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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse: Four-team football playoff insists on excellence

There have been organized attempts in big-time college football to have the nation’s two most qualified teams play for a national championship since 1992. The Bowl Coalition (1992-94) and Bowl Alliance (1995-97) had no chance for long-term success, since the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten and the Pacific-10 were not participants.

The Bowl Championship Series offered more legitimacy for 16 seasons from 1998 through 2013. The major glitch concerned the 2003 season. LSU beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game, and the Associated Press voted Southern California as its national champion.

There was seismic upheaval during the era of trying to crown a champion with a stand-alone title game. There were seven major conferences at the start in 1992 and five at the end in 2013.

The upheaval did lead to the best thing to happen since the pursuit to find an on-the-field champion started: the four-team College Football Playoff.

There’s a misconception the NCAA is in charge of this. The actuality is that it’s run by CFP Administration LLC, and the partners are the 10 conferences in what the NCAA terms the Football Bowl Subdivision of Division I athletics.

The partnership is very one-sided financially and influentially in favor of the 65 schools in the Power Five conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC and Big 12, plus Notre Dame), and that’s because they bring in the bucks.

The CFP decided to use a committee to select its four participants. After three years, we know this:

The culling process starts with the opening game of the season, not with conference play. And if you lose more than once from that opener through a potential conference title game, forget it.

The CFP committee got it right in 2014 with Oregon, Florida State, Alabama and Ohio State, got it right in 2015 with Clemson, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Alabama, and has it right again for this playoff with Washington, Ohio State, Clemson and Alabama.

Four is also the right number for this grand reason: The CFP now stands as the only play-down in major American sports in which there are hellacious standards of excellence to participate.

PLUS THREE

Myths used to promote an eight-team playoff in college football:

• Penn State deserves a shot as Big Ten champion. No, the Nittany Lions lost twice, including by 39 to Michigan.

• Washington’s nonconference schedule is an eliminator. No, Rutgers being this rotten wasn’t the Huskies’ fault.

• Western Michigan (13-0) deserves a shot. No, the Broncos would be a No. 8 seed and lose by 40 to Alabama.

 

Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at preusse@startribune.com.

Reusse: U volleyball has become a happening more than ever

Doug Beal has 24 more days to serve as the CEO for USA Volleyball. He could be spending one-third of that time preoccupied with an important family matter, that being the attempt of his daughter Maddie Beal and her teammates to give the Gophers volleyball program a first-ever NCAA title.

This isn’t a sport where an Alabama is an overwhelming favorite, and a playoff loss on the way to another national championship would be an astounding upset.

Division I volleyball is where the differences are razor thin at the top echelon, and even a team with the resilience and talent of the Gophers entered Friday’s round of 16 facing jeopardy against Missouri, with an excellent tradition and a 22-2 record over the past two months.

Doug Beal started playing volleyball in the fourth grade in Cleveland. He’s now 69 and earlier in 2016 announced that he would retire after his 12th year as the sport’s CEO in the U.S.

There isn’t much in that long association with the game that Beal finds more astounding than the tremendous skill level found at the college level in women's volleyball.

“We’ve always had great women players,’’ Beal said. “The players as a whole are more physical and powerful than 10 or 15 years ago. They jump so high, they hit so hard. I love it.’’

Minnesotans have seemed to join Beal in that sentiment as never before over the past month. Mike Hebert was hired away from Illinois in 1996. The growth into a potent program was complete by 1999, and the Gophers mostly have stayed in the mix near the top of the Big Ten in the ensuing seasons.

What also has happened in that time is that D-1 volleyball has gone from a sport where the power was located in the West, to a sport where the Big Ten has the fiercest level of competition.

Over the past decade, UCLA has the only West Coast championship, while Penn State and Nebraska have combined to win eight titles (and Texas the other).

“The Big Ten is so tough,’’ Beal said. “And the Big Ten Network has let more people discover that. That network has given a tremendous boost to the so-called Olympic sports.’’

Katie Harms is the president of the booster club for U of M volleyball. Her daughter Katherine was an All-America in 2012.

