The Big College Stink

Dec. 12, 2003, midnight | By Nick Falgout | 17 years, 1 month ago

Or, why the BCS isn't so bad

By now many of you have heard the news: the fine football team of the University of Southern California will not play for the national title game of college football. Instead, the LSU Tigers will square off against the suddenly ostracized Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl, for the big prize; while USC plays Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Despite the fact that USC finished in first place (and Oklahoma in third) in the coaches' poll and associated press poll. So how did this happen?

Well, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is about more than two dinky little human polls. A big ol' computer computes scores for the top teams, based on such things as record (duh) and strength of schedule. And that computer put Oklahoma on top, followed by LSU, followed by… USC.

But of course it isn't really the computer's fault. Going into the last game, USC and LSU were each had one loss, with Oklahoma at 12-0. USC and LSU each handled their games, but Oklahoma dropped the ball. In a big way. As in, 35-7, to conference rival Kansas State. Thus, three teams ended up with a one-loss record and national championship dreams.

The uproar after the bowl game announcements was immediate. How does a team voted number one in both polls not get to play in the championship? How does a team that didn't win its conference (Oklahoma) get to play in the national championship game? Down with the BCS! Burn the witches!

Well, imagine the situation from Oklahoma's perspective. As the number one team heading in to the last week of play before the championship, a win virtually guarantees a national championship birth. But they lose, to a talented Kansas State squad. Not only do they experience the infamy of losing the conference, but they do so on their first loss of the season, and now they're number three in the polls. To be denied a birth in the championship would be the final shot to the stomach.

I guess the real question is, who is more deserving? (Again, duh). Well, Oklahoma lost to Kansas State, who was 10-3 prior to beating Oklahoma, in the conference championship. USC, on the other hand, lost to California. Who ended the season at 7-6. Add that to the fact that USC even played one less game than Oklahoma, and it seems pretty clear that Oklahoma was the better team.

But humans are impressionable. USC had a streak. (has everyone forgotten Oklahoma's 12 –game streak?) USC won their conference (get to that in a minute). USC is the "underdog favorite. " Maybe that's why 37 of the 63 coaches in the coaches' poll voted for USC as the first place team, and shafted Oklahoma. Yeah, you heard me right.

This is why we got the computer involved. So that stuff like this would be corrected. Oklahoma had the 11th toughest schedule, played more games than USC, and lost to a much more formidable foe than did USC. Just because a team doesn't win the conference doesn't mean they shouldn't be considered for the national championship game. If Notre Dame won every game but not the conference (entirely possible, since they aren't in a conference), no one would say "They shouldn't get to play in the championship game." Whatever happened to the concept of a "wild card?" All the pro sports have them, and they frequently win the whole thing. What does that say about your precious "number one" teams?

The whole uproar over the BCS situation is the latest in a series of events which form a disturbing trend, which is valuing college sports over education. Hypothetically speaking, the point of going to college is to learn, right? Why, then, is there such a big stink over college sports? Sports should supplement the educational system, not overshadow it. Recent incidences of coaches using unorthodox methods of recruiting (like in Southern Miss) and teachers helping players more than other students (like Maurice Clarrett… How soon they fade into the background) have cast a dark shadow across all of collegiate level sports. As it stands, the BCS is a good way to determine a so-called "national champion" without playing an unreasonable number of games and with minimal whining and complaining. These are college athletes, folks.

Oh, and last time I checked, the bronze medal was pretty darn good.

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Nick Falgout. Nick Falgout was bored one day and decided to change his Chips staff information. And now, for a touching song lyric: "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case Get off my case, get off my case." ~ Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd … More »

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