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Post How one man might impact Georgia’s bowl

Monday November 26, 2007

pwd is on top of our bowl fortunes, and I can’t disagree that a trip to the Orange Bowl against the ACC champion is probably our most likely destination.  But he mentions that the Rose Bowl is another possibility, and that news has Georgia fans rightfully excited.  Georgia hasn’t played in the storied Rose Bowl since 1943 where they beat UCLA 9-0.  Charlie Trippi ran for 130 yards on 25 carries, and Frank Sinkwich put the game away with a touchdown run despite an injury.  Short of a national title, I could think of no greater possibility in the twilight of Larry Munson’s career than his first trip to The Granddaddy of Them All.

First, the details:  Southern Cal needs a win over UCLA this weekend to clinch the Pac 10 title.  That seems likely, but no one expected the UCLA upset last year either.  Ohio State is the Big 10 champion.  Traditionally, those two teams would meet in the Rose Bowl.  A Missouri loss in the Big 12 championship game would move Ohio State to the  BCS Championship Game, and the Rose Bowl would have to replace the Buckeyes with another BCS at-large team.  So why not Georgia?

On the surface, a SoCal – UGA Rose Bowl matchup would seem to be fantastic for all involved. Though I admit my Georgia bias, I’m not sure if another BCS bowl, even the national title game, could produce a more compelling pairing. These are two programs dripping with tradition playing good football at the end of the season. SEC vs. Pac 10. What’s not to like? Of course it can’t be that simple, and it isn’t.  How could 9-3 Illinois get the nod instead of 10-2 Georgia?

You remember Big 10 commish Jim Delany. We’ve discussed him here before. He’s been called “the most powerful figure in college athletics.” Delany helped to secure some relevant concessions for the Rose Bowl in the current BCS arrangement:

  • The waiving of a $6 million BCS entry fee.
  • A separate and extremely rich (eight years, $300 million) television deal with ABC. All other BCS games – Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and BCS championship game – are broadcast on Fox.
  • Favored status in the team selection process that encourages the Big Ten vs. Pac-10 matchup that features the kind of tradition-rich, major-market powerhouses, such as this year’s Rose Bowl participants Southern California and Michigan, that almost ensure high television ratings.
  • An escape from ever having to select a non-BCS conference team such as Boise State, which despite its Fiesta Bowl heroics this year is a potential ratings and revenue risk for a bowl game.
  • Exclusivity to the coveted late afternoon New Year’s Day time slot.

“It’s a matter of independence and control,” Delany said.

Control indeed. Illinois is hardly “tradition-rich” next to a program like Georgia, but they are a major-market team. The Big 10, like any conference, wants two teams in the BCS, and I expect Delany to do everything he can for that additional $17 million.

Right now, Illinois isn’t even eligible for the BCS. That could change this weekend, and all it might take is a Tennessee loss to LSU. Should the Fighting Zooks end up among the top 14 in the final BCS standings, the power play could be fascinating to watch. In one corner is Jim Delany. In the other is the SEC, certainly with plenty of clout of its own. In the middle is one of the most valuable and recognizable events in all of sports. Then there’s ABC with its investment in the game.

Let me clarify that I don’t blame Delany. It’s his job to represent the Big 10 and its membership. It’s not his job to worry whether the Rose or any other bowl has the best possible or most interesting pairing of teams.

I see a lot of excitement not only among the fans but also coming out of Athens for the possible Rose Bowl bid. I just hope we don’t set ourselves up for disappointment. Bowl success seems to depend so much on attitude. There’s no way to prove a correlation, but I’ve seen the Dawgs drop two bowl games (2001 and 2005) where the players and/or fans were less-than-pleased with the bowl or the opponent.

Less than two months ago we were scoping out 1-star motels off the exit ramp in Bossier City, La. in anticipation of an Independence Bowl bid. It seems unthinkable that people could be let down by getting “just” an Orange Bowl bid, but that is a vibe I get underneath the excitement of the Rose Bowl possibilities. Earning a spot in the BCS, regardless of the destination or opponent, means a big-time game in the national spotlight against a quality team. It is also a chance to position the program for the next season. I hope we – both team and fans – fully embrace whatever opportunity we get and just play ball.

