Friday, January 8, 2010

Looking at Bill Hancock’s claims in his 'State of the BCS Address'

At last, the college football season is over.

It ended with a thud, Alabama, after almost falling asleep at the wheel in the second half, pulling away to beat Texas, 37-21. Texas deserves credit for hanging in after being down 24-6 and after losing quarterback Colt McCoy on the first series. I have no doubt Texas fans will claim forever their team would have won if McCoy had played. In the end, we’ll never know. Maybe if McCoy had been hurt in a first round playoff game the Longhorns would have survived and advanced and McCoy could have come back and played. But, as we all know, that’s not the way college football is structured.

My pal Bill Hancock was at it again on Thursday, giving his “state of the BCS Address,” in his new role as executive director of America’s most corrupt organization. It was pretty clear that Bill had been prepped thoroughly by Ari Fleischer, who knows a thing or two about simply throwing out untruths from a pulpit of power and getting the public—or at least some of the public—to swallow them.

Bill made four claims Thursday that are, put simply, 100 percent untrue. Not 99 percent, 100 percent. Let’s review.

1.   A college football playoff would lead to more injuries. This isn’t just wrong, it’s absolutely hypocritical. The BCS Presidents (Bill and Fleisher’s employers) are the ones who voted several years ago to add a 12th regular season game for one reason: more money. Three of the six BCS conferences play a conference championship game with the Big Ten soon to follow. That’s a 13th game followed by a bowl game. That’s 14 games—two fewer than an NFL regular season. If an eight team playoff existed with an 11 game regular season no one would play more than 14 games and only two teams would play that many. So claiming the BCS Presidents care at all about injuries is absolutely untrue.

2.   A playoff would affect the exam schedules for players. Oh please Bill, don’t trot out that tired argument. Everyone knows that basketball players miss FAR more class during the NCAA Tournament in March and April than football players would miss if there was a playoff system. Let’s go through this one more time: You play quarterfinals on New Year’s Day, making it an absolutely spectacular college football day instead of making people watch The Outback Bowl or The Gator Bowl with five and six loss teams playing on New Year’s. You play the semifinals the next week. At that point six teams will have been eliminated without missing a day of class. Then you play the championship game two weeks later—the same weekend as the NFL conference championship games so there are no NFL games on Saturday. Depending on the school players from TWO schools might miss two or three days of classes at the very beginning of a semester. NO FINALS missed—none, zero.

3.   The bowl system would be damaged. Not only is this wrong, the opposite is true—the bowl system would be enhanced. Instead of having one game that has meaning to everyone across the country you would have seven. The four bowls that are currently BCS hosts would be joined by three more bowls—let’s say The Cotton for tradition; The Citrus (or whatever it is called now) for location and The Gator (tradition and location). They rotate games each year although if I’m in charge the championship game is always at The Rose Bowl because it is still the best setting there is for a football game. The 29 other bowls (two more come on line next year) continue exactly as they are EXCEPT they are all played before New Year’s Day to clear the stage for the playoff. The 6-6 teams still get to go play a bowl game and the boys in the ugly jackets can still parade around in their ugly jackets. Nothing changes. Bowls can still take a 6-6 Iowa State team over an 8-4 Missouri team because Iowa State sells more tickets if that’s what they so desire.

4.   The regular season has more meaning under the current system. Really? I’d love for Bill to walk into the locker rooms at Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State and explain how much meaning their undefeated regular seasons had. Only in the BCS can teams not lose a game and not have a chance to play for a championship. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Basically, those teams’ regular seasons had no meaning at all. If Boise State had beaten the Dallas Cowboys in their bowl game instead of TCU there are people out there who would say, ‘yeah but how would they do in the Big 12?’ Here’s the answer: who knows since no one from The Big 12 will play them and the criminals making the BCS matchups (thankfully that’s not Bill) put TCU against Boise State to make sure those two schools wouldn’t (again) embarrass BCS schools by beating them.

So Bill went four-for-four yesterday—aided by his new best friend Ari. He made four assertions and none of them was even close to true. My guess is he’ll get a bonus in his next paycheck for keeping a straight face while saying all this stuff.

