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Big Ten, Pac-10 Talking About Joining Alliance

January 9, 1996

DALLAS (AP) _ The Big Ten and Pac-10 are having discussions about joining the bowl alliance, a move that would guarantee a national championship game every year in college football.

``Whether anything’s going to happen or not, I don’t know,″ Andy Geiger, athletic director at Ohio State said Tuesday during the NCAA’s annual convention. ``But ideas are being exchanged and the matter is under consideration.″

``I would say we’ll know by late spring or early summer if we have something that’s viable,″ Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said.

The Big Ten and Pac-10, bound to a 50-year tradition of sending their champions to the Rose Bowl, are the only major football conferences that have refused to join the alliance.

The other Division I-A leagues match their two top-rated teams every year in a bowl, rotating among the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar. It worked out perfectly this year with No. 1 Nebraska of the Big Eight meeting No. 2 Florida of the Southeastern Conference for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl.

But for a long time, it appeared the alliance’s first year could end in confusion and controversy because Ohio State was in the national title hunt and apparently headed to the Rose Bowl. When the Buckeyes lost to Michigan, however, it eliminated them from contention and gave the Fiesta a clear-cut championship game.

If the Big Ten and Pac-10 do reach a deal with the alliance, it would give football fans what they’ve long been clamoring for _ a guaranteed national championship game.

``It worked this year, but there will be times when it won’t work unless the Pac-10 and Big Ten and the Rose Bowl become integrated into the alliance somehow,″ Geiger said. ``Our contract with the Rose Bowl runs through 2002. But contracts can be amended.″

The alliance would embrace the only two major conferences it lacks.

``I’m optimistic that at some point it will happen,″ said Roy Kramer, commissioner of the SEC and chairman of the alliance. ``I think what happened with the alliance this year had a positive effect to drive toward that.″

Nebraska, which won its second straight national championship, and Florida each received $8.5 million in the Fiesta Bowl.

``We now have an ability to provide comparable financial reward for teams who participate,″ Kramer said. ``That wasn’t the case before.″

``I think bringing in the Big Ten and Pac-10 would be great,″ said Nebraska athletic director Bill Byrne. ``But I would want to do it on the alliance’s terms, not on their terms. From the comments I’ve heard, they would want to come in only if they could have the championship game in the Rose Bowl.″

Although Big Ten and Pac-10 people all say they remain committed to the Rose Bowl, they add that there might be ways to accommodate all interested parties.

``Let’s say UCLA is No. 1 and Oklahoma is No. 2 and the Fiesta Bowl has the 1-2 game,″ said Pac-10 executive director Tom Hansen. ``Maybe UCLA could be released from the Rose Bowl to go play Oklahoma. It’s a possibility that we’ve been looking at to see if everyone can accept it.

``It has a lot of hurdles to get over. But there has been a definite shift in interest among both conferences to see how this could be done,″

Any arrangement would have to be agreed to by the networks, the schools and the participating conferences.

``What we want to do is maintain as much of the Rose Bowl tradition as we can, find a plan which is acceptable to all our partners, including the Tournament of Roses, and then explore that with the alliance,″ Delany said.

``Whether it can be done, I think, is problematic. We’d need more consensus than presently exists.″

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