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Attendance is best way for C-USA to break tie

Jan. 12, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

The Bowl Championship Series is finally dead.

May it rest in pieces.

The collateral benefit to the BCS' demise is Conference USA members are rid of the flawed tie-breaker system that determined the host of the league championship game.

Remember that?

That is what sentenced Marshall to the purgatory of having to play the C-USA championship game at Rice.

Marshall got hammered, 41-24, thanks to the Herd's players and coaches sulking about not playing in Huntington. And C-USA got hammered public relations-wise because a national telecast revealed about 3,000 fans in the stands.

It was a lose-lose situation.

That's why it feels good to throw a few more dirt clods on the BCS' grave.

But enough eulogizing.

It's time to move forward and find a new tie-breaker for C-USA that is fair, reasonable and productive.

Here's a suggestion.

Allow the schools' average home attendance to be the ultimate tie-breaker.

As it is now, C-USA doesn't reward members for having good support. Is that justice? I don't think so. The schools that promote their football team the best and draw the biggest crowds should be saluted.

After all, what is the life blood of the league?

Ticket revenue.

So, it only stands to reason the schools' with the best attendance should reap some sort of benefit. Take the 2013 league championship game, for example. If it had been played in Edwards Stadium, there would have been a crowd of at least 30,000 fans or, perhaps, even a sellout.

At Rice?

It was an embarrassment of empty seats.

But if average home attendance had been the tie-breaker instead of the convoluted and irrelevant highest BCS ranking, Marshall would have hosted the title game. That's because the Herd averaged 25,023 fans compared to Rice's 18,493.

Granted, Rice's so-called attendance illustrates a sticking point about utilizing average home attendance as the tie-breaker because Rice's attendance obviously was grossly exaggerated. And I'm not just picking on Rice. The Owls have plenty of company in C-USA. That's a problem within the league.

Members hide behind the nefarious "tickets sold" dodge when announcing attendance, which far too often is no indication of how many actual posteriors in seats there were.

That was the case in Marshall's games at Middle Tennessee, which announced 19,898 fans when there were about 5,000; at FAU, which announced 19,760 for a crowd that looked like 7,000; and FIU, which had the gall to announce 15,891 for a crowd of about 3,000.

There needs to be heightened accountability, both figuratively and literally.

Yet, I'm still an advocate of using the average home attendance as the ultimate tie-breaker. Just consider C-USA's 2013 attendance leaders.

East Carolina was No. 1 with 43,985; followed by UTSA, 29,214; UTEP, 28,375; Marshall, 25,023; Southern Miss, 22,752; and North Texas, 21,030.

Realistically, should any school that can't average at least 20,000 fans at home games be allowed to host a C-USA football championship game?

No.

There has to be some standards. And requiring a minimum average home attendance of 20,000 is reasonable and justifiable.

It's time for Conference USA to encourage better attendance by rewarding members with the best fan bases.

This proposed tie-breaker would accomplish that.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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