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Full-Court Press

By Paul Arnett

Friday, January 5, 2001

Bowl cold fact:
Captivating to nondescript

IF you were one of the few who attended the Oahu and Aloha bowls this past holiday season, unfortunately it's not true a new Wrangler Jeep will be parked in your driveway soon.

Not that you don't deserve it from the longest-running sponsor of any bowl. Local fans, who were willing to forgo family time on the night before and morning of Christmas, should, at the very least, get in free next year.

Perhaps there were 25,000 tickets distributed among the community, but not nearly that many showed for the two games that featured more coaches going than staying, which speaks volumes for what happened to the four teams during the regular season.

When the Aloha Bowl first started 19 years ago, it wasn't one of the many nondescript events fans are forced to watch these days. Even though the payouts weren't in the millions, teams on their way up or just coming off stellar campaigns played in the postseason game in paradise before a captive audience on ABC-TV.

"In our first game in 1982, we had the co-champions from the ACC (Maryland) and Pac-10 (Washington)," said former Aloha Bowl director Lenny Klompus, whose final act for the two Christmas games took place last April at the NCAA certification meetings.

"Penn State was coming off a national championship the year they played here and so was Georgia Tech. So the landscape has definitely changed. Even as late as 1993, we had the third team from the Big Eight. Imagine having that in the current format. We had a three-year deal and never got Oklahoma or Nebraska. But it was still a good contract for us."

Klompus predicted on his Maui radio show last fall that 2006 is the year where all bowl hell could break lose. That's when most of the current contracts run dry with the sponsors and television networks, and when major changes could take place.

A decade ago, he proposed a 16-team playoff system that would include the bowl cities in some kind of rotation similar to the one employed by the Bowl Championship Series. His plan was for Hawaii to host the Final Four at Aloha Stadium one weekend and the national championship the next.

The idea never came to fruition, although it did give birth to the current Christmas Day doubleheader. But it's still likely the flawed BCS will outlive its usefulness over the next five years, forcing the nation's major conferences to consider some kind of a playoff system.

OKLAHOMA winning the national championship outright was a fortuitous bounce for all concerned. But as anyone who has followed football for more than five minutes knows, the bounces don't always go your way.

Had Florida State won, the BCS would have failed miserably in its pursuit of finding a true national champion. That's because the Seminoles lost to No. 2 Miami of Florida, which lost to No. 3 Washington, which also beat No. 4 Oregon State. Try sorting that one out and see where it takes you.

The BCS also held up the selection process for the other bowls, including the two here. Local bowl officials weren't sure who they were getting or what the proposed matchups would be, which may also have contributed to the flagging attendance.

On the short side, things may appear to be running smoothly. After all, the last three national champions were unbeaten. But in the long run, the current bowl system could fail. And if that happens, the future of the Christmas Day games is grim.

Paul Arnett has been covering sports
for the Star-Bulletin since 1990.
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