UPDATE:The AJC’s Tony Barnhart weighs in today on Georgia’s Rose Bowl chances and recognizes the very real possibility of Illinois getting the bid.

8 Responses to 'How one man might impact Georgia’s bowl'

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  • Agree wholeheartedly. We should be thrilled to be in a BCS bowl, period.
    I understand what you’re saying about Delaney, but he is also a member of a group of six conferences. He needs to consider what would happen if the roles were reversed.

  • Those who would see the Orange Bowl as a let-down need to spend a few minutes meditating on our pre-season and mid-October prospects.

  • Regarding the underlying vibe of disappointment in “only” an Orange Bowl invitation: I’m a devoted fan of the Dawgs, and I go to nine or ten games a year depending on which tickets I can get. I feel a little of the “disappointment”, but let me explain. USC has been the class of college football for the last few years. I’d like to see the Dawgs go up against them and hopefully win. It would really make the nation sit up and take notice of what is being built in Athens. A loss would let the staff know just what we need to do to get to that level. Third, the game will prepare the team for the next two years. They will know at what level they have to play, to play for a championship. As for the Orange Bowl there will be no great glory in beating either VT or BC. We beat VT last year, and they were trounced at the first of this year by LSU. (I know teams evolve through the season, but that loss is there.) Should we play BC, no one looks upon them as a great team. If UGA lost to either it would end the season on a down note, and we would be in a funk for a while. A loss against USC provided we were competitive would not have the same effect.

    But which ever occurs I’ll be supporting the Dawgs and cheering for them.

    Oh, and we haven’t even talked about OU and the Fiesta Bowl.

  • Not sure how you can say that ILL is not tradition rich. They have 15 Big 10 championships, 4 “recognized” national titles and 6 total national titles.

    By comparison, UGA has 14 SEC titles, 2 “recognized” national titles and 11 total national titles.

    They have every bit the trdition that we do and it will play a role in whether the Rose picks us or ILL if ILL is qualified.

  • Tom-

    While Illinois certainly isn’t one of the dregs of the college football world, they also aren’t in Georgia’s league when it comes to the numbers. In fact it’s really not that close.

    You are correct in stating that IU has 15 Big 10 titles, but it’s important to note that over half of them (8) were won before the Great Depression and that only 3 of them have been won since JFK was alive. When it comes to their 4 “recognized” national titles, only 3 of them are legit and they all also came before Herbert Hoover took office. They have zero national titles to UGA’s 5 total (’27, ’42, ’46, ’67, ’80) and 2 unanimous titles. Alas, I must note that Georgia has won 12 SEC titles instead of 14.

    As far as individual talent goes, it’s also not really that close. While certainly a subjective process, the Heisman trophy is the most widely-recognized individual trophy in American sports. While Illinois has never had a player finish in the top 3 of Heisman voting, UGA has had 2 winners (Sinkwich ’42, Walker ’80), 2 runners-up (Trippi ’46, Walker ’81), and a 3rd-place finisher (Hearst, ’92).

    -Illinois’ Memorial Stadium holds 71k while Georgia’s Sanford Stadium holds 93k.

    -All-time wins? Georgia ranks #11 (713) while Illinois is #42 (555). Georgia has only played 38 more games.

    -All-time winning %? UGA is #13, IU is #69.

  • The dawgs have 14 conference championships. Two were in the old Southern Conference (pre-curser to the SEC) in 1896 and 1920.

    And Illinois has as many conference championships in the last 20 years as we do.

    The difference, as you stated, is that UGA has not had many losing seasons. But Illinois has a rich football tradition.

    Their tradition is rich and I will not be surprised that if it comes down to us or them for the Rose Bowl, they get the nod.

  • Illinois “tradition” is not even in the same league as Georgia’s, with all due respect to their history. If Illinois gets the nod it will be because of Delany, period. NCT is right on…let’s not forget where we were 2 months ago. It would be wonderful to go to the Rose, but an honor and privilege to go to the Orange Bowl. Go Dawgs!

  • I think Brian hits on the key point here: there’s no need to tear down Illinois and their history, but there really is nothing that makes them a more attractive bowl selection over Georgia other than the Rose Bowl’s desire to have a traditional Big 10 / Pac 10 matchup.