I’m not sure what the best part of the BCS bowl lineup announcement on Sunday night—which had all the suspense of the electoral college vote for President—was: the shocking news that Texas, even though it was more-than-fortunate to beat Nebraska on Saturday night will play Alabama for the national championship or the equally stunning news that Boise State will play TCU in The Fiesta Bowl.
On the face of it, the BCS boys allowing two non-BCS schools into their little club is good news. But let’s take a closer look at what they did and why they did it: To begin with, they simply ran out of options. TCU had to be invited because it was the highest-ranked non-BCS school and it was in the top six in the rankings. The question all along had been Boise State, which beat Oregon early in the season and dominated league opponents at the end of the season. (Those of you who are BCS-league fans and want to get on your high horse about the WAC not being a strong league, I would point out that most of your teams would never, ever consider scheduling a game against Boise State).
Up until a week ago, The Fiesta Bowl was trying to make a case to take a two-loss Oklahoma State team whose most impressive win was over a five-loss Georgia team. That scenario got blown up when the Cowboys were embarrassed by Oklahoma, another five loss team. There was really nowhere for the BCS to turn. By rule it couldn’t take three teams out of The Big Ten—which had exactly zero impressive non-conference wins this season. You can bet if the rule didn’t exist, Penn State would be in The Fiesta Bowl, no doubt on the strength of its impressive non-conference schedule.
USC had four losses after losing at home to Arizona on Saturday so that wouldn’t work. As well as Nebraska played (more on that later) against Texas on Saturday it had four losses and no wins of consequence. The ACC? No way. The Big East? Well, if Pittsburgh had beaten Cincinnati you MIGHT have seen some stirring to give the Bearcats The Fiesta bid but that didn’t happen either. The SEC’s two bids were used up by Alabama and Florida. Notre Dame? No, not exactly although Charlie Weis might be signed up as the halftime entertainment somewhere. (Seriously folks, he’s giving Dan Snyder a run for his money as WGIS—Worst Guy In Sports—and that’s saying a lot).
So there was no choice in the end but to take Boise State. If the BCS boys had to take two minorities into the club for a year they weren’t going to take any chances. It was bad enough when Boise beat Oklahoma a couple years back and worse when Utah dominated Alabama a year ago. It still bothers me that my colleagues who vote in the AP poll didn’t have the guts to vote for Utah No. 1 over Florida last January, partly on principle but just as much on the theory that if Utah wasn’t going to get a shot at the title game the ONLY way to measure them against Florida was by common opponent: Florida had to rally in the fourth quarter to beat Alabama; Utah controlled the Crimson Tide for 60 minutes. Utah should have been an easy choice but there are a lot of gutless guys voting in the AP poll—and too many guys with ties to the BCS for that matter, including the ESPN apologists.
Given past history when non-BCS meets BCS: three wins for the little guys, one for the bullies, the BCS wasn’t going to take any chances this year. No way was TCU going to get a shot at Cincinnati or Florida or even Georgia Tech. The same went for Boise State. You guys just go play one another and leave us alone was the message. We’ll suck it up and send you both the big check but don’t bother us anymore. Here’s a memo to my AP brethren again: You’ve been given a second chance: vote the Fiesta Bowl winner as the national champion even if Alabama beats up on Texas—which it very well might. Just show some guts and say, ‘I’m sick and tired of it and I’m not going to take it anymore.’
Of course most of them won’t do it. I have a friend who has continued to vote five ACC teams in the top 25 every week even though I honestly don’t think the ACC could win a “challenge,” with the CAA if it ever had the guts to play one, even with 22 extra scholarships per team.
Think about this for a minute: who eliminated Cincinnati and TCU from national title consideration? Not any of their opponents, that’s for sure. It was, in fact, the replay official in the Texas-Nebraska game who put one second back on the clock after it had hit zero and gave Texas the chance to kick a game-winning field goal to win 13-12 on the game’s final play. If the replay official decided the call on the field was correct or that it was too close to reverse (which is supposed to be the rule) then TCU or Cincinnati is in the championship game. Texas ought to take that guy on the trip to Pasadena. I’m not saying the call was wrong but it was certainly close enough that it could have been left in place. In fact, I’m enough of a believer in those who theorize that conference officials know which team winning benefits the conference most to think that if the situation had been reversed and Nebraska had needed the extra second it might not have happened.
But it did. Isn’t it amazing how the undefeated team—regardless of BCS conference—always seems to get the key call that it absolutely must have?
As most people know the BCS recently hired ex-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer to be its official spinner, the theory now being that defending the BCS is a better idea than simply getting rid of it. Fleischer proved during his years working for George W. Bush that he can spin with the best.
Here then is my suggestion for his first assignment in his new job: Fly to TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State. Walk into each of those three locker rooms, look those players in the eye and explain how each of them went undefeated this season and don’t get to play for a championship. Then list for them all the other sports in which such a thing can take place. Then tell them that the bowl system must be preserved so that all those 6-6 teams can tell their fans that they made a bowl game. (He can also add, I suppose, that the fact that the bowl system would be completely unharmed by a playoff is irrelevant).
Maybe, given his past experience, Fleischer can look those kids in the eye and say to them: “Mission Accomplished.”
If you are the BCS your mission is always accomplished as long you say it is. The whole thing really is sickening. Spin THAT Mr. Fleischer.