December 7, 2007

Good Morning:

I had a late night Saturday as I stayed up to watch Hawaii defeat Washington and earn a trip to the Sugar Bowl. Besides a reward for their undefeated season, their hard work, dedication and exceptional talent, Hawaii's invitation to the Sugar Bowl represents an opportunity that would have been off-limits just a few years ago to this great and deserving group of kids.

Like our own Green Wave who went undefeated in 1998, the Hawaii Warriors would have been shut out of a major bowl game this year simply because they play in a conference outside the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) that determines college football's champion. This inequity was remedied four years ago when a small group of college presidents from the non-BCS conferences fought for a change in the system and were successful. The end result was the addition of a fifth bowl and greater access to the BCS for teams usually excluded in the past.

A lot has changed in New Orleans since 2003 when I was one of the presidents leading this reform movement. As I sometimes tell reporters when they ask me how I feel about our achievement, which has led to greater fairness and parity in college football, I say, "I have not given it much thought because I have been otherwise occupied."

However, the work of the college presidents who gathered fours years ago, both those who represented the BCS schools and those of us who petitioned for change, is worthy of note. The results have shown that when people with vastly divergent and strongly held opinions gather in a spirit of collegiality and goodwill, good things can happen. Like so many moments in sports this could well serve as an example for the larger, more vexing challenges of life.

Besides being more just and equitable for all, this new arrangement also gives New Orleans the opportunity to host two major sporting events next month: the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 and, just one week later, the National Championship game. These games will no doubt be a big boost to New Orleans' recovering economy and give our city the chance to shine, once again, in the national spotlight. I am pleased beyond words that New Orleans will benefit so much from the change we fought for years ago. That was my hope at the time but little did I know then that the fruits of this victory would come at such a critical time in our city's history.

Have a great weekend,


Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638