TCU AD embraces 'imperfect system'
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte is quick to point out the imperfections of the Bowl Championship Series, but he's going to love the only college football postseason system he's got until a perfect system is presented.
Auburn (14-0) and TCU (13-0) finished the season as the nation's only undefeated teams.
"We're going to celebrate the fact that we won the Rose Bowl," Del Conte said Tuesday morning after TCU finished ahead of Oregon at No. 2 in the final polls. "But until they get a system that is going to be absolutely perfect so they can figure out a way to determine those things, we need to celebrate the system we currently have right now.
"I'm not going to go through my time with an asterisk: could have, should have, but ... No. We're Rose Bowl champions."
Prior to Monday's championship game, TCU coach Gary Patterson reiterated his stance that he's content to live by the current system: "I still feel the same way about that."
While Patterson admittedly would have relished the chance to play Auburn or Oregon for the title, he insists that he didn't watch the game wondering how his team would have fared against either one of them.
"Like I've said before, I would like to have played them. That's what coaches do," he said. "You want to play at the highest level. We want to play for a national championship someday. ... The rules were we played in the Rose Bowl. It was a great venue and we played a really, really, really good Wisconsin team, so we feel very fortunate to win. And I watched two good teams play [Monday] night."
The Frogs are also celebrating their No. 2 ranking in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll and the USA Today coaches' poll released Tuesday morning. Ranked third in the final regular-season BCS poll, TCU knocked off Big Ten co-champion Wisconsin 21-19 in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
"We're excited. ... It's obviously very gratifying that the writers and our peers in the coaches' poll voted us No. 2," Patterson said Tuesday. "Where we started 13 years ago and where we are today, it's quite an honor to be a part of all that."
TCU received three No. 1 votes in the AP poll and one in the coaches' poll. It is the program's highest finish in the AP poll since it last went undefeated and claimed the school's lone national championship in 1938.
Del Conte called the No. 2 ranking "phenomenal" but said he doesn't feel as though TCU was robbed of a chance to play for the national championship.
"What I feel right now is we just won the Rose Bowl. I mean it sincerely. I'm not going to cheapen that at all. We won the Rose Bowl," Del Conte said. "Who would have ever thought we'd have the opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl and beat Wisconsin? That in itself is unbelievable.
"There's always going to be the speculation of woulda, shoulda, coulda, but I'm going to focus on the fact that we're Rose Bowl champions and this coach, this coaching staff and these student-athletes are champions."
TCU will play one more season in the non-automatic qualifying Mountain West Conference before joining the Big East, a league with automatic qualifying status that sent co-champion Connecticut (8-5) to the Fiesta Bowl, where it was soundly defeated by Big 12 champion Oklahoma.
Even so, Del Conte is acutely aware that an undefeated season in the Big East still won't guarantee a shot at the national title as long as more than two teams in the six BCS conferences finish the regular season without a loss. Auburn on Tuesday finally avenged its 2004 frustration when it was left out of the BCS title game despite a 13-0 record.
In that regard, Del Conte acknowledges that access to the national title game is an issue, but he doesn't throw his support toward a playoff system. In fact, he questioned the fairness of any process used to narrow a playoff field to up to 16 teams for a college football postseason tournament.
"How do you determine that in a playoff system when you take your numbers down to only 16? I don't worry about all that stuff because I can't," Del Conte said. "What I'm saying is right now is it's an imperfect system, but it's a system I embrace because our student-athletes, our fan base -- the Purple Nation -- we're Rose Bowl champions."
Jeff Caplan covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.