Monday, December 7, 2009

BCS: Continues to sicken, even with good of TCU and Boise State

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.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to agree….even the BCS leaders (commissioners, talking heads) take the argument that non-aq schools need to play better schedules. The non-aq commissioners, coaches and talking heads (MWC did hire a PR firm) say none of the big boys will schedule them regularly. Well, even the BCS honchos have proven they won’t schedule the non-aq schools against ‘the big boys’ when given the perfect chance. How are the MWC’s and WACs of the world supposed to move up in the conference rankings, to overtake the Big East and take their spot, when even in BCS bowls they can’t play BCS opponents.

And unless the ratings are through the roof, which they probably won’t be because it’s not a meaningful game, in future years the BCS leaders will say no one watches when they put them on, therefore the public must not believe in them as teams.

However remote the chance, they couldn’t risk Boise and TCU (and probably even Cincinnati scares them) could finish undefeated by beating the greats of other leagues. I call them cowards.

Anonymous said...

Mr Feinstein, I had taken some subtle shots at you for picking on Charlie Weis. I stand corrected, he deserves them....resume bashing.

Anonymous said...

A couple of thoughts:

1) The human polls are supposed to value what the voters see with their eyes. How everyone like lemmings voted Texas #2 after their performance is beyond me (although my eyes told me that there was at least one second left on the clock).

2) Boise State beat the Pac 10 representative in the Rose Bowl. That should be enough of a credential for humans (and even computers).

3) I'm surprised you haven't said more about the fact that it will be a month or more before these games are played. What I have observed over the years is that the delay has tremendous effect on these teams. It is like a different season. Some teams show up (as they were before), some teams don't. We don't really get to see the teams at their best. And by the time you get to the BCS bowl games, most of us are "bowled out".

Timothy said...

Here is a simple, concise and reasonable playoff plan by Wetzel. What fun this would be.

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news;_ylt=AmX64ji6bw6Xx2lnzNuWCng5nYcB?slug=dw-ncaafplayoff120709&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

lenerd1 said...

Trying to make the argument for the Little Guy misses the point, especially since it's obvious that the BCS has absolutely no regard for the Little Guy. We can argue all day long about who could beat who, but that only plays into the BCS's BS about "these arguments are what makes it so great." The only point to be made is very simple "WE DO NOT KNOW WHO IS THE BEST COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAM." This point holds true whether there are 2 undefeated teams from midmajors not playing for the title, or if there are 2 undefeated teams from BCS conferences not playing for the title. Last year was obviously a travesty as two one-loss schools played for the title while two undefeated teams were shut out, but why not make the BCS defend shutting out their one-loss brethren? Or let Ari tell us how the '04 title game really gave us a champion while an undefeated SEC team was left out.

No question the BCS craps all over the non-BCS conferences. But the overriding issue is that this system cannot produce a true champion, regardless of conference. Only a playoff can fix it.

charles pierce said...

Not that I don't agree with the general thrust of things here, John, except that I don't want a playoff and never will, but there wasn't any question about the end of that Texas game. The second had to go back up. I didn't like it, either, but it was eminently clear that there was time left when the ball went out of bounds.
That said, I'm rooting for House Of Spears Suh to get to NYC for the Heisman show so he can sit next to McCoy and giggle horribly.

Anonymous said...

And while we are hammering the BCS and the College Presidents, how about we bring up the lack of African American Head Coaches at their schools? 1 (Randy Shannon) for all of the BCS Conferences....That is just shameful and inexcusible.

GIANT GLASS said...

here's my playoff, this took me 48 seconds to put together...

First two rounds at home site of lower seed.

1. Alabama vs 16. Troy
9. Ohio State vs 8. Ga. Tech

3. TCU vs 14. Central Michigan
6. Boise State vs 11. Penn State

4. Cincinnati vs 13. LSU
5. Florida vs 12 Virginia Tech

2. Texas vs 15 ECU
7. Oregon vs 10. Iowa

Michael said...

"the replay official in the Texas-Nebraska game who put one second back on the clock after it had hit zero"

John, put down the non-BCS Kool-Aid and take the tinfoil off your head. The correct call was made, which created an outcome that you did not want. Too bad. That's why they play the game and why they use replay. Watch the video from ABC. The ball hit out of bounds with one second left on the clock. To ignore the obvious would be shameful.

Why is Texas not worthy to play in this game? You and the ESPN folks and the rest of the newspaper columnists wrote the same thing in the run up to the 2006 Rose Bowl. How did that work out?

How was Texas going to hang with the Greatest Football Team Ever This Year? By rallying from a 10 point deficit and winning the damn game.

