It's the Liberty Bowl, not the BCS, for Cougars

Tuesday, December 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PROVO, Utah (AP) _ The Bowl Championship Series rolled on without unbeaten BYU.

Coach Gary Crowton complained it was unfair, and athletic director Val Hale demanded a playoff.

Two wacky weeks of upsets finally dragged No. 9 BYU (12-0) from the BCS picture Monday, when the Cougars were dropped from consideration for an at-large berth to the big-money bowl games.

The situation ``really aggravates'' Crowton because BYU is one of two undefeated Division I-A teams, along with top-ranked Miami. The Cougars can finish with a 13-0 record by winning Saturday at Hawaii.

``From a motivational standpoint, I think that it's really not a very fair way to do it,'' Crowton said. ``It's almost like they want you to be demoralized, so you don't win and it takes pressure off them.''

Hold off on the conspiracy theories, BYU fans.

Because the Mountain West didn't fare well against BCS-affiliated leagues this season and the league doesn't have an automatic BCS berth, it simply didn't work out for the Cougars.

Brian Morrison, spokesman for BCS chairman and Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford, said BYU, Texas, Oklahoma and several Pac-10 teams were officially dropped so they could line up other bowl games.

In BYU's case, that's the Liberty Bowl, where the Mountain West champion will play Louisville on Dec. 31.

The list is trimmed every year as television executives and matchmakers from the BCS bowls decide which games they want. BYU was poised to reach one of those games, probably the Fiesta Bowl, until a recent slew of upsets.

``BYU needed some things to fall their way, both in terms of other games and the numbers,'' Fiesta Bowl committee member Alan Hyde said.

The final blow came Monday when Nebraska was ranked third in the BCS standings and poised to possibly crash the national title game against Miami, despite a lopsided loss to Colorado two weeks ago.

The Buffaloes beat Texas in last week's Big 12 title game, which didn't help the Cougars. That locked Colorado and Oregon into the Fiesta Bowl, which had been BYU's best BCS prospect.

``We were really serious when we went to see the Utah game,'' Hyde said of BYU's victory on Nov. 17. ``We scouted it very seriously, but things played out in the next few weeks in a way that pushed BYU toward the edge of the map.''

The BCS formula, which considers wins and losses, strength of schedule, polls and computer rankings, placed BYU at No. 12 this week. That figure isn't likely to improve when the final standings come out Sunday.

That's no consolation to Crowton, who has a short week to prepare his team for a Hawaii squad that beat former BCS hopeful Fresno State.

``We haven't lost and we're playing an 8-3 team that beat Fresno, which beat Colorado, who is in consideration,'' Crowton said. ``That just shows how wrong the BCS is and how it's not fair. It's not good for college football.''

The Cougars would rather settle things on the field in a playoff.

``If we're going to let computers rule the game, let's quit playing and quit risking injuries to the athletes,'' Hale said. ``To have a subjective way to choose the participants is wrong. You have to play on the field.''

Besides missing out on the prestige of an upper-tier game, the Cougars will feel the difference in their checkbook. BCS games pay between $11 million and $13 million, compared to $1.3 million for the Liberty Bowl.

Rather than marking the end of BYU's hopes for crashing the BCS party, Hale thinks this season is the start of something better down the road.

``I hope this is just the first of many years where we're knocking on the door,'' he said. ``If we're at the door enough times, it will eventually cave in. People will see the system for what it is and they won't stand for it.''