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Irish OK BCS status change

The Arizona Republic


The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX – For most of its history, Notre Dame has stood alone among the major college football giants.

The Fighting Irish have their own legends, their own mystique, even their own television network.

So it was with Notre Dame’s affiliation to the Bowl Championship Series. Notre Dame acted as if it were its own BCS conference, collecting a full conference share for each appearance.

But now the Fighting Irish are acting as if they are a mere conference member, happy to let BCS money roll in without having to actually play in a game. Sort of like Vanderbilt.

Formally announcing a prior understanding, BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg said yesterday that Notre Dame had agreed to accept an annual $1 million payout in years it doesn’t appear in a BCS game, and $4.5 million in years it does.

The latter figure represents the share paid to non-BCS qualifiers such as Utah. Under the previous arrangement, Notre Dame received an entire conference share – valued at close to $14 million – for appearing in a BCS game but took home nothing when it didn’t qualify.

In the BCS’ first seven years, the Fighting Irish played in one game – the 2000 Fiesta Bowl – and lost 41-9 to Oregon State.

“They haven’t qualified every year in this structure, so they’re going to be making up annual payments to help offset any loss in that regard,” Weiberg said after the BCS ended three days of meetings. “The idea behind it is Notre Dame is treated like a member of a conference that has annual automatic qualification.”

For Notre Dame, the switch means it can plug a set BCS amount into its budget annually instead of hoping for a windfall. The move also takes pressure off new head coach Charlie Weis, who will not be under pressure to produce a huge bowl payout. The Irish will still keep any payouts from non-BCS bowls.

At present, the Irish receive an automatic berth if they finish in the top six of the BCS standings. If a non-BCS school qualifies, the Irish are guaranteed a spot with nine wins or a top-10 finish. They are BCS-eligible if they win nine games and finish in the top 12.

Under the new format, Weiberg said a nine-win Notre Dame would automatically qualify if it ranks in the top eight and would be eligible if it finished in the top 12.

“I think with these expanded at-large spots and this new structure, there’s a feeling that if Notre Dame is available, they’re going to be very popular to these bowls for possible selection,” Weiberg said. “So they have some reason to believe that if they have a top-10 team, even though they might not automatically be in because they’re not in the top eight, it’s still very likely they will be selected.

The BCS has produced some lunatic scenarios over the years, but it’s almost impossible to envision an eligible Notre Dame squad being snubbed.

“Obviously, they’re the top recognized brand name nationally,” Fiesta Bowl president John Junker said. “Other teams are loved and followed. But in all parts of the country, Notre Dame sets the standard.”

San Diego bowl named

SAN DIEGO – The city’s second postseason college football game will be called the Poinsettia Bowl and be sponsored by the San Diego County Credit Union.

Holiday Bowl officials also said yesterday that they expect the Poinsettia Bowl to produce approximately $20 million annually during what traditionally is the slowest week of the year for the local tourism industry.

The Poinsettia Bowl will be played Dec. 22 at Qualcomm Stadium. It will be run by the same officials who will then stage the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 29.

The Poinsettia Bowl will match a team from the Mountain West Conference against an at-large team. The Poinsettia Bowl, licensed last week by the NCAA, has received support from the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Navy.

The Poinsettia Bowl was the second choice in a poll that named the Holiday Bowl in 1978. The nation’s biggest poinsettia producer, Ecke Ranch, is in northern San Diego County.

East-West game is moving

SAN ANTONIO – The nation’s oldest college all-star football game is moving from San Francisco to San Antonio.

The East-West Shrine Game, played since 1923, will be held in the Alamodome beginning next year, game officials said yesterday. The 2006 game is scheduled for Jan. 21.

- The Associated Press

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