A couple of other things are worth noting: NONE of the five BCS bowls provided a really dramatic finish. Perhaps it was coincidence, who knows? The best game was TCU-Boise State, which at least turned on a fake punt but the rest of the games were really duds. Here’s a stat for you: In five games there were three lead changes: Oregon briefly taking the lead on Ohio State before the Buckeyes took it back and pulled away and Alabama going ahead 7-6 in the championship game. Florida, Iowa and Boise State took the lead in their games and never trailed although TCU did tie Boise State at 10-10.

There were second tier bowl games that had that many lead changes in the last three minutes. In fact, the second tier bowls were great this year: Idaho’s 43-42 win over Bowling Green was spectacular; Arkansas’s overtime win over East Carolina was excruciating and so was Auburn thinking it had won three times after blowing a two touchdown lead before finally beating Northwestern in overtime. There were others: Central Michigan over Troy in overtime; Wyoming beating Fresno State, also in overtime.

Here’s one thing I guarantee: If you had a playoff, if every game played was a step towards a championship, you would have far fewer dud games and more great ones because there would be no doubt that everyone involved was playing for something.

Which reminds me of one more thing: Bill also made the claim that as exciting as the Division 1-AA championship was, the attendance at home sites (except Montana) wasn’t very good. Two things: December football in cold weather places isn’t usually much of a draw (including in the NFL where no-shows abound in December) and, did he check the attendance at a LOT of the second tier bowls? And that’s with virtually every bowl forcing the schools to buy thousands of tickets and then give them away if they can’t sell them. If there were a seven game, eight-team playoff as I suggested there would not be one unsold ticket. Not one.

Sorry Bill, I love you but, as you might put it, gee whiz are you kidding me?

And finally a note on the polls: My colleagues in the AP poll completely ignored me (and others) and not only didn’t vote Boise State first, they voted them FOURTH. Craig James of ESPN voted Boise SEVENTH and TCU 14th! Who does he think he’s kidding? His partners, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit were a little less blatant in their BCS sellout, voting Boise fourth. Still. Those guys should not be allowed to vote.

At least the AP publishes the individual votes. The coaches poll, run by (surprise) ESPN and USA Today, keeps the individual votes secret except for the final regular season poll. I’m really disappointed that my friends at USA Today continue to participate in this farce. That said, the coaches did better by Navy (26th) than the AP boys and girls (28th). Here’s a shocker: none of the ESPN-three voted for Navy. Maybe that’s why Mark Jones thinks the future marines at Navy are going to Quan-TEE-co and Bob Davie keeps talking about “chop blocks.” God forbid anyone should do any homework over there it might interfere with their ability to read 10,000 promos per telecast.

Okay, I promise not to rant on the BCS for a while. As long as Bill and his pals promise not to say anything they know isn’t true. My guess is they won’t be able to do that.


Gunnar said...

I favor the scenario that you have proposed, with a slight adjustment. Sugar, Cotton, Gator, and Holiday(San Diego weather). They feed to the Fiesta and Orange semifinal/final four round. Those winners feed to the Rose Bowl. It screws up some traditionally strong bowls, but has a regional consideration for travel. With this schedule they should go to an 11 game schedule. Also, no Division II opponents period.

Some day, I really would like to be one of the ugly jacket guys. Great label.

Geoff said...

If the objective is to have 7 meaningful games rather than 1, then your playoff solution is great. However, I still think that there are going to be a lot of arguments.
Who would the 8 teams have been this year? Certainly the five undefeated teams, and I don't think that anybody would argue against Florida for the 6th spot. But after that, who? You'd have to select two 2-loss teams, and leave other 2-loss teams out.
I think a good argument could be made that none of the 2-loss teams deserves to be playing for the national championship this year. The counterargument would be "no problem, they'll lose their first game".
But what if one of the 2-loss teams actually won? The everybody would be whining that maybe one of the left-out 2-loss teams could have won.
The fact is that it is going to be a rare year when the number of deserving teams is going to be 2,4, or 8, so you're always going to end up with an argument.
But with a 8-team playoff, you'll definitely have 7 very meaningful games.

Dana King said...

Your description of the playoff schedule is just right. For the teams, let's say the champions of the traditional major conferences (Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Pac 10, ACC, Big East) get bids, That's six. (These automatic bids can be adjusted over time, based on conferences' success in the tournament, so if the Mountain West consistently wins games and the Big East consistently gets wiped out, the spot may change.)

