Tranghese discusses possible BCS changes

As Mike Tranghese's two-year term as the chair of the Bowl Championship Series ends at the Nokia Sugar Bowl on Sunday night, he is well aware of the hump on college football's back. It'll be out of his hands shortly, but Tranghese did not balk at discussing any subject in a lengthy question-and-answer session. He discussed various changes the BCS might make.

Updated: January 4, 2004, 6:58 PM ET
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

NEW ORLEANS -- In the movie "Young Frankenstein," the doctor informs Igor, his newly hired hunchbacked assistant, that he can fix his unsightly hump.

"What hump?" Igor asked.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese isn't that blind. As Tranghese's two-year term as the chair of the Bowl Championship Series ends at the Nokia Sugar Bowl on Sunday night, he is well aware of the hump on college football's back. It may be painful. It may be as ugly as Bourbon Street at 3 a.m. The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, but this hump is here to stay.

"If I could just use the two human polls and get rid of the computers ... " Tranghese said Sunday morning at the annual Football Writers Association of America breakfast. "If you think it's fun defending the computers ... " Tranghese said.

He didn't finish either thought. He didn't have to.

"I knew the day that we came up with the computers that this was going to happen," Tranghese said. "Some day, some time, some place, something like this was going to occur."

"This" is the past month of controversy, generated by the argument over whether USC should be in the Superdome on Sunday night instead of Oklahoma or LSU. The BCS rating, and the computers' role in it, resulted in what will likely be a split national championship, a result the BCS was formed specifically to avoid.

Tranghese did not balk at discussing any subject in a lengthy question-and-answer session. He discussed various changes the BCS might make. He declared a full-blown playoff will never happen, but that one post-bowls game might. He also criticized the American Football Coaches Association, which has its votes going in one direction and its national championship trophy going in another.

And Tranghese said that the system, imperfect though it is, will remain in place because the six BCS conferences are not going to do anything to jeopardize their standing in the postseason.

"Every one of us is selfish," Tranghese said. "We're going to do what we want to do to protect our conference."

Tranghese reminded his audience that the commissioners devised the rating only when The Associated Press warned that many newspapers would refuse to participate in the poll if there was a direct link between it and the national championship game. Tranghese offered the reminder for historical context, not to pin the blame on the writers. In the end, the commissioners had to devise a system. It could have been as simple as forming a selection committee, as every other NCAA sport has.

"Two years ago, I was a proponent of the human element," Tranghese said. "We have a decision to make. There are going to be three conferences involved. We have to remove those three conferences (from the decision-making). That means we are going to put the decision in the hands of three people. That made people nervous."

The solution, and readers may want to proceed slowly in order to soak it all in, would be to appoint a larger committee.

Yes, the simplest solutions elude the game's caretakers.

On other subjects, Tranghese said, the BCS has done a poor job of thinking through all the possibilities. Take the idea that a team that's No. 1 in both polls will automatically qualify for the championship game. The commissioners didn't insert that into the qualifications because it never occurred to them that the No. 1 team could fall to No. 3 in the BCS rating.

"The Nebraska-Colorado situation (in 2001) should have alerted us," Tranghese said. "If we had given it more thought, we might have seen it. The computers don't calculate when you lose a game. Humans calculate when you lose a game. I think we made a mistake."

Many fans criticize Oklahoma's presence because the Sooners did not win the Big 12 Conference. The six BCS commissioners discussed that issue after Nebraska reached the championship game two seasons ago instead of Big 12 champ Colorado or Pac-10 champ Oregon.

The conferences that don't play championship games, Tranghese said, balked at ruling out their runners-up.

"Some of us are playing conference games in the first week of the season," Tranghese said. "Miami could lose in week one, then run the table. They (might be) number one or number two. We elected not to go there. We've had it (happen) two out of three years. It's obviously an issue."

Among the many absurdities is that the 37 coaches who voted USC No. 1 in the last poll are contractually obligated to vote the winner of the Sugar Bowl as the national champion. American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff, who made that deal, will never admit how foolish the deal makes his members look.

"It's putting the coaches into a position that they didn't ask for," Tranghese said. But he also criticized the voting coaches who claimed that they didn't realize what might happen.

"They tell our kids to stand up in the face of adversity, and our coaches run for the hills," Tranghese said. "Coaches are saying they didn't know this (could happen). With all due respect, they did know this. They didn't think it through."

The simplest solution of all, a playoff, is dead with a Do Not Resuscitate note on its chart.

"I have sat in a room with the presidents," said Tranghese, referring to the presidential oversight committee. "It's not going to happen. From the beginning, our presidents said, don't engage in a discussion about a playoff. We've asked them."

Among the objections: a playoff would negatively affect graduation rates, the results of the regular season, and the outcome of this on the bowl system. It is not, Tranghese emphasized, a decision based on money.

"I just came here from the Gator Bowl," he said. "The players from Maryland and West Virginia had an incredible experience. That game is not making anybody any money. Our payout was $1.8 million. Each team's expenses were $1 million. You think we're doing it for $800,000? Criticize us for not having a playoff, but it's not the money. Our graduation rates would go down and we would get killed."

Tranghese continued. "We're living in a system that we're going to get killed no matter what."

He said this without self-pity. Then again, that may just be his giddiness talking: After the Sugar Bowl, Tranghese surrenders the BCS chair to Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg for the next two years.

Let someone else ponder the hump.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com