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Kickoff Classic May Be Booted


Despite raising millions of dollars for scholarships while ushering in the college football season over the past 15 years, the Kickoff Classic soon may be kicked out by the NCAA.

The dilemma has been the recent increase in the number of these preseason bowl games from two to four and an emerging desire by some schools to increase the regular season from 11 to 12 games.

A proposal to eliminate all preseason games will be voted on by the NCAA Management Council in January and then go to the 15-member Division I board of directors later in the month.

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  • If it passes, the Kickoff Classic, which will pit No. 2 Florida State against No. 14 Texas A&M on Monday night, could end with the game in 2002.

    The group that runs the game -- the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority -- doesn't want that to happen.

    "Obviously we believe that this game has been terrific for college football, particularly its support for student-athletes and the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame," said Dennis Robinson, the chief executive of the sports authority. "We believe it deserves a place in college football."

    The NCAA Division I Championships and Competition Cabinet recently recommended that preseason games be banned after 2002. Member institutions have until Sept. 18 to comment. The proposal then will be considered by the Management Council in October, go back to the schools for more comment before the Management Council vote in January.

    "Any time you get into exempted games, you run into the potential for abuse," said Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther, whose subcommittee originated that recommendation. "We have all kinds of criteria for postseason games, but we don't have the same criteria for preseason games."

    The first Kickoff Classic was played in 1983 and the Pigskin Classic was added in 1990. The lineup this year also included two games Saturday: Colorado State-Michigan State in the Black Coaches Association game, and Louisiana Tech-Nebraska in the Eddie Robinson Football Classic.

    Purdue plays Southern California in the Pigskin Classic Sunday.

    Rutgers athletic director Robert E. Mulcahy would love to see the Kickoff Classic continue. He was the driving force behind the start of the game while serving as the chief executive of the sports authority, which runs the game for the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.

    Since 1983, The Football Foundation and Hall of Fame has received more than $6 million, while NACDA has gotten $4.5 million, Mulcahy said, noting that most of that money goes for scholarship grants.

    "My position has been if they were to vote to discontinue the game, then at least out of the (bowl) alliance, take the money to back the football foundation," Mulcahy said. "I have gotten a pretty good reception to that. There is a responsibility there."

    Mulcahy has very fond memories of the Kickoff Classic, particularly the first - Nebraska's 44-6 win over Penn State. He also mentioned Alabama's 16-10 win over Ohio State and Tennessee's last-second 23-22 decision over Iowa.

    "The fact that we played the first game and sold it out and had two national powers was a thrill," Mulcahy said. "In addition to that, the fact that we were able to lure most of the tradition-rich programs to the game is probably the satisfaction that I have achieved out of it."

    Mulcahy said it would be almost impossible to keep the Kickoff Classic active by making it a postseason bowl.

    "The problem with a bowl game in the north is the weather," he said. "It just doesn't sell and you need so much money. Unless there was a dome in the northeast, I don't see it happening."

    Michael Graime, The Sports Authority's director of college athletics, felt that even if the NCAA banned the preseason games, there was still hope for the Kickoff Classic.

    "A lot can happen in four years," he said. "We will do everything in our power to make those in power now and at other appropriate times to see we have met and continue to meet our original charge."

    © 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved