COMMENTARY: Why Play the Citadel?


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON, SC — There were 225,000 reasons for The Citadel to accept an invitation
to Death Valley Saturday. Very few of them mattered once the ball was in the
air.


As expected, Clemson mauled the Bulldogs, 38-0, before 76,000 gleeful,
orange-clad fans at Frank Howard Field. The finality of the victory was
exceeded only by its thoroughness. The visitors never had a chance.


The end came quickly for The Citadel, too. By the time many Clemson faithful
made their way into the stadium, hops and malt residue still fresh on their
taste buds, the Tigers already had put up one score, and soon would add two
more before the first quarter ended.


It was that kind of day for the Division I-AA Bulldogs, who left Clemson
Saturday night with a fat check in their pockets and a paw print imbedded
deep in their keyster.


Was the $225,000 payday worth it?


"Football coaches have to win football games in order to stay in the
business," Citadel coach Don Powers said. "But at the same time, the reality
of it all is we've got to keep our nose in the revenue stream...For The
Citadel, I'll be honest with you. We've got a lot of young people we'll
educate with the dollars we earned (Saturday)."


The current landscape of college football dictates that games like this are
not only possible, they're necessary. Division I-AA teams must sacrifice
themselves to their larger brethren in order get paid.


The $225,000 check sometimes means the difference between making money or
losing money in an athletic department. Often, the money collected from these
games finance the bulk of a Division I-AA school's Olympic sports.


Yet while I-AA teams at least have money to look forward to, the Clemsons of
the world are in a no-win situation. Victories over smaller schools only
count toward a bowl-eligible total once every four years, and winning a close
game isn't even an option.


It's Blowout City or Bust.


Look at this weekend's scores. Miami crushing McNeese State. Nebraska
drilling San Jose St. And on, and on, and on.


Sure, there's the occasional upset, like Appy State's 20-16 win Thursday over
Wake Forest (okay, bad example of an upset) which adds to the I-A team's
misery. But by and large I-A teams win these games with ridiculous ease,
leading to criticism from experts around the country who belittle scheduling
such soft opponents.


Tommy Bowden knows this first hand. The Tigers moved Texas A&M back three or
four years in order to schedule The Citadel, which sparked a backlash of
negative comments where Clemson's strength of schedule is concerned.


So why play the game?


"One of the positives, to me, about playing a school like The Citadel is a
lot of their players are from this state," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden.
"They probably would have liked to come here, so it's a nice experience for
them. Plus the money stays in the state...it doesn't leave the state. So
there are a lot of positives."


It's a classic case of the haves vs. the have nots, which is where big-time
college football finds itself these days.


And absent a complete turnaround in philosophy at the NCAA office in
Indianapolis, the have nots are going to find themselves in this situation
more frequently, maybe two or three times a season, just to pay the bills.


Take a beating. Get a check. Go home.


You wonder how much humiliation is enough.



Dan Scott is the sports editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger.
His columns can be read at www.dailyjournalmessenger.com.

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