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Huskers' win a blow to have-nots'

By By Stan Torgerson / sports columnist
September 29, 2003
Make no mistake about it. Nebraska struck a major blow for the big guys with its 38-14 win over Southern Mississippi last Thursday.
The Bowl Championship Series has become a turf war between the haves and have nots of college football. One more win by a non-qualifying conference fighting for a possible entry into the National Championship Playoffs might have been more than the BCS could possibly stand.
What has happened in college football this season has added gasoline to a camp fire that started burning a year or two ago and now is getting into the wildfire category. Suddenly Conference USA starts beating SEC teams with a degree of regularity. MAC schools play an Alabama or Kansas State or Pittsburgh and win. Parity seems to have come to college football in everything except economics. The BCS is the financial promised land with a gate and lock on its entrance and a sign saying "No one but the SEC, the ACC, The Big Ten, the Pac-10, the Big 12 and the Big East may enter.
Behind that gate is a pot of gold containing millions of dollars which at the end of each season are divided by the six conferences with keys to the gate, while the remainder stand outside in total frustration.
It was bad enough when Louisville beat Kentucky, Memphis defeated Ole Miss and Tulane and Houston thrashed Mississippi State. None of these SEC schools have been dominant in their league. But when a Northern Illinois comes to Tuscaloosa and defeats one of the giants of college football, when Marshall goes to Kansas State and beats a Top 10 team in the polls, when Toledo hammers a Pittsburgh it is enough to make none BCS schools restless, very restless.
If Conference USA's Southern Mississippi had beaten the Big 12's Nebraska the wildfire might have accelerated to the out of control category. It would have been difficult to deny the imperfections of the BCS plan with its restrictive national championship eligibility limited to only about half of the 117 Division I-A football playing schools.
This has nothing to do with talent on the field. The national championship designation is only a means to an end. The real issue here is money, television money. Of course the schools with the largest stadiums will sell the most tickets and have the highest income from that source. Why do you think Ole Miss rebuilt Vaught-Hemingway Stadium from 35,000 to 60,000? Why did they install luxury boxes in which only a privileged few can afford to sit? And why was last week's 36,000 plus relatively modest attendance in Hattiesburg the largest crowd in the history of Southern Mississippi? It's because of fan base, no argument there.
But television money should be an equal opportunity funding source as the non-BCS schools see it. Share and share alike.
Last year the SEC, one of the anointed six, distributed $101.9 million dollars to its 12 members, a six percent increase from the $95.7 million distributed to the schools in the 2002-2003 fiscal year. Of that amount $41.4 million came from football television, $19.6 million from bowls, $12.4 million from the SEC Football Championship, $10.6 million from basketball television, $3.1 million from the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament and $14.8 million from NCAA Championships.
The average amount distributed to each school which participated in all revenue sharing was $8.5 million.
Not included in the $101.9 million was $7.9 million retained by the schools who played in the bowls and $612,000 divided among all 12 institutions by the NCAA for academic enhancement.
In 1980 when this share and share alike plan started the SEC distributed $4.1 million to its members. Last year, $101.9 million.
Do you really think the Conference USAs, the MACs and others at that level haven't noticed that the rich are getting considerably richer and the poor are pretty well staying where they are or advancing only slightly compared with the Big Six conferences?
Why, they ask, should a Vanderbilt which doesn't win games and doesn't go to bowls get $8.5 million for its football ineptitude while the Southern Mississippi's, Marshalls, Northern Illinois', the Toledos, the Fresno States and others cannot earn the big bucks no matter how well and how carefully they have developed competitive football programs?
That's why the Nebraska-Southern Mississippi game was more than just a line in their respective record books. And that's also why five years ago no one could have convinced me there would someday be an open-to-all national championship playdown and today I believe that within five years, ten at the most, the BCS will be replaced by a broader, more inclusive system of determining the best team in the country, which will spread the ever increasing television dollars more widely to more schools than is being done now in the year of our Lord and the SEC and its comparables, 2003.