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Bowls of Money

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Interesting piece on the whole BCS brouhaha [Hot Type, January 9]. But I must point out something the vast majority of sportswriters missed--the BCS has as much, or more, to do with money than as a means to decide a champion. Basically, football is the financial engine driving athletic departments, and the power conferences are keeping their revenues--and their prestige--up thanks to the BCS, which guarantees most bowl spots to their members. That's why Mid-American Conference member Northern Illinois, at 10-2 and a winner over top-20 and bowl-victor Maryland, didn't get to a bowl. And why members of the Big East sued the Atlantic Coast Conference for poaching some of its schools.

As the strong showing of the MAC this year has shown, changes like limiting schools to 85 scholarship athletes has spread the talent to other conferences, but those conferences will never enjoy the revenues to allow them to gain greater visibility and a true even par with the traditional powers.

True, the NCAA basketball tournament generates a large amount of money, but it's split among every NCAA Division I school (not equally, but everyone gets a share). With the bowl system you only have to split your generous bowl appearances fees with your conference members. If you're Notre Dame you don't have to split them with anybody. (As an aside, the bowl system is great job security for coaches and athletic directors too. In the NCAA basketball tourney there's only one winner. With the college football bowl system there's 28.)

Bob Cook

Chicago

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