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Dec. 11, 2004

BCS blows it again

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
Every year, there’s one Sunday in December where pundits and a couple college football teams rail against the sham that is the BCS system. It wouldn’t be the BCS selection show without Bickering, Crying and Screaming. But this year, the system showed how outdated it is.

When the BCS came into effect in 1998, the brainchild of various conference Presidents, it was widely hailed as a way to have an undisputed National Champion. After all, there had just been a split two years earlier between Michigan and Nebraska. The presidents were in, ABC was as well, and the system was born.

Well, seven years later and a lot of complaining later, hopefully this is the year that breaks the BCS’ back. Three years ago, Nebraska got into the Title Game with two losses and without even winning the Big XII North, while Oregon and Colorado were hosed.

Last year, Southern Cal was ranked first in both human polls, but the computer polls kept them out of the title game and made a split National Champion. Pretty bad, huh? Well, this year, we have twice the drama.

Auburn was shut out of a chance to win the National Title, despite the fact that they went 12-0 in the hardest conference in football, playing on national TV every week under enormous pressure. They began the year ranked behind USC and Oklahoma, and despite clobbering every opponent all year; they finished third, relegated to a meaningless Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech.

How does a team that beats Tennessee twice, Georgia, wins at Alabama and at Florida not go to the Title Game? The best team in the best conference in the country is shut out. They were the victims of the stupid preseason polls, which put USC 1st, Oklahoma 2nd, and made it impossible for Auburn to get into the title game if the teams above them never lost.

Oklahoma got to roll 7-5 Colorado in their title game, while Auburn had to play 15th ranked Tennessee, a good team at 9-2, and won by double digits. Still, no movement by the BCS, perhaps because their margin of wins was so high.

And how did USC become ordained as the undisputed #1 team in the nation? They barely beat Cal, struggled against Arizona State, and beat a bad UCLA team by only five on the last day of the season. I know they won it all last year, but this is a new season, with a clean slate. All three of these teams were great; it’s just a crying shame that they can’t decide who’s the best on the field.

Even worse in some respects was the jobbing of California. With the BCS as is, the six power conferences get an automatic bid, plus two Wild Cards. Since Utah, who went 12-0, was not in one of the power conferences, they get in for finishing in the Top Six. But since Cal and Texas are in two of the six conferences, they had to finish fourth to get in.

Both teams were great, going 11-1. But Cal’s only loss was by six at USC, while Texas lost by 12 to Oklahoma on a neutral field in Dallas. Cal was ranked fourth in both polls, but the BCS system shut them out of the series altogether, robbing them of the $14 million purse for making a BCS game, while putting Texas in the Rose Bowl. Texas leapt Cal on the last day of the rankings to get in.

I have a huge number of family members who went to Pac 10 schools, and they all will tell you that they don’t want to see Texas in the Rose Bowl. Unless it’s their year to be the Title Game, it’s always been Big Ten-Pac 10. Plus, that aside, Cal was just a better team. They won their games by an average of 24 points a game, while Texas nearly lost to lowly Kansas.

What this system does is that it flat out doesn’t let the Champion get decided on the field. Cal had to travel 2,200 miles to Hattiesburg, MS to beat bowl-bound Southern Mississippi last week. They won by 10, and could’ve run up the score, but coach Jeff Tedford had the Bears take a knee in the Southern Miss Red Zone, letting time run out.

Texas’ head coach, Mack Brown, had to run up the score in their last game of the year, then beg to get in to the BCS. Fact is, both teams should be in it, but the system is a fraud. Why are good teams forced to resort to classless things like running up the score and begging for votes?

These computer votes, run by unknown people in various parts of the country, hold more credence than the votes of the Division I-A coaches or the writers that cover the sport for a living combined. What a shame.

Another problem with the BCS is that it just mixes-and-matches teams, with no real regard for match ups. What could have been a very enticing Auburn-Utah clash at the Fiesta Bowl, of two unbeaten teams, was split up. Now Auburn will play a boring game against Virginia Tech in New Orleans, while Utah plays a three-loss Pittsburgh team, which should never have been in the BCS to begin with.