Then a committee picks 2 at large teams using a system similar to the basketball tournament, announced on a nationally broadcast show after the last conference championship game.

yes, there will be controversy and some "bubble" schools who go to lesser bowls. Such is life. Someone is always going to be the first team left out.

Mark said...

John I think you are correct on this but I do have one concern. What about end of the season "rivalry" games? What is Ohio State has the playoffs clinched; are they going to rest their starters (a la Indianapolis) against Michigan? I am not saying it is an enormous concern but I'd like to hear your thoughts on it.

Anonymous said...

I think the end of the season rivalry games will stay just as they are. The beauty of college football is that they matter, neighbor vs. neighbor, fundraiser vs. fundraiser. In the argument that the regular season 'matters' more in college football and would be diminished with a playoff is, well, total crapola.

In all honesty, outside of maybe, what, 5-8 teams over the last couple of weeks teams are just playing for pride anyways. UNC vs NC State didn't matter anything when it came to the BCS yet they still played hard. In the eyes of the BCS leaders, on the thought that a playoff diminishes those types of games, you'd hvae though teams just quit when the lose their first (non blue-bloods) or second (blue-bloods) games. Clemson vs. S Carolina mattered nothing to Clemson the week before the ACC CG, but they showed up as fired up as ever.

Quite frankly, I don't see college coaches pulling the same mess that the Colts did because the dynamics are so different, kids are seniors, playing the final games of their careers, and will want to play. If coaches really and truly started throwing games, to prepare for the playoffs, then the alumni should just stop donating. And Presidents should start reminding their coaches that they are educators first and foremost.

Yep, I'm out on a limb on the educators comment.

Dave said...

If this were to fly, you would have to continue the rotation of the Championship Game among the four current venues. I can't see Sugar, Orange and Fiesta agreeing to it otherwise. If you built in a competition for the remaining three venues, based on that venue's ability to attract fans you might also get some support from the existing bowl system. By this I mean Cotton might get replaced by Holiday if fan support wanes. Thus the ugly jacket guys for the XYZ Bowl could still dream of one day making it into the rotation.

Thomas said...

Didn't Bill Hancock all but admit yesterday that they are willing to discuss with Jerry Jones a situation where Dallas and his stadium (presumably under the Cotton Bowl name) becomes part of the system. That would mean another 2 teams in the BCS, or kicking someone out.

The BCS, who essentially holds all the it the 6 power conferences, but when voting changes do the less powerful 6 conferences have ANY say? I think the BCS is going to, at some point, flex their muscle up against the 4 BCS bowls as well. Maybe Jerry Jones' millions will be the time they do it.

Mark said...

Good point, anon. I did not think about the senior angle. I also did not think about how rabid college fan bases really are, much more so than in the NFL. If a coach tried that he would probably be lynched.

Shaun E in PC said...

Craig James should be removed from ESPN. He became part of a story.

Do I know he can be objective? Did I even know he had a son at TT before the incident…no. He should not be allowed to cover the sport or vote in the poll. Where was he ranking TT throughout the season?

Anonymous said...

Certainly John’s playoff scenario holds much merit. However, a tournament that doesn’t include all conference champions would be illegitimate. The playoff should consist of eleven teams played over four rounds. There would be no wildcard or at-large teams. This would place an unbelievably high premium on the conference regular season. Some other benefits would emerge by this selection process. High-ranking teams that fail to win their conferences would be available for the lesser bowls. We might actually see top teams schedule each other more often in non-conference games and we might even see BCS teams schedule games against top teams from the other conferences.

It would work like this: the 11 conference champions would be seeded; either by committee ala basketball or by the current BCS method. Doesn’t much matter. The top five teams would automatically make it to the quarterfinals. Teams 6-11 would match up at campus locations of the higher seeds. For example this year we would have seen #11 Troy play at #6 Oregon; #10 CMU play at #7 Ohio St; #9 ECU play at #8 Georgia Tech.

