Thursday, October 22, 2009

The BCS – There is No Defending the Indefensible

So now the geniuses who run the BCS have decided that the answer to their problems is better spinning.

A story in yesterday's Sports Business Journal reports that the BCS is considering hiring someone whose job would be to defend the BCS against people like me--and many, many others--who think it is a complete and utter sham. In fact, John Marinatto, the new commissioner of The Big East, who as of now would be in charge of the BCS next year--the ACC's John Swofford is doing it right now--is quoted as saying that the BCS commissioners believe they have not done a good enough job of "defending the BCS."

Oh please.

This is like saying that Ron Ziegler didn't do a good enough job of defending Richard Nixon during Watergate or that Dan Snyder's problems in Washington right now are the result of lousy PR. You can't defend the indefensible.

It's worth noting that the man who actually runs the BCS day-to-day and tries as best he can to explain it to the rest of the world in terms that will make it sound as if has some semblance of fairness is Bill Hancock. You can't possibly hire anyone better than Bill Hancock to be your out-front guy on something. There isn't anyone who knows Hancock or has worked with him who doesn't respect and like him. He's smart, he's committed and he's always prepared. He worked for the NCAA for years and was one of those people who, rather than citing some arcane reason why the answer to any and all questions was no, always tried to find a way to say yes.

So, if the BCS boys think they're going to find someone who is going to "defend," them better than Hancock, they have completely lost touch with reality.

What is most galling about the BCS other than the fact that it is a completely unfair system that does not NEED to exist other than to feed the pocketbooks of the 66 schools and the egos of their presidents, is that there isn't anyone involved who will even CONSIDER the notion that a playoff is the fairest and best thing--not to mention the most lucrative--that can happen to Division 1-A college football. (You can tell the NCAA what it can do with its fancy new names for Division 1-A and 1-AA by the way).

They won't consider listening to President Obama or perhaps more importantly the players and coaches who compete in the actual games. They keep talking about making improvement and tweaking the system. When your car has four flat tires, changing one of them doesn't do much good.

Last spring the BCS held meetings to allegedly study the system. The guy in charge at the time, Oregon President David Frohnmayer came out of the meetings to tell us that everything was fine that it was those criticizing the BCS who had the problem, not the BCS.

The BCS defense is built, to be honest, on a bunch of lies. Once more time, let's go through them:
              --A playoff system would hurt the 'student-athletes,' academically. Lie. Football players taking part in a three round playoff that would begin on January 1 would miss almost no class and would miss far LESS class than the basketball players who take part in the NCAA Tournament smack in the middle of a semester or a trimester, often just prior to exams.

              --A playoff system would hurt the tradition of the bowls. LIE. Again, if you had an eight team playoff, you rotate the seven games among seven of the bowls. For argument's sake let's say they are The Rose, Fiesta, Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Gator and Citrus. Four host quarterfinals on January 1; two host semi-finals a week later--whatever is the closest Saturday on the calendar and the championship game is held the week in-between the NFL's conference finals and The Super Bowl. There would be NO CHANGE in the role of the second-tier bowls. All those six loss teams could still trumpet being "bowl eligible." What makes this argument even more hypocritical is that the NCAA is currently handing out bowl sanctions like a politician hands out lawn signs. New Year's Day has lost almost all of its meaning as a day when major bowls are played. Can't wait for the new "Dallas Bowl," to kickoff in a year with Illinois (6-6) taking on SMU (7-5). Must See TV right there.

             --Three games would be too much of a financial burden for traveling fans. Lie. Do those fans with the bucks to travel three straight weeks culminating at The Final Four seem to have a problem? Do you think there would be ANY trouble selling out any of the playoff games (Most of the bowls these days play to lots of empty seats? Anyone get a good look at the stands during the Virginia Tech-Cincinnati Orange Bowl last year?). You start a playoff and someone's team is in it, they'll find a way to be there--especially the championship game which would involve only two sets of fans traveling as opposed to the Final Four which (surprise) involves four sets of fans.