How the Big East got an automatic bid this year is way beyond me. Pitt lost to 6-5 Syracuse and 5-6 Nebraska, and beat I-AA Furman by only three points in overtime. They only won eight games, but they get to go to the BCS and Cal doesn’t.

A lot of it is money, and that can be understandable. Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese wouldn’t give up his conference’s bid (and the $14 million that goes with it), in the name of higher ratings on TV and better competition. But the Big East was a joke this year, and I would say that Conference USA and the Mountain West conferences were better this year.

Really, it’s not the BCS specifically that is the problem. The real issue is that there is no playoff system. Right now, every other level of NCAA college football is in the midst of a 16-team playoff, but not Division I.

I would bet, if there were a playoff, that television ratings would go up. Fox takes over the BCS, starting January 1, 2007, and as it stands now, there is only one game that really matters. All these other bowl games have no meaning whatsoever; in fact, they hold less importance than a lot of regular season games, with the exception that there’s money and national TV involved.

A 12-team playoff would be a good compromise. Let the six power conferences get bids, with six Wild Cards. The BCS system could even fill it out, provided that were altered to give less power to computer nerds making rankings. The top four teams get byes, and the games could be played at the home fields, or at various bowls. This would create 10 more crucial games, and a heck of a lot more drama and excitement.

And don’t tell me that a playoff would stress out the “student athletes.” Two years ago, the season was expanded to 12 games, allowing the regular season to begin in August before classes even do. Why? More games equals more concessions, more tickets and more TV and radio, which all equal money. Adding another game in the season would certainly add more stress, wouldn’t it?

Plus, as I type this, we are in the middle of a three-week lull before the BCS games start, during which we have to bide our time with fluff like the Continental Tire Bowl, and the Bowl, and the ever-so-prestigious Emerald Walnut Bowl.

The season could go back to 11 games, with only one or two weeks off. There are 13 Saturdays from September through November, and the playoff would wrap up around New Year’s, even with a weekend off during finals.

But as it stands now, the BCS does nothing but cause problems throughout the college football world every year. Cal is shut out of tens of millions of dollars for their school and the rest of the Pac 10, and we are all robbed, once again, of a “what if” national title match up. The playoffs in every sport are always the most exciting time of the season, and after the biggest BCS debacle ever, it’s about time that Division I college football got in line, and dumped this terrible system.

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  • BCS? on December 11, 2004
    BCS? I think they messed up. They shouldn't have put the C in. It's BS!!!
  • phil aaron (View Email) on December 11, 2004
    Thanks for your view on reality. This is what it will take to reform the incompetence of the BCS. True, Auburn is screwed this year, we are now in a group of deserving teams that year after year were pased over for this "beauty contest". It's people like you that have the credibility and the power that will continue to rattle the cage until a change will occur. Thanks for the support.
  • Cory Crowder (View Email) on December 11, 2004
    Thanks for speaking the truth... this system... for this Tiger... was like a dagger in the heart.

    War Eagle
    Cory Crowder
  • don (View Email) on December 12, 2004
    amen dump this BCS crap
  • 07 on December 13, 2004
    Assuming universitry presidents still refuse to go to a playoff system, they shouold at least put strength of schedule back in the formula. If you go undefeated in the SEC, beating Georgia, Tennessee (TWICE), LSU, etc. You deserve to be in the national championship. I am no Auburn fan, but this year was the BCS biggest fiasco yet.
  • blair alum on December 14, 2004
    i go to michigan and i would have loved to see michigan play cal. very good article. but don't say that the rose bowl has no meaning, we are very proud to be going to it.
    go blue!
  • Zach Mellman, SCO alum on May 9, 2005 at 4:12 AM
    I googled "run up the score BCS" for a communications speech im doing on the topic and this was the fourth article they gave. congrats and good work
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