sports (2006-51)

Everybody has an opinion…or a guess

Championship Decisions

by Tony Basilio

Who do these people think they’re fooling? In the off-season, the suits made the decision to call Division 1-AA football the “Division 1 Championship Subdivision.” Isn’t Division 1-A (which contains Tennessee and the rest of major college football) already the Division 1 Championship Subdivision? After all, haven’t there been split National Champions before? That’s the ultimate in subdividing!

Besides, the new name of the artist formerly known as Division 1-AA is confusing while having a suburban Cold War ring to it. Division 1 Championship Subdivision. Give the coordinates to Extreme Home Makeover .

Division 1-A Subdivision sounds like something concocted by Alger Hiss. Even he would tell you it doesn’t take an informant to find that 1-AA football is 1-AA football. Don’t get me wrong, Division 1-AA football is pretty good, but the subtle name change was done in the spirit of subterfuge. It’s about keeping us from a Division 1-A playoff at all costs. Even subtle semantics.

Because of the dearth of quality sports on television in early December, I actually watched and enjoyed much of the 1-AA (there I said it) playoffs.

One semi-final game in particular, UMass at Montana, caught my eye. The crowd was hostile and rowdy in a picturesque setting in Big Sky country. That UMass went into enemy territory and scored an upset in a close win only enhanced the moment. Unlike December NBA (when they’re not fighting), NHL (likewise) and in most cases college hoops, it was actually good sport! The game had me thinking what a college playoff with the big boys would look like. You know, the real Division 1-A teams.

Former Georgia Coach Jim Donnan drank from the National Champion chalice as head coach at Marshall in the mid-’90s and at Oklahoma as offensive coordinator in the mid-’80s. Get him started on how the big boys of college football select their national champion and he becomes evangelically indignant.

“The big problems we’ve got is the athletic directors and the conference commissioners just don’t want to give this (current revenue from the bowl system) money back to the NCAA to distribute to all member schools. That’s the only thing that Division 1 has to hold over the NCAA’s head is the bowl money and the football TV money. If it went back into the NCAA’s coffers, there’s no telling how much the schools in 1-A would get then,” Donnan said on my radio show recently.

As to whether polls/bowls or a playoff is better: “I’ve been on both sides as a head coach at Marshall when we won a national title (1991) and played for another (1992), and while at Oklahoma (offensive coordinator 1985-86 ) we won it all but had better teams the following seasons but never got a chance to play for it because our schedule was so tough. That’s the difference with the playoff format: The better teams can recover from a loss,” Donnan said.

What about the extra time requirements on student athletes that a playoff would bring? “All this stuff about missing classes makes me laugh. You’ve got college basketball players missing more class with these pre-season tournaments where they go for four or five days. I don’t begrudge them for that. The kids have tutors with them who help them keep up with class, and they get to experience visiting different places. Then, later in the year, they take them away from campus for extended periods for the conference tournaments and the NCAAs. They miss a lot of class but still manage to graduate,” Donnan said.

Donnan said hoopsters aren’t the only athletes that spend inordinate amount of time on the road. “I was just talking with (Georgia golf coach) Chris Haack, and he was telling me that it’s ridiculous how much class his team misses. But his kids are still able to keep up with their classes. And they go all over the world playing! Puerto Rico, Hawaii and places like that. So the missing class part with a football playoff is ridiculous.”

What about the concerns over injury voiced by playoff opponents?

“As far as the wear and tear on the kids, it’s tough on them because they’d have to practice longer,” Donnan said. “That’s college football. They (playoff opponents) may have an argument with potential injuries.”

Funny coach. “They” didn’t seem concerned about possible player injury when “they” added conference championships or a mandatory 12th regular season game beginning with this season. So, who’ll deserve to be No. 1 at year’s end? Ohio State with a loss to Florida? Florida with a win over Ohio State? Or Michigan with an impressive win over USC? It all could happen! Sounds like a job for the Division 1 Championship Subdisivion. Give everybody a third!

Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM. Visit for more information.