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Monday, December 8, 2003
 



QUIT YOUR WHINING: WHY THE BCS IS JUST ABOUT PERFECT.


With No. 1-ranked USC on the sidelines for the so-called BCS Championship Game, there's been a lot of hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing and computer-bashing from the nation's sports media. As always, the Writers' Bloc begs to differ (or, at least, most of us). We think the BCS is a damn fine organization that does a damn fine job, and we feel lucky to have it on our side.


Eric Adelson
To: Writers' Block
Subject: BCS

Just curious: has anyone in a position of influence actually asked college football players whether they want a playoff? Funny, but I haven't seen many student-athletes protesting on campus. Come to think of it, the only loud complaints are coming from the same columnists who deplore college sports as exploitation: Let's stop exploiting these poor young men! Wait! I want a true national champ, so let's exploit them even more!

Matt Leinart
Beating up the Pac-10 didn't make for a strong enough schedule for Matt Leinart and USC.

The players I've asked about a playoff system have mostly either shrugged or just said, "No thanks." Makes sense to me. Every game is an exhausting, debilitating risk. I am constantly amazed how the media can watch thousands of athletes go through spring practice, two-a-days, game weeks, the pain of 13 full-contact games, and then call for them to play up to three more games. Oh, and get that homework done!

Think Joey Harrington is permanently embittered knowing he didn't get a shot at Miami two years ago? Please. Think Mike Williams will spike the AP national championship trophy because he didn't get to play in the Sugar Bowl? Come on. But ask Willis McGahee if he thinks a playoff system might have a drawback or two. Who's gonna tell him that the potential for more devastating injuries like his is simply the cost of pleasing media, fans and the annual few angry VIPs?

There are plenty of other reasons to keep the BCS:

1) What happens if we institute a four-team playoff, and the top six teams all have one loss? Think the controversy ends the day the playoff system begins?

2) Is it just me, or isn't the college football season already end-to-end exciting? If every team can lose one or two games and still make the playoffs, would we really be on pins and needles in August, September and October?

3) The real problem is the conference championship system. If Oklahoma played in the Pac 10 -- without a conference champ -- the Sooners might still be unbeaten. If USC played in the Big 12, maybe they would trip up in the Dr. Pepper Bowl. Let's add a rule: Either all the major conferences have title games, or none have title games. Fair?

4) Here's another idea: Use the BCS as a safety valve. At the end of the season, if both major polls agree on the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams, simply let them play in the title game. If there is disagreement among the polls, then implement the BCS.

5) Even if this season turns out to be an embarrassment for the BCS -- and a Michigan win can still save it -- the BCS got it right five out of its first six years. (Don't tell me Tennessee, Florida State, Oklahoma, Miami and Ohio State were not worthy champions. And don't even think for a second Oregon could have beaten Miami two years ago.) Now go back and look at the last six college basketball champions. Anyone want to tell me all six were actually, unquestionably, the very best team in the land? Anyone?

But the best reason to keep the system is to protect the players. Rest assured, all the whiners will get their way. There will be a one- or two-game playoff system. Then some sure first-rounder will ruin his leg and his future in mid-January. And we'll see how many columnists sit down at their laptops and write that it never would have happened if all the reporters had bothered to take a poll instead of voting in one.


Eric Neel
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: BCS

Discussion and debate are back. Outrage and righteous indignation are back. My bowl is better than your bowl and my boys could kick your boys' sorry butts are back. Life, complete with chaos and inconvenience, has wriggled back up from under yet another "system."

Things couldn't be better.


Tim Keown
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: BCS

I confess to being a bit skeptical of the BCS system, but that all changed for me late Saturday night. USC was finished whacking Oregon State with a bag of nickels, LSU did what it had to do and Kansas State had completed its ritualistic mocking of Oklahoma's alleged infallibility.

So where did this leave me? you might ask. It left me watching Boise State-Hawaii, of course, when some well-meaning and earnest young man was split-screened into my existence to tell me of the national-title ramifications of what I was watching. You have to understand, up to this point I believed that by watching this game late on a Saturday night, I was merely making another pathetic statement on the futility of suburban existence.

But no. This earnest young man, employed by our network in an absolute endgame example of creating your own weird niche, sat there and told me USC would be in great and grave trouble if Boise State won the game. Hawaii, it seemed, was the Trojans' last great chance.

And I thought to myself: What a great system! It's perfect -- Boise State and Hawaii have every right to have a major impact on deciding who plays for the BCS title. Boise State ripping the heart out of USC at 0230 EST? The way I see it, just another chapter in the storied rivalry.

And here I was, thinking I was wasting time. Stupid me, and thanks to the Dude in the split-screen. With the help of him, Boise State and Hawaii, I discovered I was eavesdropping on a little slice of history.


Chuck Hirshberg
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: BCS

I'll defend it, too, for crisakes. Whatever its faults, BCS gives lots of young people an opportunity to feel good about themselves, and nobody gets hurt. The same cannot be said of & boxing.