Why is Alabama given a pass into the game? They needed two blocked field goals to beat UNRANKED Tennessee. They needed a drive in the final minutes to beat an UNRANKED team to erase a 14 point deficit. How about those blown calls in the LSU game? How about those blown calls in the Arkansas-Florida game that ensured Alabama would defeat an undefeated opponent?

Where is the outcry that Alabama is a sham and not worthy of a BCS bid?

How about using scheduling as a criteria?

All five schools in Division I-A that remain unbeaten, stand up.

Now, sit down if you played a Division I-AA team.

Cincinnati (Southeast Missouri State). Sit down.

TCU (Texas State). Everybody loves you but sit down.

Alabama (Chattanooga). Grab some pine, boys.

Boise State (UC Davis). The game against Oregon was neat, but sit down.

Who is left standing? Who had the balls to fill out an entire game slate with 12 opponents from Division I-A? Who found a Division I-A opponent after another Division I-A opponent (ahem, Arkansas) backed out of this year's game?

TEXAS that's who.

Stop your whining. Texas is here because they won 12 games, and they did it without playing a single Division I-AA cupcake.

As to the other four schools sitting there. Exchange phone numbers and arrange a game next season. Try again.

Billy said...

Michael - here is what got lost in your 'explanation'. Its not that Texas wasn't deserving, its that

By the way, its funny to me that football is SO loose in its timing, spotting the ball, etc, rules until the very end of a game. Many a football game is won or lost on home clock operators. Yes, Texas should have gotten the second back, but on a technicality even the Big 12's rules on this is murky....no play can be replayed after the clock strikes :00. The conference is naturally saying the officials acted correctly.

Bo Smolka said...

John -- Dead on. In the end the replay official made the right call, but I agree with you: If Nebraska needed an extra second, I'm guessing they wouldn't get it. Here's something you don't even mention: Those BCS types who argue that a playoff extends the season too long and players miss class ,etc. It will be nearly a MONTH before these teams play again. You could practically run an entire playoff in that time.

GIANT GLASS said...

It is easy to document that a playoff would result in substantially shorter seasons for almost everyone involved.

Currently all BCS teams will be practicing for another three or four weeks.

Anonymous said...

You're wrong, misguided, and way off the mark. The BCS system, while not perfect, has put the two best teams into the championship game this year.

Cincy and TCU, while good, just don't have the strength of schedule that it takes to get to the show. Alabama survived a grueling SEC schedule to get to the top this year. Bama will beat Texas and claim its rightful place at the top.

Whine all you want about how unfair the system is, but don't deny the suzerainty of Nick Saban and his program this year.

Cary said...

This is like asking two wolves and a sheep what's for dinner. The BCS Presidents are in it for the money. Gobs of money. They will never do what's right for the sport or the fans or the players...unless and until they are forced to do so.

Asking the BCS to do what's right is like asking Iran over and over and over again to give up their nuclear program because it's best thing for the world. Iran says no way because they care more about self-preservation than preserving the status quo of nuclear countries and...ahem...world peace (whatever that means). So Iran will keep giving everyone the Heisman because they can - they know nobody is willing to bomb them and start WWIII.

Give us playoffs not make believe endings.

Anonymous said...

Preach it!
Texas fan here and despite being on the good end of this BS system, really hope we'll get an 8 team playoff.
I'm not sure asking the president to do it is the right approach - this is a movement that needs to happen within the fans.

Anonymous said...

The current system has problems, but I don't know whether I would like a standard playoff system either. This year there are five undefeated teams, so a 4-team playoff wouldn't be sufficient. You would need 8 teams, but who would the other three teams be? I guess you could try Florida, but they've already lost to Alabama, so I don't see them belonging. And the other two teams would have to be 2-loss teams, who certainly don't deserve to be in the national championship playoffs.
Perhaps the best would be to have a playoff among all undefeated FBS teams, regardless of how many there are. If the number isn't a power of 2, you would have bye games chosen at random. This might create a scheduling problem because you wouldn't know until the middle of December how many playoff games you would need, but at the end of the tournament you would have a single undefeated team that could legitimately claim to be #1.

Aaron said...

Mr. Feinstein,
Yes, yes and yes...and what I think many are missing might be a point you make near the very end of the column... "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."

Every year there's going to be some disagreement about the teams in the championship game or the teams in the 8 or 12 or 16 team playoff.

However, NO TEAM should have the opportunity/privilege to play in a post-season game if in losing that game, they could finish the season with a losing record.

Maybe Notre Dame wanted to save face, or maybe they actually didn't feel that they deserved an invitation to go somewhere, but they made the right call.

