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Tranghese, Bcs Politics Turned Tables On Orange Bowl, Seminoles, Hurricanes

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

By Dave Glenn and staff, ACCSports.com
December 15, 2003 TALLAHASSEE — It was hard to determine who enjoyed the recent announcement of the Bowl Championship Series pairings the most. You might suspect it was LSU coach Nick Saban, whose Tigers leap-frogged “Human Poll” No. 1 Southern Cal through the magic of computer wizardry. The Tigers jumped into the BCS No. 2 position, securing a spot in the Sugar Bowl national title game.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops also would qualify, after his team tuned up for the national championship game with a 28-point loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 title contest. The Sooners managed to retain their No. 1 BCS ranking, courtesy of the computer rankings and their strength of schedule component.

But the smart money in ACC country was that the man who enjoyed the hardiest celebration was Big East commissioner and BCS chairman Mike Tranghese. On a night when much of the nation howled over the injustice of the flawed system that's used to determine the national championship matchup, Tranghese was able to stick it to the ACC and Miami with one deft move.

Tranghese's parting shot as the outgoing BCS czar was saddling the Orange Bowl with an unwanted Florida State-Miami rematch on Jan. 1, despite assurances to both schools that it would never happen. Though he didn't have the authority to act alone in the decision, a bit of good fortune helped him drum up enough support from the BCS conference commissioners to make sure it happened that way.

“I've been doing this for 30 years, and I'm not in the business of hurting kids and coaches,” Tranghese said in response to pointed questions about his role in the process. “I didn't sit in the room and orchestrate this rematch. There are six (conference commissioners) in the room, and if anybody thinks I'm powerful enough to control it, they are mistaken. It was a collective decision.”

With LSU-Oklahoma set in New Orleans, and the Rose Bowl snapping up USC to face Michigan, the Big 12-tied Fiesta Bowl used its preferred pick to pluck Ohio State from the BCS at-large pool to meet Kansas State.

That left the Orange Bowl no option but to take the Seminoles and Hurricanes, automatic qualifiers as the ACC and Big East champions. At that point, Orange Bowl CEO Keith Tribble requested that the BCS commissioners, in consultation with ABC and the four bowls, consider adjusting the matchups. It marked the first time in the six-year history of the BCS that the final provision of the selection process, which allows adjustments “in the interest of creating the most exciting and interesting postseason matchups possible,” came into play.

Tribble's desire to pair Miami against Ohio State in a rematch of last season's controversial national championship game — a scenario that would have left FSU to face Kansas State in the Fiesta — was doomed all along.

From the moment Tranghese failed to support the Big East's “lame duck” BCS representative, Miami, he didn't have any trouble drumming up enough support to stick the Hurricanes and Seminoles together for what will be the second of three meetings over an 11-month stretch. FSU and Miami also are scheduled to meet on Labor Day, ushering in the newly expanded ACC with a nationally televised Monday night game.

Tranghese's motive? You need look no further than the Big East schools' pending lawsuit, which still is fumbling its way through the Connecticut court system. That creative but horribly flawed piece of legal maneuvering named the ACC and its member schools as defendants following the defections of Miami and Virginia Tech — and, more recently, Boston College — to the Greensboro-based headquarters of commissioner John Swofford.

How Tranghese was able to generate enough support, without blatantly showing his bias, was equally interesting. According to sources in the know, here's how it went down.

It began with a healthy dose of animus, aimed at the Orange Bowl and dating to last season's BCS selections. That's when Tribble used the first pick to replace BCS No. 1 Miami (he had no interest in four-loss ACC champ FSU) and his preferred pick to stomp on the Rose Bowl's traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup, pitting Southern Cal against Iowa. Consequently, Tranghese had instant allies in Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and his Pac-10 counterpart Tom Hansen.

Then Fiesta Bowl president John Junker's decision to tab defending national champion Ohio State fit nicely into the plan. The Buckeyes discreetly made it clear that they wanted no part of a rematch with the Hurricanes. At the same time, Florida State athletic director Dave Hart was lobbying the Rose Bowl with vigor, in an attempt to get Bobby Bowden into the game he's always had to admire from afar. Hart would have been almost as pleased if Junker had chosen the Seminoles for the Fiesta.