             --The BCS makes the regular season more meaningful than a playoff would. LIE. The last three weeks of the regular season in college basketball are filled with speculation about who is in, who is out, who is on the bubble, who is going to get the No. 1 seeds--it is endless. Every game is a big game for different reasons. Right now, two undefeated teams--Boise State and TCU--KNOW they will not be allowed to compete for the national championship. One of them, in all likelihood, won't even get to go to a BCS bowl if both win out. How will the Cincinnati players feel if they go undefeated and don't get to play for the title. How did the Utah kids feel last year. It is NOT a real competition if you can go undefeated and not be allowed to play for the championship. The apologists of course point out "strength of schedule." To start with this is a joke because the power schools won't play the non-power schools. You think Notre Dame, which basically has to be a little better than mediocre (as it is this year) to get a BCS bid while playing eight home games is going to play Boise State or TCU home-and-home anytime soon? Same goes for schools like Florida or Penn State who would rather schedule Coastal Carolina and Akron and laugh all the way to the bank. Beyond that, what was George Mason's "strength of schedule," like three years ago? How about Gonzaga when it became Cinderella and made its run to the final eight in 1999? If someone goes undefeated you let them tee it up in postseason and see how they do. Maybe they turn out to be Hawaii. Maybe they turn out to be Utah. You can't find out unless you let them compete.

I got in trouble a few years ago because I made the comment on NPR that the BCS Presidents were the most corrupt group of people to come along since the mafia. I want to apologize for that comment--to the mafia. You see, from what I know, the mafia never made any pretense about who they were. They didn't go around and pay people to "defend," what they were doing. I doubt anyone ever said in a meeting, "You know, if we hired the right PR firm to defend killing our enemies, it would make us look a lot better."

The BCS guys, on the other hand, strut around talking about doing what is best for the "student-athletes," and acting so self-important you literally cringe. Almost all of them insist on being called, "doctor," because they have PhD’s. My mother got her PhD from Columbia in music history and used to tell people who tried to call her Dr. Feinstein, "doctors help people who are sick. I'm an expert on Brahms--stop it."

Then again, my mother wasn't a preening LIAR like these guys are.

I know there are far more important things for The President and Congress to be dealing with right now. But it is worth a little bit of their time to make the BCS go away. It is a pox and there's no reason--not one--for Division 1-A football players to have the same opportunity every other 'student-athlete,' in America has: to compete fairly on the playing field--not inside a computer or based on a bunch of biased people's ballots--for the championship of their sport.

I realize I've said all this before. But as long as these "doctors," and their commissioner flunkies keep trying to spread these lies, I'm going to keep shooting them down.

"We need to do a better job defending the BCS." Please, please just shut up.



It's so simple. Every league champion (11) gets an auto bid and the next 5, based on whatever selection system they want, get at-large bids. It just about guarantees that no team outside the top 10 would be left out.

Seed it 1-16, first round at home sites and no "non-bcs" team would ever have a complaint about not getting their chance. (except maybe Navy or Army)

OK, that took me 48 seconds. Every year I seed this out, based on the BCS standings. If you think the 5-12 games in hoops are interesting...

Jamie said...

I agree with you on all points, save two --

1. Get over the I-A/I-AA thing. Sure, FCS/FBS is silly, but no sillier than I-AA. Whether in print or on TK, you like to call attention to your unwillingness to use the new names, which to me is even worse than not using them at all.

Then again, I still refuse to call the airport across the Potomac from DC anything other than National Airport, so who am I to judge?

2. No way Illinois wins six games this year. They are the Washington Redskins of the Big 10, and not just because their coach's monosyllabic last name starts with Z.

Anonymous said...

What is the REAL reason why the BCS is so closely guarded, why no change is going to happen? Is it that the power conferences don't want to give up control of the money and influence? They rule their own roost now, and they'd have to give it up to the ncaa, correct?

Dana King said...

The BCS has pretty much killed college football for me, as it makes all games exhibitions, except for a few near the endof the season, when they're fighting to be arbitrarily picked as one of the two "best." Conference races have become meaningless. The eight team playoff seems about right, for all the reasons you cite.