“My daughter was the previous player to wear No. 8 for the Gophers,’’ Harms said. “Sarah Wilhite was the next to have the number. She’s taken it and gone beyond … the Big Ten Player of the Year.’’

The mainstream media in the Twin Cities has never given the coverage to Gophers volleyball that this team has received recently. The players have dominated the Star Tribune’s sports front several times.

“It’s about time,’’ Harms said.

So, that’s your reaction?

“No, I think it’s great that this group is receiving so much attention,’’ Harms said. “It’s probably because of 'expectation'. Mike Hebert built a great program, but Hugh [McCutcheon] has brought an attitude to the program that says, ‘Why can’t it be us?’ He’s made it seem possible.’’

The possibility is a national title, and yet there was another reminder of the immense nature of the task on Friday.

The Gophers ended the Big Ten schedule with four straight victories over rated teams – Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin – and all took five sets.

They made quicker work of North Dakota and Hawaii (once a giant of women’s volleyball) last weekend, but the expectation was Missouri would be a different matter.

And the Tigers certainly were that when the teams took the break after two sets.

The Gophers were magnificent in the first set and rolled to a 25-15 victory. They showed some flaws in the second set, and that’s all it takes – some flaws – when you get to the last 16 in this tournament.

Missouri broke a 19-19 tie with four straight points and won the second set 25-21. That meant it was going to be a long night for the latest full house of exuberant fans in the Sports Pavilion.

The Tigers are undersized – at least by Big Ten standards. They also have a tremendous 5-foot-9 senior hitter in Carly Kan. She caused problems hammering away near the net and with her defensive skills.

The Gophers came out on fire after the 10-minute intermission. They held on to win the third set 25-19. And then they discovered the same brilliance from the first set in the stretch of the fourth set, turning a 13-11 lead into a 25-14 victory.

And Wilhite was unstoppable in that final set to put the Gophers in Saturday night's regional final. That had to make Katie Harms had to be extra proud in the legacy of No. 8.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

  • Vikings at Jacksonville

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Gophers women's basketball at South Carolina

    2 pm on SECN, 88.5-FM

  • Northern Illinois at Gophers men's basketball

    4 pm on 1500-AM

  • St. Louis at Wild

    5 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • Golden State at Timberwolves

    6 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Florida at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Chicago

    7 pm on ESPN, 830-AM

  • Belmont at Gophers women's basketball

    12 pm on 88.5-FM

  • LIU Brooklyn at Gophers men's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • Wild at Nashville

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Arizona at Wild

    1 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Houston at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

Today's Scoreboard

No MLB games today

No NFL games today

  • Milwaukee

    Washington

     

    - F

    105

    110

  • Denver

    Orlando

     

    - F

    121

    113

  • Portland

    Indiana

     

    - F

    111

    118

  • Charlotte

    Cleveland

     

    - F

    105

    116

  • Miami

    Chicago

     

    - F

    100

    105

  • Golden State

    Memphis

     

    - F

    89

    110

  • Dallas

    Houston

     

    - F

    87

    109

  • Brooklyn

    San Antonio

     

    - F

    101

    130

  • Sacramento

    Utah

     

    - F

    84

    104

  • New Orleans

    LA Clippers

     

    - F

    105

    133

  • Dallas

    Philadelphia

     

    - F

    2

    4

  • Ottawa

    Los Angeles

     

    - F

    1

    4

  • Toronto

    Boston

     

    - F

    4

    1

  • NY Islanders

    Columbus

     

    - F

    2

    6

  • Vancouver

    Florida

     

    - F

    2

    4

  • Colorado

    Montreal

     

    - F

    1

    10

  • Pittsburgh

    Tampa Bay

     

    - F

    4

    3

  • Nashville

    Arizona

     

    - F

    1

    4

  • Winnipeg

    Calgary

     

    - F

    2

    6

  • Carolina

    San Jose

     

    - F

    3

    4

  • Seattle

    Toronto FC

     

    - F

    0

    0