If a team gets the spoils of being invited, they had better be a team that isn't going to be 6-7 after that game. That's rewarding mediocrity, and I think it is a shame that so many good football teams/games get overshadowed by the bowls that pit one mediocre team against another.

That may have been a small statement made and a small point in the overall post, but I think it is one that needs to be considered.

TjsGigante said...

AMEN!

The Bond Family said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Bond Family said...

Great stuff, we need more of this. I'm seeing nothing about the outrage on the national media, which lets me know the grip the BCS has on college football.

Ben said...

I read your article in the Washington Post about the BCS and your desire to have President Obama step into the argument.
Here is the real problem with sports writers when they bloviate about the BCS: you think the business of sports is important.
Sports may be important for helping develop character in children -- to practice and learn fairness, gamesmanship, honesty and persistence. But sports as a business, to be taken so seriously by grown men and women that we should legislate useless and vain titles, is silly.
Your article made me laugh out loud as much as seeing how many channels on TV have round table discussions with blockheaded ex-athletes dressed up in $2,000 suits with stiff hands on their knees pretending that this stuff is important.

Get over yourselves. These are kids games.

Anonymous said...

There are two options for playoffs:

1. All regular season is done by thanksgiving. You give the BCS conferences till 2012 to set up chamiponship games, otherwise they are out of luck. With that you have a 16 team playoff which includes the conference championship games. As it stands now you have 10 at large bids which would go to the top 10 teams of those remaining with the exception that an undefeated team outside the top 10 left gets in (like Ball state last season if they won their conference tourney game). The first weekend of December is the round of 16. the losers still get to play in bowl games. The next weekend is the quarterfinal round. These games, just like the round of 16 would be set at neutral sites. The semifinalists will play in 2 of the 4 big bowls. The losers of the round of 8 play in the other two bowls. The winners play for the national championship on the third Monday in January.

2, A round of 8 on the second weekend of December with the top 8 playing. Similarly, 1 non BCS undefeated is guarenteed a slot. Similarly as above the winners play in two of the 4 bowls, and the losers play in the other bowls. and the championship would be on the third Monday in January.

Anonymous said...

Awesome Mr. Feinstein. Article of the year. Anyone who has watched TCU play this year has seen a top level SEC style defense and and offense that (shocking) is in the top 5 in points scored AND total yards.

So, the number 1 defense and a top 5 offense. Uh, pretty sure their qualified to win any format...if given the chance...and THAT is what the powers that be are so afraid of.

DonMooreDXer said...

Well said.

Fascist Nation said...

So, the Fiesta Bowl creates a situation that no matter whom wins, the winner can claim equal share in the national title. And if Cincinnati beats Florida they will have remained unbeaten, and have beaten more ranked opponents than any of the other unbeaten teams, they too would have claim to the national title. You have to love how the BCS would tweak this so it would never happen again...I got it! Maybe hold a playoff? Nah.

Anonymous said...

Nice article. However, follow the money trail. Will Boise State and TCU really get the $17 million? Or do they get some amount less because they are non-AQ Teams? Boise State and TCU get to go dinner alright, but they sit in the kitchen and eat off of smaller plates.

Matt said...

Great article. I agree 100% that Nebraska would not have gotten the same consideration from the referees (who, incidentally, were all from Texas, save one). And considering the referees had not set up any sort of precedent in adding time back to the clock after every single incomplete pass in that game, their call is an aberration that is suspect at best, especially considering the implications on the BCS.

What needs to happen is that more people call shenanigans on Texas' faux Big XII Championship and force Dan Beebe and the University of Texas alum that is the head of referees for the Big XII conference to answer for this. Then, the NCAA needs to take control of the referees away from the conferences (some of which, like the Big XII, have proven themselves to be completely inept) and provide actual impartial referees.

But Texas and its fans should be ashamed of itself. Their Big XII title is a sham, and the pounding they will receive from Alabama will be felt for years to come in that program.

I just hope for the Texas fans that cheating a better team out of a win pans out for you--chances are, it won't.

Chuck said...

Michael - Don't forget that Texas' championship game run started with (drum roll) Louisiana-Monroe. Maybe Mack likes a good bowl of gumbo to kick things off.

Best comments made by Anonymous. The biggest thing that John and other major media outlets miss is that by the time that TCU is done complying with all of the fine print written by Roy Kramer's craggy fingers, their take-home from the Fiesta will be closer to $3-4 million of they are lucky. The same goes for Boise State. There's the injustice.

Segregation is alive and well in America. Kill the BCS now!