GORDON WHITE: BCS: Committee Thumbs Nose at Football Fans
It simply boggles the mind trying to figure out how college and university administrators figure things out and then try to sell the results to their students, alumni and the general public. Sort of a huge snow job -- and you can take it or leave it.
College football fans and non-partisan observers of the sport have been clamoring for years for a four or eight-team playoff to better determine a true national championship team in major college football. They have watched and been very unhappy with the current Bowl Championship Series manner of selecting a champion because it relies too heavily upon polls and votes.
But true to their nature and in an action that goes contrary to popular desire, the six BCS conferences and their 73 member institutions plus Notre Dame, the lone independent major university in football, last Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected any playoff plans. By so doing these colleges and universities guaranteed the continuation of the present bollixed up BCS system until at least January 2015.
This means that the teams voted No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation in certain polls and/or computer rankings are chosen to meet in a bowl game for what the BCS folks claim is "The National Championship." Unfortunately, this has been a very controversial system ever since its inception 10 years ago.
The BCS was at its worst this past January when Georgia and Southern California were very disappointed after being left out of title consideration. LSU, with two losses, and Ohio State, with one defeat, got the nod to meet for the championship won by LSU in a major upset. Although Ohio State was unanimously the No. 1 at the end of the 2007 regular season, polls were divided on LSU or Southern California for No. 2 while Georgia was a strong third.
And then there was the University of Hawaii, the only one of the 119 major college football teams in the nation to go undefeated in 2007. But BCS folks treated Hawaii like a poor stepchild and never considered the Rainbow Warriors in the running for the national title.
Yes, Hawaii was eventually beaten in the Sugar Bowl by Georgia. But didn't the only major undefeated team deserve a shot at the championship? If there had been a playoff, Hawaii might have been picked as a playoff team.
Following the rejection of a four-team playoff system by BCS people meeting in Hollywood, Fla., last week, John Swofford, commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference and rookie BCS coordinator, said. "There's a sense of comfort with the current status of things with the BCS and these several days of meetings have underscored that."
Sounds like they all went to bed and were tucked in by their nannies for a long winter's night after making a wrong decision. Maybe that is just how it works with these folks. They are so out of touch with the real world and their real fans and the public in general that they might as well be in a deep sleep.
Not one single member of major college football programs has explained why the three lesser intercollegiate football divisions within the NCAA have staged very successful playoffs for decades. I have never heard of one single case of an athlete involved in those playoffs being harmed for life because he missed a class or two in preparation for playoff games in Division III, for example.
Yet the major college presidents rant on and on that playoff games cut too deeply into academic requirements. In other words, students miss classes.
They have been singing that unbelievable song for over half a century, going way back to when major colleges played only nine games a season and a four-team playoff would increase the number to 11 games for two teams in the land. Well, today's major college football teams play a regular season schedule of 12 games.
So much for that hogwash about academic necessity.
These men objecting strenuously to a football playoff in major colleges are also leaders of institutions happily and oh, so willingly involved in the multi-billion dollar enterprise known as March Madness, the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Tournament, each year. In fact, three of the teams reaching the Final Four in San Antonio last month were among the teams voting down a football playoff last week. Those were North Carolina, UCLA and the 2008 NCAA basketball champion, Kansas.
Memphis, the other Final Four team this year, is in that lesser status of major college football along with Hawaii and might be in no man's land even if its football team went undefeated like the Rainbow Warriors. An undefeated Tiger team might get into a playoff if one existed but it would not make it into the current BCS title game as structured by the big bullies of college football.
These major college geniuses also claim a playoff will destroy the "bowl tradition." That is another myth since there are far too many bowls that have no resemblance whatsoever to the six or seven big bowl games of the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, while these colleges were rejecting a sensible playoff scheme, Wednesday, the NCAA was putting its stamp of approval on two more unnecessary bowl games to raise the total of major college post-season bowls to 34.
The NCAA approved a bowl game in Washington, D.C., and another in St. Petersburg, Fla., so that after the 2008 season 68 of the 119 major college teams will be bowl-bound. That means 57 percent of the major college teams will be in a bowl.
I can remember way back when it was really a sign of accomplishment to get into a postseason bowl. That is no longer true as mediocre teams abound in postseason bowls.
What the very greedy college presidents, conference commissioners and athletic directors will never tell you is that they want the current bowls to keep coming with all that cash.
The more bowls, the merrier and the richer everyone gets. What they do not seem to see is that down the road they will all make more money than Bill Gates if they have a playoff worth billions and billions of dollars in TV rights.
They also forgot to mention a single word about those pesky fans who want a playoff. But college football fans are mere mortals who root for their teams and are willing to pay the big bills at the gate, suckers that they are. Why should college execs care about fans' desires after taking their hard-earned money? That would be so horribly crass and commercial for these mighty institutions of learning -- and hypocrisy.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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