The first Rose Bowl I ever remember watching was the 1997 matchup between Ohio State and Arizona State. I was 11, and aside from wanting OSU to win, my only real emotional investment in the game was that I had chosen not to bet my dad FIVE AMERICAN DOLLARS that the Buckeyes would eventually pull it out in the end.
My anger of losing out on the five dollars (equivalent to 3 comic books in the ancient bartering system of nerdy little kids) was outweighed by my joy at watching Joe Germaine go "eennnhh!" and huck a Denver fireball to a pre(?)steroids David Boston for a last minute TD that showed me that sometimes good really does triumph over evil. Also it showed me that Brent Musburger gets really salty when his bet against the spread gets messed with.
In either case, something that unfortunately escaped my prepubescent brain were two things that would've undoubtedly enhanced my overall enjoyment of one of the greatest bowl games of all time: majesty and grandeur.
The words majesty and grandeur actually mean pretty much the same thing, but that's only according to young people who don't realize that when something has been around forever, that means that it's awesome and should never be changed. The Masters at Augusta, the Egg Roll on the White House lawn, Jim Crow laws; why can't people simply see that the things that define us are the things that we would rather allow to rot and fester than change, even a tiny bit?
And unfortunately, in all of the talk of moving college football toward a plus one format or a 4 team playoff or an 8 team playoff, no one is really coming forward and saying what needs to be said: University of Georgia President Michael Adams and his ilk are a breath away from completely destroying the incomparable majesty and, yes, unparalleled grandeur that is college football's greatest game, the annual Rose Bowl that takes place in beautiful Pasadena California.
Michael Adams has for years advocated for a playoff in college football, an odious system that will take determining a national championship out of the rightful hands of giant super-computers (capable of literally hundreds of complex calculations per second) and human sports experts such as AP college football voters Jason Whitlock and Craig James. But more than that, Adams doesn't seem to understand that more is at stake here than denying the most intelligent and insightful football minds input on the champion selection process. There's dignity at risk.
But let's rewind a bit. Last week the powers that be in the BCS came up with four alternative options to the nearly perfect system that we have in place as of now (seriously folks, if the purpose of a championship is the decide the best team, then they do that every year. The winner of the BCS championship game is the best team. How is that hard?). They ranged from horrible to terrible; one would add a "plus one" game (don't we know who the best two teams are already?), another that would keep the current format but basically get rid of automatic bids (really? You want to allow the unwashed CFB masses into OUR championship game?), and still another that would create a 4 team playoff (complete waste of time and would make it difficult for our student-athletes to prepare for their rigorous final exams).
There was, however, one proposal that made sense to me.
4. Four Teams Plus. The four highest-ranked teams meet in two games except that the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions will always play in the Rose Bowl. If the Big Ten champion, the Pac12 champion, or both are in the top four, that team (or those two teams) would play in the Rose Bowl and the other two games would be filled by the other four highest-ranked teams. Select two teams for the championship game after those three games have been played.
Rose Bowl über alles, as it should be. I'm glad to see that some BCS officials have the wherewithal to understand the gravity of what change to the BCS system would do to the most venerated and important of all Bowls. Not Adams, however. Instead of kowtowing to what is clearly the greatest tradition in the long history of civilization, he foolishly cast his lot with the barbarians and heretics of his beloved Southeastern Conference.
“This is not 1950, or 1960,” Adams said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, after waking up from his daily Absinthe induced stupor. “There are great schools in the [Atlantic Coast Conference] and the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12. I think it’s time to put everybody on an equal footing. I just reject the notion that the Big Ten and the Pac-12 ought to be treated differently in this process. Also if you see my dog, tell him this is from me.” He then handed us a syringe full of morphine and a fully loaded .22 revolver.
I may have edited that quote somewhat, but the overall point is that Adams clearly doesn't understand the Rose Bowl or college football in general. Some facts:
- Almost 70% of Rose Bowl games have featured matchups between the Big Ten and the Pac-10. Er, 12. Well, okay I guess both conferences have 12 members now. Also we might as well retroactively count Nebraska's appearances toward the Big Ten.
- Average margin of victory since 2000? Slightly over 12 points. That's quality, folks.
- USC, probably the most popular and beloved college football program in history, has won the Rose Bowl a record 24 times. Which is of course good news for anyone who loves positive, exciting winners like Lane Kiffin.
In other words, Big Ten and Pac-12 football traditions are the shining city on the hill to the rest of the assorted rabble of college football, excluding teams that might be added though conference expansion, and also teams that no longer play FBS football but have important sounding names. They too add to the majesty that is an incredibly important game with occasional implications beyond the confines of a generally near-capacity stadium.
It's unfortunate that Michael Adams doesn't understand this. Sure, he graduated from Ohio State at the height of Woody Hayes' tenure, and yes, his playoff plan does diminish the power of his own conference while enhancing the ability of other conferences like the Big Ten and the Pac-12 to play for national championships. But at what cost do we sacrifice a 98 year tradition that kind of adheres to the lofty legends and customs we've given to it? Do national championships really mean more than an optional game that is already bypassed in the event of a national championship? Do you not want to see the mighty Trojans of USC once more stomp upon an overmatched Big Ten team? Wouldn't it be amazing if Texas joined the Big Ten so we could pretend the 2006 Rose Bowl took place between a Big Ten and Pac-12 team?
At least one person is fighting the good fight. To wit:
“Do we have the right to impose (the Rose Bowl tradition) on others? No,” said University of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman, who said he was speaking for himself and not the Big Ten. “But you have to understand that any process for determining a national champion has to have the concurrence of those conferences who are likely to have teams that are competing for the national championship. And without the Big Ten and Pac-12 you couldn’t run a national championship..."
That's right, college football world. If you want a playoff or plus one system without acknowledging the supremacy of the Rose Bowl, you can go to hell. Here in the Big Ten and Pac-12, we understand football, far better than your nouveau riche sensibilities from the SEC can comprehend. And you'll know it, too.
Just as soon as we figure out how to beat you guys on the field.