Imagine a season of destiny. Visualize rising with your teammates early each morning to greet the sweltering summer heat; perspiring over jumping jacks and wind sprints; smashing tackling dummies. You have all become close this preseason: white and black, city kid and country bumpkin, offensive lineman and placekicker. It is the game that binds you, and not just to play the game, but your shared, mutual desire to be the very best at it.
Then the season begins. You play in front of 70,000 wild, zealous fans whether home or away. You and your teammates become even closer through surviving Coach’s tirades, rude fans, insensitive sportswriters, bad officiating, constant injuries and shady agents -- as they all threaten to tear the team apart at the very seams. You and your teammates are against the world like Tupac; the goal is to play in the last game of the season.
Your team perseveres and goes through the entire season undefeated. You imagine the great glories that are yours for the taking, most notably the national championship game that you’ve dreamed of playing in since you were a child. You’ve done everything you were asked to do. And yet, you are denied your shot, because some computer system regulated by the BCS says that USC and Oklahoma are statistically better and that they should play for the championship.
Now you see the quandary that the football teams at Auburn, Utah and Boise State face. They each run the risk of completing undefeated Division 1 regular seasons without an opportunity to play for all the marbles. This is not an issue in any other college or professional sports. There, the best teams play final tournaments until only one team is left. And that team, without question, is the best team.
The formula determined by the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) creates more questions than it answers. It decides a team’s net worth based on the usual factors, but with a disproportionately heavy slant towards the larger conferences. Witness last year when USC and LSU -- each carrying one loss -- shared the national title instead of playing to settle the score. The BCS backers say that the current system is better than the previous one and they are correct. I’m sure that the Wright Brothers’ second plane was better than their first too, but we should be thankful the aviation industry didn’t stop there. I propose -- for at least the 95th time -- that NCAA Football seriously consider a national championship tournament.
I know the knee jerk reaction is to say that it’s inconsiderate to create an eight or sixteen team playoff. I can hear the university presidents already: “Think of the time that it will take these young men away from their classes.” It’s also inconsiderate to make millions of dollars off the abilities of these young men, then penalize them for wanting a small piece of the pie. (But that’s a whole other story.) This line of reasoning is illogical. First of all, Division 1-AA has ended their season with playoffs for years, without incident. And college basketball sometimes begins and always ends with out-of-state tournaments and nobody seems to have a problem with that, either.
Going back to Auburn, I know that they killed themselves with their easy non-conference schedule. (Louisiana-Monroe? The Citadel?) But going undefeated in the Southeastern Conference while embarrassing perennial power Georgia 24-6 certainly deserves more than a cursory nod from some rigid computer. Boise State is in a worse predicament: they aren’t even in a strong conference. But even though their schedule hasn’t proven that they’re really that good, it also hasn’t proven that they’re really that bad. Who I really feel bad for is Utah, a school with a Heisman candidate (quarterback Alex Smith), a hot, young coach (newly named Florida coach Urban Meyer) and an offensive attack (502 yards per game) that nobody really wants to face. (Although as of this writing, I have just learned that my alma mater, Pittsburgh -- through yet another of the BCS’s wrinkles -- will get their chance to test Utah's mettle in the Fiesta Bowl.) And I haven’t even mentioned Cal-Berkeley or Texas, whose close losses to #1 USC and #2 Oklahoma, respectively, should certainly garner them consideration as well.
But we won’t really get to find out the truth, now will we? The NCAA remains inflexible, guaranteeing that we will have these water cooler debates for years to come.
Or they could just let the kids play.
Jason Gilmore is a film director, screenwriter, novelist and unrepentant Detroit Pistons fan. Track him down on Facebook.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
12.17.04 @ 8:23a
Football playoffs, pay the kids, re-do title IX. The NCAA has nearly destroyed collegiate athletics and there's a sick amount of money involved.
michelle von euw
12.17.04 @ 9:22a
Right on, Jason! "Mess" is right -- the BCS is a total disaster, and the formulas are completely ridiculous. The Notre Dame/Hawaii score was what kept USC out of the big game last year, and this year it's even more unfair, as your column rightly shows.
And Joe, Title IX is fine - it's misinterpreted, and then used as a scapegoat for other problems. You can read my column of a few years ago for the real scooop.
12.17.04 @ 9:44a
I’m sure that the Wright Brothers’ second plane was better than their first too, but we should be thankful the aviation industry didn’t stop there.
With all the success (read: money) made off NCAA basketball, why is that not a good enough model by which to structure football?
12.17.04 @ 10:43a
Yeah! I'd love another tourney to bet on, I mean, observe and follow for the true joy of sport.
12.17.04 @ 12:56p
I’m not disagreeing that the current system doesn’t lend to unfairness in rankings, but in fairness, a college football tournament in the vein of the NCAA basketball tournament is not plausible. The increased number of players, extra staff - hell, the length of the football game alone make such a plan impossible. What fan is going to sit through that many games? Outside, in the cold? Usually played far from their home turf?
You can enjoy football, but be honest with yourselves: There are already too many post-season football games to hold people’s attention! Only a handful of the best bowls (rose bowl, etc.) actually have enough fans in the stands to matter. Look at the stands in the blue and grey game – ¾ of them are empty! Bottom line, a football tournament would be a colossal waste of money.
