Holtz sounds off at Cotton Bowl HOF induction

ARLINGTON, Texas —  If former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz has his way, a four-team playoff would occur after the bowl games to determine college football’s national champion.

“Let’s go back and let’s finish all bowls on Jan. 1,” Holtz said Thursday. “After Jan. 1, let’s take the top four teams… Then all of a sudden we’ve got a better criteria, and not only that it would create interest.”

Holtz normally espouses his opinions via television on Saturdays in the fall. This time, he was speaking to the media at the AT&T Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at Cowboys Stadium.

Holtz was inducted into the bowl’s hall along with Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray, BYU linebacker Shay Muirbrook, Arkansas defensive tackle Jim Williams and Texas linebacker/defensive back Tom Campbell.

The ceremony was overflowing with college football legends in attendance, including former coaches Frank Broyles, Jackie Sherrill, R.C. Slocum and Ken Hatfield. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown was also there in support of Holtz.

While history was being celebrated, the BCS continues to look at making an historic change to the way it determines a national champion. Several proposed formats are being looked at, including the one Holtz supports that would result in a four-team playoff.

The key components to Holtz’ plan is that the bowls would remain intact, but would regain the conference affiliations they had prior to the BCS.

“Let’s not get rid of bowls, because you aren’t going to tell my son (Skip) that when he was at East Carolina and he beat Boise State in a bowl game that that wasn’t a great experience for his players,” Holtz said.

“You go back and say we’re going to pick the four teams after [the bowls], all of a sudden every game has great interest, great impact. And all of a sudden there’s going to be unbelievable interest in not just the one game, in all the games.”

Holtz said his plan would not lessen the importance of the regular season and would actually put meaning back into many of the bowls that seem to serve only as television programming.

“You won’t be messing with it (the regular season) because you aren’t actually having a playoff,” Holtz said. “What I think is a mistake is to pick the two teams at the end of the season. Why not have the bowl games, now we’ve got one more game to evaluate it? And if we finish on Jan. 1 you can still have two more games, or three games, and determine it.

“But you would have another round to really ascertain who are the very best teams, that’s what I propose strongly.”

Of course, by having bowls tied directly to conference champions, Holtz concedes there would need to be an exception made for independents such as Notre Dame.

“I think Notre Dame should have access because Notre Dame is special,” Holtz said. “Notre Dame will be back. I’m surprised they haven’t been back long before now. They have too much going for them. They can still recruit. No reason they shouldn’t.”

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was also at the AT&T Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame ceremonies, and it’s his stadium that could play a role in the revamped championship format. With luxurious Cowboys Stadium centrally located in the economically vibrant Dallas-Fort Worth region, the Cotton Bowl could attain BCS status, or perhaps Cowboys Stadium could serve as a permanent site for the national championship game.

“I don’t see how you can keep the Cotton Bowl out,” Holtz said. “You look at this environment. You look at this stadium. You look at this city. You look at the interest. I just don’t see how the Cotton Bowl cannot be among the very best bowls in the country. And this is an unbelievable facility Jerry’s built.”

As for who will be in the running for the national championship this year, Holtz listed a number of teams.

“It isn’t who’s going to be No. 1 to start, it’s who’s going to get better during the year,” Holtz said. “Alabama should be very good. LSU’s got question marks at quarterback. South Carolina could be very good. But Oregon is a team to watch out for, and Southern Cal and Florida State.

“When you look at it Oklahoma should, but they’ve had a way of disappointing the last several years.”

Holtz cast a similarly broad net while discussing Heisman candidates before settling on USC’s Matt Barkley as the frontrunner.

“It would be hard to pick right now, but I tell you, A.J. McCarron, I spoke at Nick Saban’s clinic this year, that A.J. McCarron, he’s a vastly improved quarterback,” Holtz said.

“Knile Davis, the running back at Arkansas, if he comes back as strong as he was, he’s awfully good. But you have to look at the quarterback at Southern Cal.

“I think you’d have to look at the quarterback at Oregon (currently a battle between Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota). I think it will probably be a quarterback in all probability, but the Southern Cal quarterback would be awful hard to go against.”

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire