USC’s sideline will be a lot less star-studded than usual next week, and Texas fan Matthew McConaughey will have to take a seat this time around.
The Rose Bowl, acting on a directive from bowl championship series administrators that also applies to the other three BCS bowl games, is cracking down on sideline access for Wednesday night’s national championship showdown between top-ranked USC and second-ranked Texas.
BCS officials wanted a safer and more “collegiate” atmosphere to be presented, BCS administrator Bill Hancock said this week, and to ensure that the focus of the game stays on the athletes competing on the field rather than on “outsiders.”
That means celebrities such as McConaughey, an actor and Texas graduate who prowled the Rose Bowl sideline a year ago wearing a burnt orange leather jacket, will have to sit with the masses.
“People there to watch,” Hancock said, “should be in the stands.”
Hancock blanched at calling the crackdown an edict, saying that the BCS simply wanted bowl administrators and participating schools to more closely follow existing NCAA rules regarding sideline management.
USC and Texas argued that former players should not be included in the ban, and Friday they said they’d reached a compromise with the BCS: Each team will be given five “wild-card” sideline passes, to be issued only to former players.
Now comes the hard part: Choosing who will get them.
A list of those who won’t be granted sideline access, according to the BCS crackdown, includes Lance Armstrong and Roger Clemens. The seven-time Tour de France winner and seven-time Cy Young Award winner were among those who sought field-level access from Texas, a school spokesman said, as were Laker center Chris Mihm and actors McConaughey, Dennis Quaid and Rex Linn.
Among the numerous former Longhorn players seeking sideline passes was 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams of the Miami Dolphins.
A USC spokesman declined to reveal who had sought sideline access from the Trojans, but a long list of celebrities who watched games from the Coliseum turf this season included filmmakers George Lucas and Spike Lee, actresses Kirsten Dunst and Alyssa Milano, singer Nick Lachey and a who’s-who of hip-hop royalty, including Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Andre 3000 of OutKast.
Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, Anthony Munoz and Anthony Davis are among the many former Trojans who have supported their alma mater from the sideline.
Wednesday should be no different, USC Coach Pete Carroll said Friday.
“I really think it’s a mistake not to let as many people into this game as possible,” he said. “I know you’ve got to be secure and all of that, but we have played our games with people on the sidelines and it adds to the experience, I think. So I don’t understand ... why it would be so limited?
“We’ve played in that setting for years, and I think it adds to the game and the excitement of it. The connection between the players and fans is [unique], and when you have that opportunity I think it adds something positive to the game.”
A Dec. 8 directive from BCS management sought to limit sideline access, in accordance with NCAA rules, “in the interest of safety for the student-athletes, appropriate security and proper game management.”
Hancock said this week that the 12 men who manage the BCS -- 11 Division I-A commissioners, plus Notre Dame Athletic Director Kevin White -- were concerned that “perhaps we were losing the collegiate atmosphere. And because the NCAA already had rules in place it was an easy thing to advise our friends the bowl administrators that the commissioners would like to see the rules enforced.”
According to the NCAA’s 2005-06 postseason football handbook, “Sideline credentials should be distributed only to individuals who have responsibilities that require their presence on the field.”
The bench area, NCAA rules state, must be limited to 60 credentialed individuals not in uniform, among them the coaching and medical staffs, managers and “other designated team personnel directly involved in administering the conduct of the game.”
(In bowl games, players not suited up but wearing official game jerseys also are permitted in the team area between the 25-yard lines.)
Sideline-management rules generally are winked at during the regular season, which may be why the BCS agreed to this week’s compromise, Hancock said.
“Because the rule hadn’t been enforced during the regular season,” he said, “some of these [former] players had rather high expectations about being on the sidelines. It put the institutions in a bind.”
So the NCAA, Hancock said, agreed to waive its sideline-management rules for a small group of former players. It will review them after the bowl season.
“But,” he said, “there was no debate about the celebrity issue.”
They’re on their own.
Times staff writer David Wharton contributed to this report.