Columns & Blogs

NCAA should tweak the games, not names

The brainiacs that run the NCAA must figure they've got this college football thing down. How else would you explain the organization's recent decision to change the names of its biggest divisions?

Division I-A and Division I-AA, you might have heard, are now officially known as Football Bowl Subdivision and NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

Way to keep it simple, fellas.

But just in case the good folks in Indianapolis need a little help before college football season begins Aug. 31 with 14 games involving Division I-A — sorry, Football Bowl Subdivision — teams, including Boise State's season opener against Sacramento State, here are 10 ways to make the game better.

1. Fewer bowls: If the NCAA won't recognize the need for a playoff system — and don't give me that line about too many games after extending the season — it could at least recognize that we don't need 32 bowl games. The world can live without seeing UTEP and Toledo in the GMAC Bowl or Troy and Akron in the Silicon Valley Football, ugh, Classic.

2. Fewer paranoid coaches: It's college football, not nuclear physics, so lighten up. It's OK if fans and media members attend practices. It's OK if your opponent knows your backup guard is doubtful.

Don't believe me?

Southern Cal has some practices attended by almost 1,500 fans, Snoop Dogg runs plays with the team and the Trojans went 37-2 the past three seasons.

3. Fewer scholarships: If the coaches hated the previous suggestion, they're going to detest this one. But if an NFL team can play a 16-game season with a 55-man roster, why can't colleges survive with 70 scholarship players?

Trimming 15 scholarships from every Football Bowl Subdivision team would have multiple benefits. It would help with Title IX compliance and it would help disperse the talent across college football.

4. Play on Saturdays: With the exception of one or two Thursday games per week, college football should be played on Saturdays, preferably in the afternoon. Boise State plays on a Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday this season. Nevada and Fresno State open the season on a Friday. Friday is for high school football, Saturday is for college football and Sunday is for the NFL. It's not that hard.

5. No more soft schedules: Teams from I-A and I-AA (sorry NCAA) should not be allowed to play each other. No more 77-0 scores. No more guaranteed victories. This change would allow teams in the non-BCS conferences to get their shots at the big boys of college football, and it would encourage inter-sectional matchups that would be a wee bit more entertaining than, oh, Texas vs. Sam Houston State.

6. More option: More run-and-shoot. More 3-3-5 defenses. More swinging gates on extra points. College football is great because of its diversity. While every NFL team looks like a copy, college football teams have all kinds of schemes.

None are better than the option, when the quarterback turns the corner and there's just one player left to defend him and the pitch man. It's hard for teams to run well (a reason most don't even try), but even harder for foes to stop.

7. No more four-hour games: The NCAA has tried to address the length-of-game issue with some drastic changes this year, including starting the clock when the ball is kicked off and starting it more quickly on possession changes. We'll see if they work.

But something must be done — and that something should not involve cutting down halftime. I want to see the bands.

8. More celebrations: In its infinite wisdom, the NCAA has cut down on almost every sort of celebration. Coaches no doubt love the tighter rules. But most of these players are kids — except at BYU, where they're as old as my dad — so let them celebrate. Bring out the orchestrated touchdown dances. And if the opponent doesn't like it, well, they can stop them from scoring the next time. (Players, please no elaborate performance after making a routine tackle.)

9. The BCS: I only have so much room to complain. The short version: Settle it on the field.

10. Tweak the Heisman: It's one of the coolest trophies around and the voters usually get it right, but I have one major quibble: Votes cast before the season is over, including bowl games, should be disqualified. If a bowl game is going to decide the national championship, then we can also have it help decide the Heisman winner.