National championship dilemma

December 01, 2007 |

Somewhere, in preparation for today’s Pitt-West Virginia game, a television executive is sitting in front of his big-screen and praying a huge upset. Sadly, only a Mountaineers loss to the woebegone Panthers will save the ratings for the national championship game.

Assuming Missouri doesn’t brain-cramp its way out of the national title picture, West Virginia should roll into BCS title contention by thumping Pitt. This, however, creates a dilemma for the TV executives. Regardless of what they spout about the innate novelty of new teams, the we-don’t-know-who’s-going-to-win philosophy or the spectacle that is NCAA football, no one wants a Mizzou-West Virginia title match-up. Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Florida — those are the traditional title-game schools, and TV loves them since they draw viewers, sponsors and revenue.

The Missouri side of the equation is, at least, a regional favorite — the Tigers would command viewers in the central United States. And they are, to be sure, a novelty — if a successful one. It’s hard to argue that they haven’t earned their shot.

The Mountaineers? Another story, entirely. West Virginia, while a strong team that’s been on the cusp of breaking through into the national championship picture for a couple of years now, is the TV executive’s nightmare.

I mean, do you really think the NCAA wants to put its eggs in the basket of a team whose bucolic home state reaches out to the all-important redneck demographic, where the challenge of spelling BCS would befuddle a lot of fans?

I don’t think so …

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