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Hurricanes Seek Possible Shared Crown

Dec. 31, 2000

By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer

MIAMI – Splits happen.

Not even a No. 1 vs. No. 2 in a national title game can prevent collegefootball from having two champions.

“Share?” Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke asked. “We’ll share …as long as we get ourselves a championship.”

If Miami beats Florida in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night, and FloridaState beats Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl the next night in the BCS’ title game,there’s a good chance there will be split national champions for the fourthtime since 1990.

Here’s why:

In the two polls that crown champions – The Associated Press media pollandthe coaches’ poll – Oklahoma, Miami and Florida State were 1-2-3 going intothebowl games. But under an agreement between the Bowl Championship Series andtheAmerican Football Coaches Association, the coaches’ poll automaticallydeclaresthe Orange Bowl winner its champion. The sports writers and broadcasters intheAP poll vote independently.

In the final BCS standings, Oklahoma (12-0) finished first, FloridaState(11-1) second and Miami third (10-1), even though the Hurricanes beat theSeminoles 27-24 on Oct. 7.

Florida State won over Miami in the computer rankings component of theBCSstandings, which uses the AP media poll and the coaches’ poll, eightcomputerrankings, strength-of-schedule and number of losses to determine who playsinits title game.

A casual survey of 20 of the 71 AP poll voters revealed many would voteforor seriously consider Miami as national champs if the Hurricanes andSeminoleswin their bowl games.

“If Miami’s win is not a flukey one, and Florida State’s was somethinglessthan dominating, I’d vote for Miami,” says AP voter Gary Long of The MiamiHerald.

AP voter Andrew Bagnato of The Chicago Tribune says: “If Miami andFloridaState both win, I won’t hesitate to make Miami No. 1. One of the beauties ofcollege football is that the regular season still matters.”

Mark Blaudschun of The Boston Globe adds: “I would vote for Miami overFlorida State, but would have to weigh in with what Washington did.”

Washington (10-1), fourth in the polls and BCS standings, beat Miami34-29in early September and plays Purdue in the Rose Bowl on Monday.

Miami coach Butch Davis can only hope the Hurricanes are in position toclaim a piece of the championship.

“You can’t predict how other people are going to vote and how peoplearegoing to see it,” he said. “Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.We’ve just got to make sure we take care of our business and win the game.”

John Swofford, BCS coordinator and commissioner of the Atlantic CoastConference, has said the BCS minimizes the chance of split nationalchampions,but hasn’t eliminated it.

“We are all agreed on this system,” he says. “Is it perfect? No. ButI’mnot sure anything is perfect.”

All this hubbub becomes moot, of course, if Florida beats Miami orOklahomadefeats Florida State to complete a perfect season and win its firstnationaltitle since 1985. The Gators are six-point underdogs, the Sooners are12-pointunderdogs.

Because school presidents are against a playoff for major collegefootball,there’s always a chance for season-ending confusion. However, there are notmany voices screaming that having split champions is a bad thing.

“I’ve got no problem with a split,” says Grant Teaff, executivedirectorof the AFCA. “It can happen this time because of the AP poll. We’ve hadsplitsbefore.”

Roy Kramer, the brainchild of the BCS formula and commissioner of theSoutheastern Conference, has often said arguing over who’s No. 1 is greatforthe sport.

In two of the last three splits – in 1990 and 1997 – the No. 1 team inthecoaches’ poll dropped despite winning its bowl game. In the other split – in1991 – two teams were tied at No. 1 in the coaches’ poll entering thepostseason.

In the AP poll, the pre-bowl No. 1 team in ’90, ’91 and ’97 came awaywiththe national title by winning its bowl game.

The first two years of the BCS produced no argument over title-gamematchups, with Tennessee beating Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl for the’98title, and Florida State beating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl for the ’99championship. In both cases, the teams were ranked 1-2 in both polls and intheBCS standings.

The BCS includes six major conferences – ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big12,Pac-10 and SEC – and four bowls – Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta. The sixconference winners, plus two at-large teams are chosen for the four games,withonly the top two finishers in the BCS standings automatically matched in itstitle game.

Before the BCS, there was no designated title game and the Big Ten andPac-10 champs were still under contract to play in the Rose Bowl, whichgreatlyreduced the chances of a 1 vs. 2 game.

In ’97, Michigan and Nebraska were undefeated and ranked 1-2 in thepollsentering their bowl games. Michigan, the Big Ten champs locked into the RoseBowl, beat Washington State, while Nebraska beat Tennessee in the OrangeBowl.The Wolverines stayed No. 1 in the final AP poll, the Cornhuskers moved uptoNo. 1 in the final coaches’ poll. The sentiment at the time was fellowcoachesthought Tom Osborne deserved a piece of the title in his final season.

In ’91, Miami was No. 1 in the AP poll and tied with Washington for No.1 inthe coaches’ poll. Miami beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, Washington beatMichigan in the Rose Bowl. The Hurricanes were AP’s national champions,whilethe Huskies won in the coaches’ poll. At the time, there were questionsraisedabout Miami’s decision to stay home and play the lower ranked Huskersinsteadof higher-ranked Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

In ’90, Colorado and Georgia Tech were 1-2 in the polls, and both wontheirbowl games – the Buffaloes beat Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl, the YellowJackets beat Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl. Colorado was AP’s nationalchampion,but Georgia Tech was the top choice in the coaches’ poll. An argument forTechgrabbing a share of the title was that the Irish would have beaten the Buffsona late-game punt return for a TD, but a penalty nullified the play.