CHICAGO – The Bowl Championship Series was created four years ago by college football’s governing body to produce an undisputed No. 1 against No. 2 national championship game.
But in three out of its first four years in existence, the BCS has done exactly the opposite. In 1998-99, many believed that BCS No. 3 Ohio State should have been playing No. 1 Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl instead of Florida State, which earned the No. 2 spot as the season closed. Two years later with undefeated Oklahoma entrenched at No. 1, the Seminoles received the computers’ blessing once again, getting the nod at No. 2 over Miami, which had an identical record and beat them earlier in the season. And this past season, the controversy swirled like never before, as Nebraska, Colorado and Oregon all believed they deserved a shot at No. 1 Miami. The computers shocked the world, selecting Nebraska, which did not even win the Big 12 North Division title and was shellacked by Colorado, 62-36, to finish its season.
Aside from 1998-99, the Big Ten has remained virtually unaffected by the BCS’ selections. Always considered as one of the top conferences in the country, it has had no representatives in the BCS’ title game, and there doesn’t look like there is a clear-cut contender to start this season.
This lack of national presence prompted a lively debate when Big Ten coaches met with the media this weekend to kick off the 2002-03 season. Should there be a 12th team added to the conference? Would a Big Ten conference championship game improve the likelihood of a team making the title game?
“A 12th team would help us do a little better job of scheduling,” Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. “Eleven is not a real good number. A couple years from now, we’re not playing Michigan, and that’s not going to go down very well with our fans.
“As far as the BCS goes, I hope it disappears. I don’t want to do anything to encourage it. (Big Ten Commissioner Jim) Delany can take his BCS and do what he wants with it. I think it’s been a disaster.”
While the BCS has failed, the true disaster was the Big Ten’s performance in New Years’ Day bowl games last season. The conference’s top three teams – Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State – were all whipped into shape by stronger, faster and more talented SEC opponents. Many believe that the Big Ten has fallen to the fourth slot behind the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-10, which joins the Big Ten as the only other conference not to place a school in the title game. It appears that they were right in being hesitant to join the BCS when it was created.
Paterno questioned the decisions of dominant programs to stay in weak conferences, such as the Atlantic Coast and the Big East, and indicated that he is and has always been in favor of a playoff in college football.
“Two years ago, we thought we had it over (the other conferences),” Paterno said. “We have great rivalries in the Big Ten. Because of that, nobody can dominate the league. Should we all of a sudden make apologies for that? Since there’s a Florida State in the ACC and there’s a Miami in the Big East? Let them do what they want to do. The BCS has triggered all of this.”
Even though many coaches agree that a 12th team would be beneficial to the league’s future, Delany said that there is nothing in the works about the addition of a new team, and that the last time it was discussed was when Notre Dame turned down the Big Ten’s offer three years ago.
Recovery too speedy?: Wisconsin receiver Lee Evans, who set the Big Ten mark for receiving yards in a season last year with 1,545, tore his left ACL April 20 when he came down awkwardly after running a routine post pattern.
Evans was supposed to be out six to eight months and was considered a question mark to play this season, but just over three months later, he considers himself at 80-85 percent though. He has not been cleared for contact and is not running at full speed, Evans ran stairs last Tuesday.
“Initially, (taking a redshirt year) was talked about as a possibility, but I never really wanted to,” Evans said. “I’m very confident in my decision. I have no regrets.”
Evans is expecting to be back in uniform before the Badgers’ first Big Ten game against Penn State Oct. 5. The Wisconsin coaching staff is wary of how fast Evans’ recovery has progressed, but Evans promises he will not return until he can compete at a top level.
“He is going to come back as Lee Evans, not Lee Evans’ brother,” Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said.
When Evans returns to the Badgers, he will combine with the Big Ten’s leading rusher last season, Anthony Davis, to form one of the most balanced attacks in the conference, if not the nation.
Ouch!: Purdue receiver Taylor Stubblefield, who was named a fourth-team freshman All-American last season after catching 73 passes for 910 yards, fell off a ladder at a swimming pool earlier this summer and fractured his skull.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back,” Stubblefield said. “They say that the skull fracture is nothing – it’s easier to come back from than a concussion. But the problem is that I have some blood on my brain.
“It’s not like I have brain damage or anything.”
He has not been cleared for contact and has been taking part in some slight conditioning and weightlifting. Stubblefield will undergo a CAT scan Wednesday to search for blood. The doctors will follow that up with an MRI once the blood is gone.
“The doctors tell me there is no way to tell how long the blood will stay there,” Stubblefield said. “It could all be gone right now or it could take up to three months before I am ready to play again.”
Michigan updates: Michigan coach Lloyd Carr announced that fifth-year senior tight end Bennie Joppru will play in the season opener Aug. 31 against Washington. Joppru received a misdemeanor charge for fighting with Michigan wrestler Mike Kulczycki, outside Rick’s American Caf