I would play these games immediately after the regular season has ended. This year that would have meant December 12. The quarterfinal games would have been held on December 19 at campus locations of the higher seeds. And I would have held the semi-finals at neutral sites on December 26. The national championship game would have been scheduled for Saturday January 2. I would rotate the national championship game between lots of different places, not just Pasadena, Tempe, Miami and New Orleans. Why not include Minneapolis-St Paul, Detroit, Dallas, Seattle or any other city than can manage to stage the game?

Jan 1 would be reserved for the traditional Jan 1 games: Rose, Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Cotton. This allows these bowls to preserve their heritage. If a couple of the other secondary bowls want to play on that day then that’s fine, too.

Now, by only including conference champions in the playoff, we would still be able to have some attractive matchups in the major bowls. We might have seen Iowa vs. Oregon St in the Rose (we know the Rose would want to match Big Ten/Pac Ten as often as possible). How about Florida vs. Pittsburgh in the Sugar? Miami vs. Virginia Tech in the Orange? Penn St vs LSU in the Fiesta? These would have all been fairly attractive matchups.

Scheduling this way would allow for several things that I think are positive. One, there wouldn’t be a long layoff between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. Under John’s scenario we would have about three to five weeks off depending on the team. I understand that some participants would have to work around finals, but academic integrity isn’t really an issue here, is it? Two, the sacred cow known as the bowl system would be preserved and 30 or so teams would get to end their seasons feeling good about themselves. They could even have a team party at Dairy Queen afterwards. Three, most importantly we’d get a champion determined 100% on the field. Polls and voters with conflicts of interest would be irrelevant.
Rich in Denver

Anonymous said...

Regarding Craig James: what's more scandalous, Steve Phillips and the intern or James' voting?

Rich in Denver

Anonymous said...

Answer to anon...Craig James and Steve Phillips are guilty of the same crime. Phillips did it to the
ESPN Production Assistant and James did it to Leach. Sammy

Anonymous said...

Keep fighting the good fight. I can't believe the incompetence in journalism today. It's a joke.

cd1515 said...

so you think they'll drop from 12 games to 11 and eliminate the conference title games to keep it at 14 total games for the champion and runnerup?

John, I love the blog, but that's NEVER gonna happen.

Anthony Warren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

One way to accomodate both a playoff and the current bowl system would be to have an 8 team playoff with the games being played at the sites of the present bowls. Those cities and stadiums would still have an event and even more attention would be paid to it. Beyond the 8 teams in the playoffs, the bowl system could continue more or less as is.

khesser said...


I had a thought this weekend.... why not move the bowl games to Labor Day weekend, the BEGINNING of the season?

Tim said...

Khesser - its a good idea, but the Atlanta Sports Commission and the Chick-fil-a Bowl beat you to it....they now start the season off with a weekend non-conference marquee matchup in Atlanta. Its set up much like a bowl is. Jerry Jones caught on is trying to establish Dallas as an opening weekend. I'm sure others aren't far behind.

When they are backed by corporate entities that will pay big bucks, schools will take the payday. And its pay that doesn't have to be shared with their other conference members.

khesser said...

I guess my question is - what's to keep the Fiesta from moving its game to September once the current BCS contract runs out? Could the BCS bowls not reposition their games as a series of marquee matchups to start the season? I think the other, smaller bowls would then follow. You could keep the whole festival atmosphere which surrounds these games, just make it a "start of the season" celebration, rather than a "new year's" tradition. The fact that fans have the Monday off for Labor Day is key, they can then travel and fill up the stadiums for an exciting kickoff to the season. Then, rotate the BCS championship game as they do now for the end the year, essentially the College Super Bowl after an 8 team playoff held at the sites of the higher seeded teams. I think it works beautifully, and everyone is happy. Right?

Anonymous said...

Joe Po asks a few questions in regard to a potential playoff system:

DjTj said...


I think you are on the right track in proposing to hold a playoff at the bowl games, but the bowls (and particularly the Rose Bowl) would not want to move too far away from New Year's Day (not to mention their attachment to the Pac-10 and Big Ten).

Also, going to an 8-team playoff would be a step backwards for mid-major teams, since we currently allow ten teams into the BCS.

A better system would be a ten-team playoff that preserves the New Year's Day Bowls. This could work by simply adding two "play-in" games before the eight-team playoff that you propose.