Explaining his decision to select the Buckeyes, Junker said it merely amounted to wanting to pit K-State against the highest-ranked BCS opponent. The Big Ten runner-up Buckeyes met that qualification as the No. 6 team, after No. 5 Texas was locked out of the deal by virtue of K-State's upset of Oklahoma. Regardless, it would be naive to assume that Delany did not lobby on Ohio State's behalf, to be assured of the $21.5 million payout that goes along with having two BCS teams. Reportedly, a prevailing sentiment that FSU fans would not buy enough tickets to a non-championship game also was a consideration.

Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg also undoubtedly liked the matchup. Not only did he have a streaking K-State club in a BCS game for the first time, assuring a sellout, but the Wildcats have a real shot at dumping the offensively anemic defending national champions. The league's $21.5 million payout share just made it all the better.

With Tranghese able to count on the support of Delany, Hansen and Weiberg for his case of maintaining the original bowl picks, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive's opinion was as irrelevant as Swofford's.

That left ABC Sports, the money-brokers in the BCS deal, in a lose-lose situation. Executive producer Loren Matthews may not have wanted another FSU-Miami matchup, but because ABC has regular-season football contracts with the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-10, it wasn't positioned to appease all parties. Matthews had no choice but to defer to the BCS commissioners.

Tribble, of the Orange Bowl, said he completely understood ABC's position. He wasn't pleased with the results of the review process, but he did his best to put on a happy face when it was over. That's always one of the things bowl officials do best.

“We felt it was in the best interest of the BCS system for a Florida State team to have an opportunity to play Kansas State,” Tribble said. “The commissioners (of the other conferences) did listen to it but decided it was best not to do anything. We obviously signed onto the BCS. We know the rules, and we will abide by it, and we'll move on and have a great game.”

It was ironic, really, how it all played out at the end of what was one of the wildest, most competitive seasons in college football.

The BCS' convoluted computations played their part, determining that LSU's schedule was stronger than USC's, despite non-conference wins over Louisiana Monroe, Arizona, Western Illinois and Louisiana Tech. Who would have imagined that, given the Trojans' slate of Auburn, BYU, Hawaii and Notre Dame? As it turned out, the die was cast for Tranghese to play his hand after Syracuse crushed Notre Dame and Boise State upended Hawaii, delivering the Trojans to the Rose.

So while the nation clamors for a college football playoff — or at least abolishing the current system — it's left with two BCS games void of significance beyond a narrow scope.

If the unsightly BCS equation wasn't enough, ugly politics came into play. Only Tranghese and a few others were able to find beauty in that.

Devils, Heels Remain TV Darlings

GREENSBORO — Despite the end of its streak of ACC regular-season titles, Duke remains the king of the league, at least as far as TV executives are concerned (see chart below).

The Blue Devils continue to dominate the airwaves. All 29 regular-season Duke games this season will be televised somewhere, and 26 of the team's games will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, CBS or Fox Sports Net. That number includes two bonus appearances the Blue Devils earned by advancing to the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout earlier this season. Last year, Duke had nine more games broadcast nationally than its closest competitor in the ACC.

Despite the massive exposure, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski hasn't always been happy with the way TV impacts his team. Last year, he complained that Saturday night and Sunday games — scheduled at those times and on those days for marketing reasons, of course — increased the risk of burnout among his players.

“It was so good to play on a Saturday afternoon,” Krzyzewski said after one game. “We had not had a Saturday night or a Sunday to where kids could just get away from the game for over a month. It made me think of how much I'd like to return to playing on Saturdays, just for the sake of the kids. You play on Sundays all the time, and there really isn't adequate time to have these kids just get away from the game a little bit.”