Sweet Jesus, did you see that HBO circus on Saturday night? Kirk Johnson looked so much like Al Sharpton I though for a moment I was watching "Saturday Night Live." His belly was pure butterscotch pudding (made me hungry) and his dripping love handles were the size of Anna Nicole's butt (made me nauseous). It wasnt pugilism, it was a carnival side show: "See the ravenous Ukrainian supergeek feast upon the the langorous corn-rowed Canadian sloth!" (By the way, Kirk: Iverson says if you use his hair again, he'll kick your butt twice as hard as Vitaly ever did.)

Fights nowadays are cast like melodramas -- purely for "entertainment" value -- and this one was particularly sickening. Was that the sound of racism I heard, padding around on widdle puddy-tat feet? Or was it a coincidence that HBO subjected us to two white fighters against over-matched black opponents? (Baby Joe Mesi damn near fouled-up the script by failing to put away a somnambulant Monte Barret on the undercard.) "Hooray! A white man is beating up Al Sharpton!" Oh. it was, horrible. Horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE!!!

If we're going to fix something, for God's sake, let's fix that. We need a federal boxing authority to arrange bouts and rankings, and to oversee the financial operations of the sport. Yeeeeesh!


Alan Grant
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: BCS

Let's take a look at some Bowl games in the lawless and confusing days prior to the BCS, shall we?

Jason White
So, the class bully gets beat up 35-7 ... and gets another chance in the title game?
In 1993, both Florida State and Notre Dame finished the year with one loss. Yet Florida State, which had lost to Notre Dame in the regular season, was awarded the title. In 1995, both Penn State and Nebraska finished the year undefeated, yet Nebraska got the title. In '97, Nebraska and Michigan, having finished with identical records, each got a share of the national title.

Enter the BCS to bring an end to all of this madness.

OK, this year we have three teams, each with one loss. But we have one game which serves as the official championship game. One of the participants in that game played the role of proverbial bully all season, and not only lost it's final contest, it lay down and played the role of proverbial weakling when someone finally stood up to them. (Sorry, but it's a fact, Sooner fans!) Yet they still have a reservation in said official championship game.

Hmm. All things considered, the BCS has accomplished absolutely nothing.


Ralph Wiley
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: BCS

What the BCS Full of Bullcrap Society does is prove you can input data into a computer, but you can't input common sense into one at all. Why, even Radio himself knows that if you get beat in your season-ending conference championship game by four touchdowns, you don't get to play for a national championship. Will Rogers knows it, and he's dead. Been dead for quite a while, in fact. And from Oklahoma, on top of that.

Having said this, the BCS has literally fallen into a bed of roses here. They get a game that not only makes a previously No-Interest Sugar Bowl relevant (haven't paid attention since Tony Dorsett, then Herschel Walker, played in a couple), it makes the Sugar Bowl a one-per-lifetime dreamscape for LSU, basically at home vs. Oklahoma. And some people -- assorted Cajuns, Marsalises, the Neville Brothers, others, including highly inebriated and obnoxious fans, though I personally am not among them -- will say the game is for the "national title."

Then you have the Rose Bowl, which had fallen on hard, equally irrelevant times. It not only gets the reenactment of its traditional Pac-10/Big 10 matchup, it gets an engaging game between USC and a Michigan team that can sort of bring it too, a game that can also claim to be for the "national title." In fact, the Rose can claim this myth a little better than the Sugar can.

Both games figure to be raging sellouts, with lots of lush incoming hype. Money will be just sitting there, waiting to be made, change hands, circulate. So forget the computer. A computer once extrapolated Marciano would beat young Ali. So we know not to trust a computer any further than we can throw one when it eats up our copy.

Taking computers out of it -- what's not to like here?


David Schoenfield
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: BCS

"Computer nerds trump humans!" Gimme a break. The BCS did exactly what it is supposed to do -- sift through the mess of three one-loss teams and figure out which two actually accomplished more during the season. The computers didn't invent any secret formula; they tell us what happened on the field. And USC beat just one team with fewer than five losses this season (9-3 Washington State), while Oklahoma and LSU played tougher schedules.


Dan Shanoff
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: BCS

Let me follow on Dave's point, because I'm sick of the dissing of the computer formulae:

The most corrupted part of the BCS system is the HUMAN polls.

Coaches?

Better put that in quotes, because there's a sneaking suspicion that the ballot is filled out by the SID, the athletic director's nephew or the locker-room towel guy.

And for those coaches who actually fill out a ballot, there's NO conflict of interest there or anything. Their pure and sole motivation would definitely be objective ranking and analysis of the Top 25 ... as opposed to, say, subtly buffing up their opponents (to help their own schedule strength) or knocking down their rivals' opponents. Please.

And the media?

I'm quite impressed that media voters can actually cover a game at the same time they watch every other team in the country play simultaneously. These guys are really talented! Or, more realistically, they glance at the highlights.

And they have their own conflict of interest: It behooves them to boost their own hometown team (see the "Also Receiving Votes" area on a weekly basis) or their hometown region/league.

Transparency is one easy remedy: Post every voter's entire ballot online and let everyone see where they stand. That kind of scrutiny would act as a nice check to the out-of-whack power we have assigned the humans, flawed as they are.