I know I pick on ESPN a lot and I know people get sick of hearing me complain about the BCS. If you fall into either of those camps this is a warning: Don’t read any further today. Come on back another day when I’m not quite so cranky.
I turned on the BCS poll show—or whatever ESPN calls it—Sunday night for only one reason: I was scheduled to call TCU Coach Gary Patterson to talk to him for my Washington Post column as soon as he finished talking to ESPN after the first poll was breathlessly released. So, I had to watch to know when Patterson was finished since ESPN is never on time.
The first thing I heard Rece Davis say was, “welcome to the most exciting regular season in sports.”
Oh please. Look, Davis seems like a perfectly pleasant guy and he’s fine at what he does. In fact, anyone who can sit next to Lou Holtz all fall and not completely lose his mind must be reasonably intelligent. (on Thursday Holtz declared West Virginia, ‘a great team,’ at halftime of the Mountaineers game against his son’s South Florida team. WVU was up 17-3 at that point only because USF’s quarterback made a boneheaded throw in the last minute of the half. Next thing you know Holtz will be campaigning for Notre Dame to play in a BCS game because it beat Pittsburgh).
So Davis begins the show by pimping for college football’s regular season which, last I looked, is the only one where OPINIONS not RESULTS decide the outcome. While I’m on that topic I have a question for my friends at USA Today: How can you continue to participate in the coaches’ poll when they have again decided to keep their final ballots secret? If ESPN wants to be compromised that way fine, but you guys are better than that.
Okay, so we’ve established the tone of the show: The BCS is great and grand and we’re here to talk about how great and grand it is. Fine. ESPN has a lot of money invested in the thing. I remember when I was still doing Sports Reporters a few years back and the BCS was on Fox, John Saunders used to rip it almost as regularly as I did. Being honest, I don’t ever see the show these days, not because I boycott it or anything (I’m still friends with the people connected to the show itself) but because I’m almost always swimming on Sunday mornings. That said, I wonder if John has been told to muzzle his BCS comments now that ESPN owns the rights. Maybe someone can let me know the answer to that question.
Now, while we’re ‘waiting,’ for the poll—can’t ESPN ever do ANYTHING without stalling? (see, James, LeBron—is Stuart Scott STILL screeching?)—Craig James and Robert Smith weigh in, acting as if they don’t actually know what the poll is going to show.
James goes on at length about how the losses suffered by Alabama and Ohio State the last two weeks really prove how tough these ‘AQ,” (that’s Automatic Qualifier) conferences are? Really Craig? Have you watched an ACC game or a Big East game recently? Not only should The Mountain West get an automatic bid before the ACC or The Big East, so should the WAC. For that matter so should the CAA, which if you are really paying attention, is the best-balanced and most fun conference to watch in the country at any level.
Once James finished his paean to the “AQ’s,” Smith weighed in, thoughtfully, ‘wondering,’ how Nevada’s loss to Hawaii and Air Force’s loss to San Diego State (a game in which the Falcons lost their best running back and their best receiver) might affect the status of Boise State and TCU in the minds of the voters.
So, let’s be sure I have this straight: if the No. 1 team in The Big Ten or The SEC loses, it’s a sign of how strong those conferences must be. If the No. 2 team in the WAC or the No. 3 team in the Mountain West lose to opponents IN the conference it must be a sign that the No. 1 teams aren’t that good.
In other words, if Wright State loses a game in conference play this basketball season, that should affect how people feel about Butler since they’re both in The Horizon League.
Look, I’m not trying to say the WAC or The Mountain West are as strong top-to-bottom as The SEC. They probably aren’t as strong as The Big 12 or The Pac-10 or (maybe) The Big Ten. That misses the point. Again, use The Butler analogy: Was the Horizon League as strong or as deep as the ACC last season? No. But was Butler good enough to beat anyone in the ACC—or any other conference in the country? Yes. That’s why it missed winning the national title by two inches.
Oh, there’s one other reason Butler almost won the national title: it had the chance to PLAY for the national title. TCU and Boise State may both go undefeated in the regular season—Boise for a third straight season; TCU for a second straight season. Neither team has lost to anyone except one another since 2008. And yet, you can bet that James and Smith and Davis and all the other ESPN big conference apologists will carefully explain to us why they just haven’t done enough to merit a shot at the national title.
If two “AQ,” teams finished undefeated, there’s no way either team gets a shot. Last year it was considered a given that Alabama and Texas were better unbeatens than TCU and Boise State were. Maybe. But how did Alabama do the year before in The Sugar Bowl against Utah? Are you SURE that Texas would have beaten either TCU or Boise State on a neutral site?
I’m not and you shouldn’t be either. Let them play and prove they’re better. That way we don’t have to roll our eyes when the ESPN boys shamelessly promote the big money conferences. Why do they do that?—because they are business partners with all of them. And, even if Gary Patterson at TCU and Chris Petersen at Boise State sit and roll their eyes every time they hear all the talk about resumes and strength of schedule (even though almost none of the power teams will play either school. The caveat to that is that Patterson says he can occasionally get a power team to come to Fort Worth because Texas is such a recruiting-rich state. The same can’t be said for Boise) when ESPN calls, they have to come running because they can’t turn down that kind of exposure.
The four letter boys do wield a lot of power, which is important when (I repeat myself) opinions are deciding championships instead of results.
Again, please don’t misunderstand me those of you who love The SEC or The Big 12 or fans in Oklahoma and Oregon. I’m not claiming that TCU or Boise State would beat your schools. I’m saying they deserve the chance to try.