Take the big 5 or 6 conference champions, then 2 or 3 at large teams. These could be from small conferences, or runners-up in the big conferences.Which 5 or 6 conferences get automatic spots could change, based on the conference's record in the tournament over time. For example, if Mountain West teams had a better record than ACC teams after five years or so, then the Mountain West gets an automatic bid. If someone passes them next year, they go back in the pool.

Mr. Tent Trash said...

A freakin men! I am so sick of the elitist BCS crowd kicking down the "lesser" conferences. I would take the MWC over the Big Least or most of the ACC Any DAY!

Matt said...

The funny thing is that the BCS says they are protecting the bowl system, when in fact they are killing it.

They have made every bowl outside of the BCS Championship game irrelevant. Just look at Alabama last year. They lost in their conference championship game and came out flat against Utah. Because the Sugar bowl is becoming irrelevant to the BCS Championship game. It is for 3rd, 4th, or 4th place.

Bennettar said...

The most frustrating part of the BCS is when there is more than one undefeated team at the end of the season. There is no politician or hired gun that can defend this outcome.

What will it take to upend the BCS system? How many more seasons will end with multiple undefeated teams before these overpaid presidents take competition seriously? Right now the only thing they are taking seriously is making a travesty out of what otherwise is a great sport.

Kyle said...

Great points John! What I find amusing/sad/infuriating is that they continue to use the "it'll hurt the student/athletes academically" argument against a playoff system while adding more and more weeknight games during the season. How many classes do the players miss when say, Colorado has a Thursday night game at West Virginia (which occurred in week 5)?

It's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"I got in trouble a few years ago because I made the comment on NPR that the BCS Presidents were the most corrupt group of people to come along since the mafia. I want to apologize for that comment--to the mafia. You see, from what I know, the mafia never made any pretense about who they were. They didn't go around and pay people to "defend," what they were doing."

Even though I completely agree with you, this point was particularly interesting becuase the mafia DID pay people to "defend" what they did. They were called lawyers...

And that's why the BCS is looking to hire a "lawyer" for their defense as being The Mafia of College Football Championships.

The crimes they are being charged with are killing all non-family members (non-BCS leagues), weak or strong as well as money laudering, loan sharking, and running an illegal business (unfair competition).

Vince Spence said...

Unfair year end ratings affect all players, coaches and all college athletic programs, not just football. The difference between playing in the championship game or not playing in it is huge. Recruiting is dealt a blow if a team should have been in the BCS final, but because of the formula, ended up 3rd or 4th. College programs unable to recruit the best players lose sponsor and booster support and certain programs, often women's programs are funded poorly or not at all. In the major sports, football and basketball, blacks make up an inordinate percentage of the players and their potential livelihood is threatened if the programs they are recruited from could have been national champions, but an unfair, possibly race-biased system kept them out of that game.

Rev. Jesse, Rev. Al, please help. We are told all options have been been examined and the cards have been dealt. But, we know there is one card left that trumps all cards. Please, please, Al & Jesse, America needs you both again.

Vince Spence said...

I do like Giant Glass & Dana King's suggestions, except mine are much better and I can name that championship bowl in 34 seconds.

Anybody else want to play, "Name That Championship Series"?

case said...

do you feel strongly about this , john ?

thedean said...

Simple solution, give the greedy more money then they get now and they will do any system you want. Does anybody have that kind of money to cover it?

Anonymous said...


antitrust laws
n. acts adopted by Congress to outlaw or restrict business practices considered to be monopolistic or which restrain interstate commerce. The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 declared illegal "every contract, combination…or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce" between states or foreign countries. The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, amended by the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936, prohibits discrimination among customers through pricing and disallows mergers, acquisitions or takeovers of one firm by another if the effect will "substantially lessen competition." Interstate commerce includes commerce within a state which affects the flow of that commerce, thus making it pretty broad. There are also some state laws against restraint of trade. The Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice enforces for the federal government, but private lawsuits to halt antitrust activities have become increasingly popular, particularly since attorney's fees are awarded to the winning party. This is a legal specialty which has kept some industries relatively honest and made some lawyers wealthy

How is the BCS not a crime?