This year, North Carolina is second among ACC schools in television appearances, nine behind the Devils. Carolina continues to be a powerful drawing card in the eyes of TV executives, despite the fact that the Tar Heels have finished near the bottom of the ACC standings for two years in a row. UNC tied for second in TV appearances last season, and it added three more national TV games this year, thanks in large part to the excitement surrounding new coach Roy Williams.

The Tar Heels also continued a pattern of not scheduling home games when their students are out of school on breaks. Over the past two seasons, UNC will have played three home games without its students on campus. The next-lowest total in the league is Duke with eight, and Virginia will have played 16 games without students over two years.

Another big gainer this season is Wake Forest, coming off its first outright ACC regular-season championship in 41 years. Compared to last season, the Deacons have the same number of TV games overall, but they improved with five more of those games on the major networks:
ESPN, ABC or CBS. In addition, Wake dropped a number of “bad” starting times, which we (on the advice of coaches and administrators) define as home games that start after 8:59 p.m. on weekdays or after 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Last season, partly because of the league's new Sunday deal with Fox Sports, Wake played seven games that were difficult games for alumni to attend: Sunday evening games or late games on a weeknight. This season, the Deacons have only two such games.

Maryland coach Gary Williams complained last season that Fox's Sunday night package focused too much on a few ACC teams, including the Terrapins, and that he hoped the network would spread the games more evenly in the future. Maryland ended up with five awkward starting times this season, a number that was down from a year ago.

“Our fans were not real comfortable with it, because Sunday night is a night where you have to go to work the next day,” Williams said. “I like the idea that Fox has come in, and it's national exposure and things like that, but hopefully they're splitting it up better.”

Wake and Maryland appear to have transferred many of those unwanted starting times to N.C. State, which will have seven “bad” starts among 16 home games this season. Three of those “bad” starting times will happen in a row for the Wolfpack, meaning that it will not play a “good” home game from Feb. 10 until March 3.

The biggest falloff happened at Virginia. Overall, the Cavaliers have about the same number of TV games, but last season they played 10 games on ESPN, ABC or CBS. This season, they're scheduled for only two. Maybe that's why Pete Gillen always has been one to give the networks the benefit of the doubt.

“As long as we've got a little bit of time in between games, we don't mind (awkward starting times),” Gillen said. “It's great national exposure, so I think that's good for the league and good for the players. I like (Sunday games) because I think Fox does an excellent job. You can't have it both ways. If you get national exposure and the league gets money, you've got to deal with (what) TV wants.”

Nobody in the ACC can complain more than Clemson and Florida State, and the Tigers and Seminoles aren't at all worried about burnout, starting times or their fans' Monday mornings at work. Is there anyone left who doesn't believe that the most difficult jobs in the league are rebuilding those programs?

Compared to last season, the two teams will double their major network exposure this season — to two games. Over the past two seasons, Clemson and FSU will have been scheduled for ESPN, ABC or CBS three times combined. The next-lowest total for any one ACC team over that span is eight (N.C. State). Not even counting the postseason, Duke will have 27.

“(The ACC) is the best basketball league in America,” first-year Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said in the preseason, “with its exposure, with its tradition, with the television package.”

Little did Purnell know at the time, but he was talking mainly about everyone else.

ACC TV Time

No./Team Home Bad Brk. TV Nat.
1. Duke 15 6 5 29 26 (15)
2. North Carolina 15 4 2 26 17 (11)
3. Maryland 16 5 6 27 14 (6)
3. Wake Forest 15 2 5 21 14 (7)
5. Georgia Tech 15 2 6 26 13 (8)
6. N.C. State 16 7 5 23 12 (3)
7. Virginia 17 3 8 20 8 (2)
8. Florida State 17 2 5 22 5 (1)
9. Clemson 16 2 6 20 5 (1)
Home – home games
Bad – home games after 8:59 p.m. on weekdays or after 5 p.m. on Sundays
Brk. – home games while students are on break
TV – overall televised games during 2003-04 season
Nat. – number of those games broadcast nationally on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, CBS or Fox Sports Net; in parentheses is number on ESPN, ABC or CBS

 

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