisman Trophy be?
It's difficult for a defensive player to be prominent among those Heisman selectees. Though there are certainly a lot of awards given to defensive players, it's a tough deal for them, but that's just the way the system is.
It's not as glamorous for that player to be a defensive tackle or an offensive guard, but if they mean for it to be the best player than they need to make it the best player. They need to not invite four quarterbacks to New York because they aren't the four best players -- they're the four best quarterbacks.
The award is mischaracterized. Right now it's not given to the best player. They need to be honest about what it is. Someone needs to stand up and say that we need to straighten this out and if we mean the best offensive skill player let's say it.
To me, the Heisman is losing some of its luster because of that. It would be a lot more exciting, creative and fun if it was for the best player. Now, it's just a matter of which quarterback or running back can control which section of the country. There are few surprises because a lot of people vote for who they think can win rather than who they think the best is.
Are there too many bowl games? Should 6-5 teams qualify?
Certainly, there are a lot of bowl games, but I don't think there's anything wrong with teams being rewarded for a winning season.
You see teams with all kinds of records get into the NCAA baseball or basketball championships and there are many fewer teams in football get to go to a bowl game than play in the NCAA Tournament in basketball and baseball. So, I don't think a 6-5 team should be discriminated against. Some have played really tough schedules and rallied at the end of the season to do well. I think a 6-5 team should qualify.
How has coaching changed?
There's an extreme amount of pressure on the players and coaches that probably wasn't there 20 years ago. Though there has always been pressure to win, there's a lot more now.
The Internet, talk radio and cable outlets have created more interest in the game, but also provided a forum for the uninformed to voice their opinions anonymously.
There is much greater parity today. Reduction in scholarship numbers have given more teams a chance to succeed. The players have improved physically. Strength, speed, flexibility and training techniques have improved. Training is now a year round fact of life.
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