BCS committee may be the next step

Originally Published: December 22, 2004
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

There's a reason that the NCAA Division I-A commissioners dread the idea of repairing the hole in the BCS rating formula left by the Associated Press, which pulled its poll. If there were an easy answer, someone would have already thought of it.

And pipe down with the "A playoff is easy" answer. The commissioners have bosses, and their bosses don't want it.

The commissioners will sit down in Dallas next month during the NCAA Convention to begin discussing yet another new system. The ideas will range from reconfiguring the formula again to ditching it and appointing a committee of athletic directors and commissioners to designate the top two teams in the nation.

"I think we have to go back to the drawing board and examine every possible approach," Pacific-10 Conference commissioner Tom Hansen said. "It (the AP's departure) does make it more difficult."

Both the rejiggered formula and the blue-ribbon committee will create as many problems as they solve. Any other poll plugged into the formula will have to gain the credibility that the AP poll has developed by dint of being in place since 1936.

The Football Writers Association of America, which releases a "Power 16" every week, is a logical candidate. But its poll may be too similar to the AP poll.

"We'd have some of the same concerns," FWAA executive director Steve Richardson said Wednesday. "Substituting our poll, can you imagine the pressure on the 16 voters as compared to 65 [AP voters]?"

Hansen brought up the same issue in regard to a committee.

"The pressure is enough to decide 62 through 68 in basketball," Hansen said. "Picking one and two would be enormously difficult. The people on that panel would be subjected to a lot."

Hansen is a little sensitive on the issue of lobbying. If you ask him, he would probably tell you that Texas coach Mack Brown crossed a line when he campaigned for the Longhorns to be voted ahead of California and gain a BCS at-large berth.

"He may have forced all his brethren to do the same," Hansen said. "There's no question that it made a difference."

But the pressure on the football committee is not that something too big to overcome. NCAA basketball committee members have been able to keep lobbyists at arm's length. The committee's work is viewed as sacrosanct. Coaches left out of March Madness grumble, and sometimes do more than grumble, but getting a position on the nine-man committee has become a honor.

In recent years, the NCAA has taken pains to make the committee's work more transparent, holding seminars with mock selections to explain how the committee arrives at its decisions.

Transparency is exactly what has been missing from the BCS formula. The coaches refuse to release their votes, and the computer rankings are impenetrable. The commissioners who announce the BCS results -- Mike Tranghese of the Big East last year, Kevin Weiberg of the Big 12 this year -- can't explain how the BCS formula deduced its results. They can only announce the results and attempt to defend them.

The success of the committee proposal will depend on its makeup. The six major I-A conferences will want a lion's share of the votes. For instance, if each of the 11 I-A leagues had one vote this year, and the Big 12 (Oklahoma), Pac-10 (USC) and Southeastern (Auburn) recused themselves, that would leave the five smaller conferences with the majority of votes to decide the fate of the bigger conferences.

That won't fly. The details will be onerous, just as they have been for the BCS rankings, which have ended up on a tow truck one more time. The AP's decision is likely one breakdown too many.

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