Anonymous said...

The BCS is a crime. Senator Orrin Hatch wrote a letter to President Obama to insert himself on this Antitrust issue (as Obama has spoken out many times against the BCS). If you hate the BCS as much as me, get as many people as you can to sign the petition to President Obama on (here is the link: to support Senator Hatch's call to take down this stupid system.

Max Drax said...

Great statement, Mr. Feinstein. I wish to add to why a playoff would in no way diminish the suspense of the regular season.

Say there's a 16-team playoff. Each of the 11 conferences sends its champion, and 5 teams receive at-large bids. Just think of the suspense and intensity of each week, for each team. A conference loss potentially dooms a team's chances of winning the conference, and thus receiving the automatic bid. A nonconference loss potentially doom a team's chances of receiving an at-large bid. EVERY game counts (for EVERY team in the nation), just as much (if not more) than it does now.

James said...

I agree but I think a 12 game playoff with a bye for the top 4 would avoid any NFL week 17 meaningless games for teams who would be certain to make a 16 team playoff.

12 teams also would keep the current BCS set up relatively unchanged. The 6 big conference champions automatically qualify. The highest ranked champion from the other 5 conferences and ND qualify if in the top 12 and the remaining 4-6 places based on ranking.

Arrange the second round along traditional bowl matchups if possible i.e. pac 10 vs Big 10 in the rose bowl.

One issue about a playoff is the ranking which annoys me more than the bcs itself. I want transparency. I think we need to abolish the coaches and AP polls as most of the voters havent seen more than a fraction of the games.
Of the 6 computer programs only 1 is reproducible by anyone (Colley Matrix) 3 are slightly unclear in their methodology (Sagarin, Massey Wolfe.) The other two are a complete mystery so there is no way to check for errors in either their data entry or calculations.

I'm going to lie down in a dark room now


Jim said...

Feinstein has a lot of problems with this diatribe.

Does he really think that college Presidents are about to abandon a system that delivers more paying fans to holiday venues than any sport known to man?

I love his argument that a Cincinnati Virginia Tech playoff game would sell out when the Orange Bowl between the two teams did not. Logic is not his forte.

Or that all of us fans have the wherewithall to travel to up to three neutral site playoff games between January 1 and whenever.
What sports asks that of any fan?

NCAA Basketball ?
The number of fans going on the road for 3 weeks can be counted in the thousands.

Football needs tens of thousands, each week.

The insurmountable problem for Feinstein is that the college football fan loves the Bowl system and the regular season of college football.

Come back whenever that no longer exists.

In other words,
Get Lost.

qtlaw24 said...

Love that you call out the FRAUDS/LIARS. Pathetic that the guys prancing around lining their pockets with millions supposedly care about the "star athletes" who mysteriously drop out immediately after the bowl season to train in Arizona/LA for the NFL Draft. Yeah right, you care about Michael Crabtree's reading comprehension and course curriculum.

tom said...

Excellent article! The BCS is like a Beauty Pagent that only certain ladies from certain Universities can enter. It restrains the competition among the Top performing teams via the BCS Bowls. But is even more hiddeous in the Middle & Lower tiers of teams via it's BCS payouts (cartel subsidies) of approx. $2M/yr provided to the Mid & Low performing BCS teams. Plus these teams get the RECRUITING advantage of "BCS status". Please keep reminding us that Beauty is not confined to certain Universities, not is Championship quality Football.

Quenton said...

I agree with your article in principle; however, you appear to have an issue with semantics. For someone who makes a living by the written word, you have little respect for it.

For example: 1) Doctor, the word, has its roots in a Latin word for teacher... when was the last time a so called "doctor" ever taught you anything you couldn't get from WebMD? 2) FBS and FCS are the current names for these divisions, they accurately reflect what happens on the field and your steadfast refusal to accept these terms makes you no different than a university president.