The Bull Penn: Put BCS to rest

Dec. 20, 2001, midnight | By Ben Penn | 22 years, 5 months ago

Ralph "The Fridge" Friedgen and the Maryland Terrapin football team: I had the movie script all written out in my mind; college football assistant coach, also an alumnus of the school, leaves town for a more glamorous job. After the school suffers through fifteen mediocre seasons, this coach, who was allegedly turned down for the school's head coaching job five years earlier because of his girth, is finally hired back as a head coach.

Looking like a cross between a beardless Santa Claus and Alfred Hitchcock, he manages to take the same group of kids that went 5-6 the year before and lead them to a miraculous 10-1 regular season with the most wins the school has had in 25 years.

Hollywood would be on this story so fast that by the end of the year the Friedgen Gut™ would be in style all across America. However, stress the word "would," because as a result of college football's Bowl Championship Series (BCS), the movie would have the lamest ending since 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A full explanation of the BCS' many intricacies would fill up all 32 pages of Chips. Instead, I will borrow from one Washington Post headline, which advised readers that to understand the BCS, all they have to do is "remove the middle letter."

While virtually every other sports league, including both high school and professional football, selects a group of the best teams and matches them up in the playoffs, college football sees a post-season tournament as a waste of time. The BCS cuts right to the chase, determining which teams play in the four elite post-season bowl games through computer analysis of strength-of-schedule, win-loss record, big wins, the average of eight computer ratings and the team's placement in both the Associated Press and Coaches' Poll.

This year, the top two teams determined by this sophisticated system, Miami and Nebraska, will play in the Rose Bowl on Jan 3, with the winner virtually guaranteed to take home a National Championship trophy. Maryland has been selected to play Florida in the FedEx Orange Bowl, which means that on Jan 2, the Terps will appear in the equivalent to the Rose Bowl's pre-game show.

Sure, considering that the Maryland football team has been 37-73 since 1990, Terp fans should appreciate any association between their team and the word "bowl," other than "toilet." But how is Maryland senior quarterback Shawn Hill going to explain this season to his grandchildren forty years from now?

"Sit on my lap and let me tell you about the time I led my team to a near-perfect season, and then we waited until the computer nerds determined that we were not good enough to have a chance at reaching the National Championship game. Thank God for those nice folks at the BCS, who saved us from the humiliation of getting killed by those big bullies from Miami."

I may sound like a bitter fan, but most of the BCS complaints of late have actually come from other parts of the country. The Colorado Buffaloes had a rough start to their season, losing the first game back in August to Fresno State. The Colorado team today has beaten two top-ten teams in its last two games, including a 62-36 upset of Rose Bowl-bound Nebraska, and is playing better than any school in the country.

But the BCS computers have no perception of this. They know only that one loss must mean that the team is not championship material.

There will always be some subjectivity involved in determining the two most deserving teams. The only way to ensure that the best team takes home the trophy is to let the top teams battle it out in the playoffs.

We need a committee of experts to decide which 12 teams are most deserving of a shot at the championship, similar to the way college basketball selects its field of 64. NFL teams, which play in a 12-team postseason tournament, never complain of the season lasting too long. People say that Maryland, due to its relatively easy schedule, has not proven itself worthy. Well, a tournament would provide Maryland the perfect opportunity to do so.

Miami and Nebraska may very well be the two best teams in the country. But without the playoffs, nobody really knows whether there is a better team out there. A couple months ago, I would not have imagined a Maryland football team with a winning season. So, for all I know, maybe the Terps will shock everyone and take home the championship. It is a travesty of sports justice for the NCAA to deprive competitive sports teams and their fans of the inspirational feeling, "It could happen."

What a shame Maryland will never have an opportunity to complete the miracle of the century, because I had John Goodman all lined up to star as The Fridge.

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Ben Penn. Ben Penn, a senior in the Communication Arts Program, is thrilled to be taking on the role of managing sports editor for Silver Chips. While holding the position of page editor last year, Ben is proud to say that he was the only person on … More »

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