March 31, 2011

Three And Out: Bowl in high cotton?

Here is this week's "Three And Out," a weekly feature that will provide a quick but opinionated take from Tom Dienhart on three hot topics.

1. Bowl in high cotton? When the BCS series began in 1998, the Cotton Bowl was excluded from the rotation. Now, thanks to missteps by the Fiesta Bowl, the Cotton Bowl may have a chance to reclaim its rightful spot as an elite bowl alongside the Rose, Sugar and Orange bowls as part of the BCS rotation. The Fiesta Bowl's status as part of the BCS coalition is in jeopardy because of illicit dealings by CEO John Junker, who was fired amid multiple investigations of alleged financial misconduct. The BCS honchos are ticked, and the Fiesta Bowl will be given a chance to meet with BCS officials to prove its worthiness. If the Fiesta Bowl is unable to get back into the good graces of the BCS, the Cotton Bowl appears poised to step up and fill the void. The Cotton Bowl has a rich legacy and for years stood shoulder to shoulder with the Rose, Sugar and Orange bowls as part of the American landscape of holiday traditions. It's time to welcome the Cotton Bowl past the velvet rope and into to college football's VIP bowl room. The Cotton Bowl is played in the best venue in America: gaudy and gargantuan Cowboys Stadium. In addition to the Cotton Bowl the past two seasons, Jerry Jones' palace has played host to myriad big college games, as well as last season's Super Bowl. This showcase stadium is aching for another showcase event. And it deserves one.

2. When's the first game? Auburn is challenging Ohio State for the honor of "worst offseason." In January, the Tigers' best players -- Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton and Lombardi Award-winning defensive tackle Nick Fairley -- declared early for the NFL draft. In February, an Alabama fan said he poisoned the live oak trees at Toomer's Corner in a "prank" that took SEC fan lunacy to another level. In March, the program was rocked when four players -- including two-year starting S Mike McNeill -- were kicked off the team after being arrested and charged with robbery, burglary and theft. Don't forget that the NCAA still is sniffing around to see if Newton's recruitment to Auburn was illegal. Then came Tuesday night, when HBO aired a report featuring four former Auburn players providing details of how they allegedly received money from boosters. It seems as if Auburn won the national championship three years ago, not less than three months ago.

3. What's going on in Knoxville? The revelation by New York Jets quarterback Erik Ainge that he abused painkillers while playing at Tennessee casts a poor light on the university. In an interview with, Ainge admits "by the time I was a senior in college, I was an addict." The report said Ainge's drug use began before he arrived in Knoxville but escalated during his time on campus. Aren't players drug-tested at Tennessee? Can't a member of the athletic training staff or a team physician spot someone with an addition that supposedly was as severe as Ainge describes his to be? This is the latest in a string of black eyes suffered by the Vols' athletic department.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for He can be reached at, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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