NEW ORLEANS — NEW ORLEANS - Perhaps the newest debate to emerge from the Bowl Championship Series format since the final rankings were announced last month is the fact that the coaches must vote for the winner of the designated national championship game as the No. 1 team in the country.
That means the 37 coaches who vote in the ESPN/USA Today poll were obligated to pick either No. 2 LSU or No. 3 Oklahoma after last night's Nokia Sugar Bowl, even if they believed that No. 1 Southern California was the best team. Several coaches have voiced their dilemma in recent weeks.
BCS coordinator Mike Tranghese shared that concern yesterday during a breakfast with the Football Writers of America, many of whose members vote in the Associated Press poll and were expected to select the Trojans No. 1.
"I can tell you the six commissioners do not take any delight or pleasure in having to defend a poll we didn't want to have in the first place," said Tranghese, the Big East commissioner. "I don't think we have a choice but to take a hard look at this."
The BCS has two years left with its current format, which means there will be no major changes to the system until after the 2005 season. Tranghese and his counterparts from the five other BCS conferences are expected to discuss ways to improve the system when they meet in April.
Among the possible changes that could be made for next season would be to ensure that a team would have to win its conference championship in order to be eligible for a BCS invitation.
Tranghese also said several issues will be discussed in the coming months, including eliminating computers from the selection process - perhaps replaced by a committee composed of members from the BCS conferences - and adding a BCS game.
"It's just not a single issue," Tranghese said. "Every time you add a twist, there's an unintended consequence."
Tranghese said in an interview with the Associated Press on Saturday that he has received strong signals from university presidents that they are not interested in a playoff, no matter what the payoff.
"The university presidents in charge of the system have told us not to go down that road," he said.
With Oklahoma's offense struggling against LSU in the Nokia Sugar Bowl, the Sooners' special teams provided a spark.
Down 7-0 midway through the second quarter, Oklahoma's Brandon Shelby blocked the punt of LSU's Donnie Jones deep in LSU territory. Oklahoma's Russell Dennison recovered at the Tigers' 2-yard line.
The Sooners took three plays to tie the score, tailback Kejuan Jones slamming into the end zone with 7:31 left in the first half.
Stoops gets raise
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops got a raise before the Sugar Bowl kicked off, but there was plenty of financial incentive for Stoops to win the game.
Stoops, the highest paid coach in college football, got a $100,000 raise on New Year's Day, as provided for in his seven-year deal, according to The Oklahoman. The newspaper reported that this boosts his salary to $2.3 million. Another provision in his contract provides for a $150,000 bonus for winning the national title.
Stoops' contract also includes these incentives: $100,000 for making it to the BCS title game, $50,000 for a Top 10 ranking in the final BCS standings, $37,500 for making it to the Big 12 championship game, $25,000 for being named the Big 12 Coach of the Year.
Stoops was hired at $625,000 in December of 1998 but received three raises in the next 30 months. A Sugar Bowl victory would have boosted his total package to more than $2.5 million this year.
LSU coach Nick Saban's contract contained a provision that, with a national title, he must be the highest-paid college coach by at least $1. He is making $1.6 million this season.
Security measures were stringent at the Superdome with the nation's terror alert on high.
A temporary chain-link fence was erected around the Superdome and people entering the game were subjected to some pat-down searches and metal-detector scans. The dome parking garage also was closed to the public.
Eli Manning on hand
New Orleans native Eli Manning got several free tickets to the Sugar Bowl from his father, Archie, who took off for Indianapolis to watch one of his other sons, Peyton, in the Colts' playoff game against Denver.
Eli Manning said he attended the Colts' playoff rout at the hands of the Jets last season, "and I thought I might be bad luck."
The Colts beat Denver handily yesterday, so Eli Manning said he doesn't expect to be in Kansas City for the Colts' next game, either.
Manning, who finished his college career at Mississippi with a Cotton Bowl victory Friday, said he had no rooting interest in the Sugar Bowl.
"It's hard for me to root for LSU just because they're a rival," he said. "But at the same time, you want the SEC to win, so I'm just going to watch the game and enjoy it."
Three LSU players have ties to the Baltimore-Washington area: second-year freshman tailback and special teams player Barrington Edwards (Bowie), sophomore tight end David Jones (Silver Spring) and freshman punter Patrick Fisher (Hyattsville).
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper, and the Associated Press contributed to this article.