Notebook > Sports

Poll vault

Sports | With the AP's decision to pull out of the BCS poll, the thought of a unified national championship is over

Issue: "Tsunami," Jan. 15, 2005

After eight years of tweaking and critique, one letter did more to spell the end of the Bowl Championship Series than any on-field controversy. Two weeks before USC crushed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl national championship game, an Associated Press executive sent the Bowl Championship Series a cease-and-desist letter telling the conglomerate to stop using AP polls in the BCS formulas.

University presidents and conference executives installed the BCS in 1998 in response to the split national championship of Michigan and Nebraska the year before. Without the AP poll, the BCS loses precious credibility and its core purpose-to create a unified national championship. Last season, AP voters bucked the BCS and chose to crown USC while the coaches' poll awarded LSU top honors. BCS commissioner Kevin Weiberg said he was sorry to see the AP poll pullout, but insisted the BCS system will live on. He noted that the BCS carries a TV deal with Fox through 2010. In the meantime, Mr. Weiberg and other BCS officials will scramble to find some replacement for the AP poll in the calculations. A selection committee (as in college basketball) might replace the media poll in the calculations. But if the era of a unified national championship ever really started, it's now over.

Cash flow

What will superagent Scott Boras do if the Yankees aren't willing to overpay for his clients? The Yankees, long regarded as baseball's most cavalier and reckless spenders, seem to be pulling back. After a bit of courting, the Yankees front office seemed to lose interest in Carlos Beltran. And Mr. Beltran isn't your average free agent. He's fast, dynamic, young, a power hitter, and plays center field. In other words: He's exactly what the aging Yankees need.

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So why have the Yankees told Mr. Beltran and his agent Mr. Boras to go fish? Maybe after a few years of spending big without winning championships, George Steinbrenner suddenly turned frugal. Or maybe someone in the Yankees front office discovered that you have to sell a lot of peanuts and Cracker Jack to afford New York's $205 million 2005 payroll. After shelling out to bring future Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson, no one could exactly call the Yankees miserly. Scott Boras once counted on George Steinbrenner's bank account and the Yankees custom of driving up prices. If the Yankees have found their spending limit, at least one New York baseball team may be willing to spend more. Mr. Boras can always look to the Mets.

Around the Horn

· Baseball's Angels just went big city without even moving an inch, as the league's most schizophrenic franchise once again decided to change its name. After eight seasons as the Anaheim Angels, the Orange County team wants to call itself the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim next season. Angels ownership said they made the change to attract a broader fan base. The City of Anaheim says the name change violates the team's long contract with the city.

· Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb had one more thing to worry about besides entering the NFL postseason without star receiver Terrell Owens-scammers. A Maryland man phoned Mr. McNabb posing as a former teammate and asked him to wire $600 to a grocery store. Mr. McNabb wired the money, and the man, 29-year-old Lewis Stills, sought another victim. But his next target wasn't so trusting. Posing as Washington receiver Laveranues Coles, Mr. Stills asked Oakland tackle Warren Sapp to send $1,800. Mr. Sapp became suspicious and tipped off the police, who picked up Mr. Stills trying to claim his money transfer.

· Instead of being called the Run for the Roses, perhaps the Kentucky Derby should be called the Run for the Green. Churchill Downs announced it would double the winner's purse to $2 million this year. The Kentucky Derby joins three Breeders' Cup events as the sport's richest races.

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