The bowl alliance, Penn State coach Joe Paterno says, is a good deal for college football, while the Rose Bowl, he says, is "something special."
And yet the two entities seem unable to coexist."You would think two of the strongest things you've got going for you, you could somehow parlay into making everything better," Paterno said. "There ought to be some way."
Right now, there isn't, says Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. The champion of his conference is obligated to play the champion of the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl for six more years. And that's just fine by him.
"I don't think there's a bowl, year in and year out, that has the stature of the Rose Bowl," Delany said Tuesday at Big Ten media day. "We can win a national championship in the Rose Bowl. It can happen."
It almost happened last year. But it didn't.
Although Penn State had one of the best offensive teams ever, it spent most of the season ranked second to Nebraska.
Had the Big Ten been part of the bowl alliance, Penn State would have met the Cornhuskers in the postseason. But because of the Rose Bowl commitment, the Nittany Lions had to play Oregon. Nebraska, meanwhile, beat Miami in the Orange Bowl and won the national titles in polling by both The Associated Press (media) and CNN-USA Today (coaches).
"I don't think we want to be a conference that's always on the outside looking in. That definitely does not make much sense for a conference that really established big-time college football," Paterno said. "We're celebrating the 100th year of Big Ten football and I would hope that we will not stick our heads in the sand and ignore what's going on around us."
Delany said alliance officials must come up with a plan to please officials of the Rose Bowl, Big Ten and Pac-10 - not vice versa.
Penn State is concerned that history might repeat itself.
"The Rose Bowl is great, but whenever you get a chance to play for the national championship, that's what you go to college for," said wide receiver Bobby Engram, the Nittany Lions' top offensive player. "If we go back to the Rose Bowl this year and don't have a chance for the national championship again, it would be tough."
Iowa coach Hayden Fry suggested that the league might agree to allow a No. 1- or 2-ranked Big Ten champion to play in a different bowl game one year if the alliance agrees to send its first- or second-ranked team to the Rose Bowl the next time there is a possible national title matchup.