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Hot potato handed to LV Bowl director

A couple of weeks ago at the close of their annual meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., the guys who wear colorful blazers with bowl game affiliations stitched onto the breast pocket handed the gavel to the woman in their midst and said knock yourself out.

Not literally, of course.

The passing of the gavel signified the Football Bowl Association’s respect for and confidence in Tina Kunzer-Murphy, who was appointed its new chairman.

The Las Vegas Bowl executive director and native Las Vegan succeeds Paul Hoolahan, who wears the Sugar Bowl patch on his blazer. She is the first woman to hold the position.

For the next two years, Kunzer-Murphy will be the one who decides where the FBA should play golf and who gets to joy-buzz the guy from the Meineke Car Care Bowl on the putting green.

Actually, during these times, the chairman of the FBA has a much bigger job than making tee times for the other bowl directors.

With the Big Ten on the verge of becoming the Big Cheese, the Mountain West and Western Athletic conferences merging into the Big Mountain (and appointing Billy Packer commissioner), the Pac-10 morphing into the 12-Pac and all sorts of other expansion and realignment looming like Godzilla off the Japanese coast, another round of bowl system versus college football playoff discussions are soon to follow.

Not that these issues are joined at the hip pad. It’s just that college football media and fans have never needed much of a reason to debate the merits of the bowl system or a playoff, and these winds of change blowing across the plain will serve as the perfect segue for even more discourse.

This is when Kunzer-Murphy will be asked to swing a heavy gavel. Her primary responsibility as chairman of The Brotherhood of the Traveling Blazers is "to get the message out" about why the bowl system works better than a playoff. Unless, that is, there’s a perfect plan for a playoff that incorporates the bowls she has yet to see.

I won’t get into all the reasons she thinks her way is all that and a bowl of Tostitos, because there is an entire section on the FBA website (www.footballbowlassocation.com) devoted to it. Karl Marx would have been impressed by the propaganda — er, logic — of the FBA argument. Upon reading it, even I was beginning to think the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl isn’t such a bad idea.

I doubt, however, that Jim Rome would look at it the same way.

Although I see a lot of make-the-most-of-the current-setup value in a Bowl Championship Series-driven system, if applied to college basketball, Duke and Kentucky would have played for the national championship based on the regular-season computer rankings. Butler would have been lucky to receive a bid to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Kunzer-Murphy would say college football and college basketball are apples and oranges. She would say change is not always a good thing. For instance, look at the outcry when the NCAA wanted to expand March Madness from a many-splendid 65 teams to a not-so-splendid 96.

I would say that’s because the college basketball media and fans weren’t the ones pushing for that change. In the case of college football, they are.

I would also say that as chairman of the Football Bowl Association, she is going to be the one representing the bowl system on "The Jim Rome Show." I would then ask if she has Greg Shaheen’s cell phone number.

Shaheen is the NCAA vice president who served as mouthpiece for the proposed 96-team NCAA Tournament and became Public Enemy No. 1 with media and fans.

Kunzer-Murphy would say bring it on, coppers.

She said as chairman of the FBA, she will open herself to criticism. She understands it comes with the territory. But when it comes to the bowl system, she is more resolute than Woody Hayes on third-and-short on a dusty field. She believes in the cause.

"It’s not perfect," Kunzer-Murphy said in a tone both pleasant and persuasive toward the end of our hour-long conversation, "but the system we’ve got is great for so many reasons."

When I hung up the telephone, my head hurt. There was an imprint of a gavel upside it.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352.

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