BCS is an illogical end to a season

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Once again, college football’s top level, Division I, will have a pseudo champion, one determined as much off the field as on it. So why should anybody care? They shouldn’t. Athletic directors, college presidents, NCAA officials and any sports writers who support the current system should be ashamed.

cartoon by NICK ANDERSON/Houston Chronicle

cartoon by NICK ANDERSON/Houston Chronicle

A playoff would offer a true football champion, something that is done at NCAA Division I-AA, II, III (and at IV, V and VI, if they had them). Playoffs determine titlists in baseball, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, and lacrosse, among others.

Yet, NCAA Division I football would rather be lumped together with figure skating, synchronized swimming, and competitive cheerleading, sports that rely on judges to determine winners. (Oklahoma, Oklahoma, that’s our team, if they can’t go to the BCS then nobody can! Woo.)

Let’s face it: The BCS is not working.

The latest evidence? At least two Big 12 teams are going to get sacked because they happened to have lost later in the season. Texas lost to Texas Tech about a month ago, while Texas Tech lost to Oklahoma a few weeks ago. That Oklahoma lost to Texas is okay, though, since that defeat came early in the season. These three teams are tied atop the Big 12’s South division, but only one team will go to the conference championship. That will be determined when the new BCS standings come out later today.

In a playoff system, all three would get a chance to play for the national championship (and all would have pretty good seedings.) As it is now, two quality teams will be relegated to other meaningless bowls. (And when you think of it, aren’t all bowls anachronistic and meaningless?)

Plus, several undefeated teams won’t receive a BCS bid. Sorry, Ball State and Boise State, you should have joined a better conference like the Pac-10, SEC, or ACC where 9-2 means more than 12-0.

Instead, perfection for Ball State might mean a bid to the Motor City Bowl against Minnesota. Boise State, which went undefeated for the third time in five years, may be headed for the Poinsettia Bowl against Texas Christian. Even though Utah did get a BCS bid for its 11-0 effort, the Utes do not get a shot at winning the national title. Instead, they may play a team like Oklahoma, a team Boise State defeated in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago.

Meanwhile, a 9-3 Missouri team could earn a BCS bid with an upset victory in the Big 12 championship.

College presidents say adding extra games would be a hardship on players. Yet, college basketball players compete before and during finals and mid-terms. And playing 13 games, apparently, is absolutely fine. That enables Florida to tune-up for Florida State with a rout of the Citadel. And Oklahoma could kick off its season by routing Chattanooga. These games are acceptable, though, because they bring money directly into the coffers of big-time programs, the same programs that benefit from a BCS scenario.

These same BCS boosters say the schedule is already too long. But don’t players already prepare for bowl games that take place in December and January?

We need a playoff to determine a real champ. Fans and sports journalists even say that a player’s true worth is measured during the post season. Players can bat .340 for the season, but if they hit .120 in the playoffs then they must not be that good. A team can go undefeated but it does not matter if it loses in the playoffs. Yet, somehow we treat NCAA Division I football differently – with illogic, hypocrisy and starry eyes.

The NCAA needs to create an eight or 16-team playoff. Imagine the excitement ( and, Mr. & Mrs. College Presidents, imagine the moolah. Lets make no pretense: college football is mostly about the money, the bigger conferences greedily trying to hang on to big-bucks bowl payouts.) The ratings would be through the proverbial roof, even on a first weekend akin to New Year’s Day. This year, we could have viewed first-round match-ups like Alabama-Penn State, Texas-Texas Tech, Oklahoma-Utah, and Florida-Southern Cal. Open the playoffs to 16 teams and we might get that same Cinderella magic prevalent in the NCAA basketball tournament. Texas-Ball State and Boise State-Texas Tech in the opening rounds. Who wouldn’t watch?

So let’s call it like it is. As sports journalists, we need to look at the whole sports landscape.

Why is it okay to crown a champ based on ratings for NCAA Division I, but not for any other football division or for the NFL? Or for any other college or professional sport?

Why do we say that we love the Cinderellas in the NCAA basketball championship, but that we do not want to include the likes of Boise State and Ball State in a football championship?

Why do we argue that college football has the most meaningful season because every game counts, but we dismiss this notion in nearly every other sport. We argue that college football’s regular season is as pure as the driven snow. Or that college football does not ‘always provide a bow on a neatly tied package at the end of the year,’ thus giving it ‘integrity.’ (Which means that Division I-AA and II determine champions in a more disingenuous manner, using this logic.)

Another columnist writes: “This season is proof that a playoff would only muck up something that works.” (Not sure the Giants or Appalachian State would agree with that assessment.)

One other sports journalist argues: “The regular season is the main course, not some overpriced appetizer. There still might be a tidier way to settle the championship issue on the field, but don’t let it come at the expense of the 12-game meat of the schedule.” Yet, these ‘meaty’ schedules can be trimmed of much fat (re: Florida-Citadel, Oklahoma-Chattanooga, Miami-Stetson).

Many BCS supporters argue that every game is like a playoff. Really? Then, nearly every team, has been eliminated this season, except for Utah, Boise State and Ball State. Of course, all of these arguments are tempered with self-preservation, greed, and illogic because, as we all know, some teams get second (and third) chances while other teams never even get a first one.

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