The Fifth Down

President's column:
Is the Sugar Bowl a BCS imposter?

There was a time when the Sugar Bowl was the sweetest college football production on New Year's Day.

Fans and media alike enjoyed the novelty of good times and Cajun food in the French Quarter leading up to an event at a facility that lived up to its name, the Superdome.

Somewhere between then and now, a 30-year-old imposter showed up playing backup cornerback for Texas before the 1995 Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. It took a while for the Longhorns to realize it; few are prone to question identity without cause.

Hurricane Katrina and imposing crime statistics, however, have given us reason to take a closer look at New Orleans as a sports destination city. Is the Sugar Bowl an imposter among the BCS sites?

Houston Rockets star Tracy McGrady, in a copyrighted March 1 Houston Chronicle story, said he was so concerned about safety in New Orleans that he would consider skipping the NBA All-Star game next year if it's held there as scheduled.

In this issue of The Fifth Down:
President's column: Sugar Bowl a BCS imposter?
Nagurski Legends Award to be unveiled
Outland Trophy watch list
Nagurski Trophy watch list
All-America checklist (.pdf)
Grantland Rice Poll revamped
Lodge notes

"I don't think it's the right city to have this type of event right now," McGrady said. "I know the city is in need of trying to get back on its feet, but safety comes first."

But ready or not, here we come, the BCS cycle having dropped the national title game on Jan. 7, 2008, in the middle of the Mardis Gras metropolis once more. The FWAA will also conduct is annual meetings there Jan. 5-8 New Orleans isn't what it used to be, having become the rough among BCS diamonds. The Superdome seems less super each year. There are more proficient work conditions for press at other BCS sites.

Anyone who has covered a John Junker-Shawn Schoeffler produced Fiesta Bowl knows how good things can be at bowl championship sites.

Enter Duane Lewis, a 35-year-old Plaquemine, La., native who has returned to his home state to take over as the Sugar Bowl's Director of Communications. Lewis spent 10 years with the St. Louis Rams, working five Super Bowls and most recently serving as director of news media.

"Contributing to a bowl of this magnitude and tradition was an exciting opportunity," said Lewis, a graduate of Southern University. "I'm in the process of accessing how the Sugar Bowl has operated and what I can do to make it better." Lewis' e-mail address is He wants to hear from you.

The Sugar Bowl has guaranteed wireless Internet, Ethernet and a pool of phones for deadline writers in the press box. Shuttles will run on media day and game day, and the media hotel will be the Marriott Convention Center, where player and coach press conferences will be held.

Charles Bloom, whose titles include SEC BCS Media Coordinator, SEC associate commissioner and incoming President of CoSIDA, believes the Sugar Bowl will be ready.

"The Sugar Bowl made a tremendous hire with Duane," Bloom said. "It has made the commitment with personnel as well as financially to host a first-class media operation."

SEC commissioner Mike Slive, acting BCS Commissioner, addressed concerns about the city of New Orleans at the FWAA breakfast in Phoenix.

Ask not what New Orleans can do for you, Slive said, but what you can do for New Orleans.

A better question might be to ask what's best for college football.

Dallas is building a $1 billion stadium, and make no mistake about it, the Cotton Bowl would jump into the BCS quickly if given the opportunity.

It's up to New Orleans to take advantage of this opportunity to hold serve in the rotation. As Bloom said, a great deal of time and resources has been put into it, not to mention the trust of collegiate football's most visible entity, the championship game.

FWAA president Mike Griffith covers college football for the Knoxville News Sentinel. He can be reached at


Bert McGrane Award nominees: Mark Blaudshun (
Volney Meece Scholarship nominees: Dave Sittler (
Website, National Team of the Week: Ted Gangi (
Membership Directory: Charlie Fiss, Goodyear Cotton Bowl (
Ethics/Press Relations Committee: Kirk Bohls (
College Football Playoff Liaison: Gina Lehe, College Football Playoff (
Eddie Robinson Award: Steve Richardson (
Fifth Down Blog/FWAA Best Writing Contest: Ken Stephens (
Bronko Nagurski Trophy: John Rocco, Charlotte Touchdown Club (
Outland Trophy, All-America Team: Steve Richardson (
Super 16 Poll: Phil Marwill, National Football Foundation (
Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award: Matt Fortuna (
Freshman All-America Team: Mike Griffith (

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