Originally created 12/04/01

Memo to Cougar fans: Forget about that BCS game



SALT LAKE CITY -- Have fun at Graceland, BYU fans.

What seemed increasingly likely the past two weeks is official after the latest BCS standings were released Monday: BYU won't squeeze into a Bowl Championship Series game.

The Cougars (12-0) are No. 12 for a second straight week, meaning they remained eligible for an at-large BCS invitation.

However, coach Gary Crowton said BCS officials notified him late Monday that the Cougars were released from BCS consideration, eliminating even a remote chance that BYU could still qualify.

Crowton said the situation "really aggravates me" because BYU hasn't concluded the regular season. The Cougars can finish with a 13-0 record by winning at Hawaii on Saturday.

"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."

BCS officials couldn't be reached for comment.

As the Mountain West champion, BYU is going to Memphis, Tenn., to play Louisville in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31.

"It's going to be fun," BYU athletic director Val Hale said. "We'll have a good time and make the most of it."

Before being released, BYU could have reached a BCS game only through a bizarre decision by a network television executive or a bowl committee willing to invite the Cougars to the Sugar or Orange Bowl.

"It would really, really be a longshot at this stage," Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan said.

If you're a BYU fan, here's the problem.

Miami, the only Division I-A undefeated team other than the Cougars, is top-ranked in the BCS standings and headed to the national title game at the Rose Bowl against either No. 2 Tennessee or No. 3 Nebraska.

The Fiesta Bowl was BYU's best hope for a BCS game, but it's locked up with No. 4 Colorado and No. 5 Oregon. The Cougars needed one of those teams to reach the Rose Bowl, but Nebraska is blocking the way.

"At this point, it's looking extremely likely the Fiesta Bowl will get two contractual teams from the Pac-10 and the Big 12," Fiesta Bowl committee member Alan Hyde said.

The Sugar Bowl, which also considered BYU, is on track for Illinois to play LSU or Nebraska.

"Would people travel to New Orleans from Utah? That's a pretty good distance," Hoolahan said. "A team like BYU, obviously, would make more sense for the Fiesta Bowl. That's a natural, and that just got closed in."

The Orange Bowl will probably pit Maryland against Florida, unless somebody decides BYU can draw better in Miami than the Gators.

"You never say never in this arena, but it would be extremely difficult for BYU," Hoolahan said.

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

BYU's predicament is a result of two wacky weekends of upsets that disrupted the BCS number crunching. The BCS formula determines the national title matchup based on polls, records, schedule strength and computer rankings.

The Mountain West doesn't have an automatic berth for the eight BCS slots, like the Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC and ACC. Another of BYU's liabilities was a schedule that, according to the BCS computer, ranks 105th among 117 teams.

"They can say what they want about our schedule," Hale said. "The fact is that if we go 13-0, we belong at their party and they know it."

The Orange Bowl didn't scout the Cougars, but Hyde and Hoolahan emphasized they were doing more than a professional courtesy by sending Fiesta and Sugar Bowl representatives to watch BYU games.

"There's honestly a feeling on our committee of 'That's too bad for BYU,"' Hyde said. "It's too bad they've had such a great season and things didn't work out for them. They deserve better."