12.17.04 @ 1:44p
I wonder about the necessity for some kind of championship game to begin with! Arguably (if not realistically) college football is a game of amateurs, to be played for nothing more than school pride, personal and team glory, and the adoration of your classmates, alumni and boosters.
The heart of the problem has nothing to do with the BCS computer, the least user-friendly system since the HAL9000. No, the problem lies with the NCAA -- you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Somewhere along the line they went from a reasonable body created to set standards and rules for collegiate athletics to a power brokerage running the minor league mills for the NBA and NFL, with their eyes firmly fixed on revenues and "The System" rather than the welfare of these gifted students.
Unfortunately, America's addiction to college sports means the NCAA isn't going to go away, isn't going to be reformed, and isn't even going to pretend to be interested. As long as there is collusion between the major television outlets (just WHY does Notre Dame still get TV coverage, hm?), the NCAA, the Conferences and the boards of powerhouse D-I schools, there's no chance in hell. And since the fans would rather die than kiss March Madness or Saturday football goodbye, the collusion persists.
The NCAA has its hooks in the kids because the kids watch their college heroes ditch school for the Draft. The NCAA has its hooks in us because we don't want to be deprived of sports on TV. That the NCAA could devise something as illogical and intrinsically flawed as the BCS -- and get away with it! -- only proves that they can shovel any old BS at us, as long as there's SOME KIND of champion, deserved or not, crowned in January.
12.17.04 @ 2:20p
I'm not sure the NCAA can be described as "brokers" to the NBA. Many top drafts are bypassing college altogether, entering the NBA straight out of high school. Not to mention, I do not think the individual colleges or the NCAA itself receive any money from the majors.
12.17.04 @ 2:20p
I'm not saying there should be a 64 or 32 team tourney, that would be ridiculous. But an eight team tourney is just three games. You could take the top 8 teams on the last poll or give automatic slots to the champs of the SEC, ACC, Pac-10, Big 10 & Big East, plus three others (throw the MAC champion in there too) and have the rest duke it out. High school football teams may have to play five or six games to get to their state championship. So why would an NCAA football tourney be unthinkable. I think we could start with the eight team tourney, throw in a couple of other bowls for other schools and call it a day. It wouldn't cost schools more money, it would cost them less.
But I agree with Russ: the NCAA knows we'll watch no matter what, so they have no real motivation to solve the issue.
12.17.04 @ 2:37p
No, the problem lies with the NCAA -- you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
The NCAA operates out of Mos Isley? Does the B in BCS stand for Boba?
12.17.04 @ 2:47p
so, would the 8 team tourney be in lieu of the current bowl game system? If so, then it is reasonable. If not, I still say it is excessive.
But even still; just bringing in the champions from a few conferences lends to the same unfairness you discuss in your column. #2 ACC or #3 Big 10 may be more deserving than #1 MAC. The beauty of the basketball tournament is the wild card factor that allows the potential Cinderella story to occur. An 8-team tourney does not allow for such surprise.
12.17.04 @ 2:59p
I'd be open to a 16 team tourney, too. That would probably be best: four games to the championship and then you could include a #2 from the ACC or a #3 from the Big Ten. Of course that, too, would create some debates but I think it's a far more accessible system than the current one.
And yes, I did mean that set-up in lieu of the current 85 bowl set-up, lol. But I know that's why it'll never happen because as long as North Texas has a chance to play a bowl on Dec. 14th, they're gonna want their payout too.
12.17.04 @ 3:08p
In that case, I'm fully on board for tournaments instead of the bowls. Hell, make it 20 teams.
12.21.04 @ 3:54p
AP threatens to pull out of BCS
12.21.04 @ 4:56p
They ain't threatening anymore. Effective next season, the AP is out of the BCS system. Change is-a gonna come!
12.21.04 @ 10:22p
Jason -- welcome to being at the forefront of news. We are the prescient. We are the Intrepid Media Staff.
12.22.04 @ 3:29p
12.23.04 @ 6:00p
Good bait Jason. Now you got everyone's blood rushing on this madness we argue about with friends, family, and people who don't know anything about sports. The thing on this subject is, everyone agrees or reaches a mutual compromise because nothing can be worse than the current system. How would you feel if a computer had say-so in a dunk contest? Does Lebron get a few system points just because he is that dude? Does Chris Anderson loose a few because he's a lanky white cat with an afro? It's bull. But before we start slurpin each other because AP left, let's think this through. Does this mean that 50% will be coaches and 50% will be computer? That could be worse. Should fan polls be considered? Tourney? Who knows? The bottom line is everyone agrees that the system should change and now that it has, will you still watch college football?
12.27.04 @ 8:49a
I've given up thinking about the BCS and tourneys etc. If we were paid to do so, I'd like to thing my friends and I could come up with a better system but really who am I kidding, I got a C in Stats II. Although I b*tch about the bowl system every year, as soon as they extended a Continental Tire Bowl invitation to UNC I was pricing tickets. Hell, I spent a few hundred dollars staying in Charlotte Thanksgiving weekend to watch East Carolina and NC State play a "special" regular season ending game at Panther/BankOfAmerica Stadium.... and that game was as bad as you'd expect. People like me blow cash on crappy non-bowl games so they won't change a system that earns them even more money. All we'll ever get is a revised BCS formula.
1.5.05 @ 1:39p
So, with regard to last night's game, I guess now it can be said without question that Ashlee Simpson is indeed talentless.
2.12.09 @ 12:27a
Well said Sir...well said! You have to write more sports articles soon!