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Whining About Whining About the BCS

by Will Stewart
Reprinted by permission from: TechSideline.com, 7/12/05

Okay, time for a quick rant here: College football season is less than two months away - that's the good news. The bad news is that the whining about the BCS is right around the corner, too. Is it just me, or do the constant claims about how "the BCS is a mess" get on your nerves, too? Why take a great game like college football and ruin it by fussing about the BCS from mid-October to early January?

I'm probably alone in this, but I don't really care if the BCS selects its teams by having blind-folded midgets throw darts at a hippo's butt. I'm not a guy who feels a burning need to turn over every rock in a never-ending quest to make sure - darn sure - that the national champion crowned at the end of the season is agreed upon by everyone, holding hands and singing in harmony.

We have learned that at the end of the season, when participants in a championship are selected by some combination of humans and computers, there's always someone fussing. It doesn't matter if you're talking about the 65-team NCAA Tournament field in basketball or the two-team BCS championship game, the ones who get left on the outside, looking in with their noses pressed to the glass, are going to fuss. Fuss, fuss, fuss, whine, whine, whine.

Let's take last year in college football as an example. Three teams went undefeated: Auburn, USC, and Oklahoma. USC and Oklahoma played for the BCS championship, and Auburn didn't, and my how everyone fussed. Auburn sympathizers railed about how the system was flawed, and how they should have been in the championship game.

Well, guess what? If you plug Auburn in and exclude Oklahoma, the Sooner fans would fuss. Play Auburn versus Oklahoma, and the USC fans would fuss. The whining would have happened no matter what. That doesn't mean the BCS is flawed; it means three teams went undefeated, and one had to get left out. Suck it up and deal with it!

So the argument becomes that a playoff should be put in place, so "no one gets left out," and deserving teams like Auburn get to "play for the national championship." Really? If you have a four-team playoff, that no. 5 team's going to fuss about how the system is flawed. Play eight teams, and no. 9 is going to pitch a fit. Go with sixteen, and ... you get the idea.

I'm a college football fan. For me, the glory of the game is the tailgating, the camaraderie with the fans, and watching young men who work hard year-round finally get to compete on the field of play. There is enormous drama, excitement, and achievement in college football that has nothing to do with crowning a national champion. It's all about pride in your team and your university, and shaking your fist at the BCS means that you're taking your eyes off the prize. Don't forget to enjoy the game.

I think the BCS controversy, if you really want to call it that, is created and propagated by the media and isn't of much interest to the fans. I don't know about you, but I can't recall ever sitting around a tailgate and having an in-depth conversation about how the BCS works, and arguing about whether or not it was fair. It's primarily the sports media who cry out for a playoff and a "true" method of crowning a champion, because they're not fans of any one team, and their observation of college football takes place in a press box or a studio. For the fans, who have to travel to the games, purchase the tickets, and pay for the hotel rooms, the idea of chasing their favorite team around the country through an eight-team or 16-team tournament - sheesh, who's got the time and money for that?

Answer: the media, because their TV stations and newspapers and web sites would pay for those trips, and it's their job, anyway. Homer G. Fan has zero appetite for trying to decide if he should travel to Tuscon for the Wildcats' (name chosen at random) first-round playoff game, or hold off on traveling in the hopes that the Wildcats will win and play in round two closer to home, or in a more attractive city. Nah, give me the bowl system, where it's announced a month ahead of time where my team is going, so it's easy to plan, and it's the only trip I'm taking.

A playoff isn't going to happen. The NCAA presidents, the real decision-makers here, aren't interested in it. So we're stuck with the BCS. And in some years, your team might be one of the two chosen by the BCS, and in others, it might not be. Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.

Does the BCS have flaws? Sure, I guess. Nebraska going to the Rose Bowl a few years back was a joke, because they didn't even win their own conference. The BCS formula from a couple of years ago, which was so heavily weighted towards strength of schedule, was also ridiculous. (Any system that would have excluded the 1999 VT team from the championship game is definitely flawed, and the system that was in place in 2002, according to computer guru Kenneth Massey, would have excluded VT.)

And the notion that coaches change their votes in the coaches' poll to manipulate the BCS rankings is a little disgusting. Last season, Cal dropped from #4 in the next-to-last BCS poll (automatic inclusion in a BCS bowl) to #5, dropping them from the Rose Bowl to a second-tier bowl. Bill Brill (beloved to Hokie fans as he is) had some interesting comments in a May article posted in the ACC Area Sports Journal:

What we know is that several members of the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll changed their votes in the final ballot, enabling Texas to jump past California [into 4th in the BCS] and therefore qualifying for the BCS ... What was never made public was that two people in the poll voted Texas second and dropped Cal to eighth, even though the Bears won a difficult, rescheduled game at Southern Miss in their finale to go 10-1, with the only loss being a last-second deal against USC.

... And why mention [Texas head coach] Mack [Brown], the former North Carolina coach? Because he has conceded to some Texas writers that he did exactly that, voted his own team second while dropping Cal, which remained fourth in the Associated Press rankings and ahead of Texas.

Who might the other voter have been who did precisely the same thing? A reasonable guess is that it was Watson Brown, the Alabama-Birmingham coach and Mack's brother.

That's all interesting conspiracy-theory stuff, and if true, stinks to the high heavens. But when you get right down to it, I'm not going to storm the castle, demanding changes. I just don't get that excited about trying to tweak the BCS until it's juuuust riiiight.

Am I alone on this? You're the average fan. What do you think? And that's not just a thinly-disguised query to create message board traffic; I'm legitimately interested in what you think. Because me, I don't care if the BCS uses the coaches' poll, the Harris Poll and six computers, or if it uses three Vulcans, a Swiss watch, and, well, midgets and hippos.

In the meantime, sorry to waste five minutes of your life with yet another article about the BCS. At least this time, instead of complaining about the BCS, I'm complaining about the complaining about the BCS. Bet that's the first time you've ever read an article where that was thetopic.

Also See:
Lack of Quality Leadership Opens The BCS To Annual Controversy

BCS Bashing Has Big Bandwagon
Did BCS Do The Right Things With Its Changes?
Computer Rankings and National Titles



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