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Published: Friday, 8/3/2001

BCS title contest means no guarantee for Big Ten teams

BY DAVE WOOLFORD
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CHICAGO - A rose by any other name isn't the Rose Bowl as far as traditional Big Ten football coaches are concerned.

But so-called progress, they admit, can mow down most any affiliation.

For the first time since 1946 this season's Rose Bowl has risen to the title of Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national championship game.

For the first time since 1946, the Big Ten faces the prospect of not having a team in the Rose Bowl, as does the Pac-10, the two conferences' long-running partnership stepping aside to accommodate the BCS and its bid to crown a national champion.

It's still the Rose Bowl, with the BCS title game rotating between the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls, but the Big Ten's annual pilgrimage to Pasadena will have to wait until next season.

The “Granddaddy of them all” is getting a major face lift for the first time in its 87-year history.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said five years ago, just before the inception of the BCS, that the Rose Bowl could not be diminished by any other bowl as far as Michigan was concerned.

Now it has.

“It doesn't do any good to talk about what I felt five years ago,” Carr said here at the annual Big Ten football meetings. “We probably have the best situation we could have without going to a playoff. And our goal is still to play in the Rose Bowl. The truth is that we're going to have an opportunity to play in that game if somebody can come out of this conference ranked No. 1 or No. 2.”

That's the truth. Neither the Big Ten nor the Pac-10 is closed out of the Rose Bowl, but one of their teams must be ranked first or second at the end of the season to qualify.

This is a situation that will arise every four years as the BCS title games rotates among its four top bowl partners.

“It was a wise decision,” said Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who has taken the Badgers to Pasadena three times in the last eight years. “Giving up the Rose Bowl once every four years certainly was worth it. We've given up very little to be a part of the national championship picture.”

Minnesota coach Glen Mason, asked about the tradeoff, said, “I don't know what the tradeoff is. It's money, isn't it?”

The Big Ten appears to be a conference comprised of a lot of good-looking teams, but no single team with infatuation potential.

“We talk about this as coaches and with coaches from the SEC, that with the respective balance in those two conferences it's very hard to run the table,” said Purdue coach Joe Tiller, a Toledo native. “However, the other side of the coin is that if you do, you should be playing in the big one.

“If someone can separate themselves from the pack ... it's kind of like a NASCAR race. If you get out front and keep the pedal to the metal you have a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. I certainly think that a champion out of this conference or the SEC, because of the strengths of the two conferences, ought to be considered for the national championship game even if they have one loss.”

Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who will turn 75 in December, was asked by a Harrisburg, Pa., reporter if he has contemplated retirement.

“The only retirement I've thought about is yours, and I can't wait,” JoePa jokingly replied.

Northwestern coach Randy Walker, whose team is picked to win the Big Ten this season with 10 starters returning on offense, said, “Starting from the pole is a whole lot better than starting from the back of the pack.

“The same people who picked us to finish last in the conference last year are picking us to win it this year.”

The Wildcats were co-champions last season, sharing the Big Ten title with Michigan and Purdue, all 6-2.



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