Monday, December 03, 2007

Absolutely Off-Topic.

I had intended to post this Monday. However, after asking for Rykert's editorial assistance, this took a little longer to put together. This represents our Manifesto on the BCS. If you came here looking for knitting or crafting, come back tomorrow. I'll try to have something for you then.

I bet you didn't know this about me, but I'm actually quite a football fan. That being said, I have no intention of getting bundled up and heading out to a football game and I've never tailgated at 7 in the morning. I do, however, pay attention to football, know the rules, and generally speaking, can hang in just about any football conversation - NFL or NCAA.

So, it is with great despair that I discuss a topic for which I am passionate: the ridiculous BCS System. It is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous thing. Ever. Rykert has a solution (that has also been proposed by others) - a NCAA Basketball play-off type system which would incorporate the bowls, even the playing the field, and allow the big sponsors (Allstate, Tostinos, etc) to still make their millions.

Why, you may ask, am I passionate about this? Well, I went to school at one of the little guys, a non-BCS Conference school with a fledgling Division I football team. You see, each of the six BCS conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Pac 10, and Big East) are guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS bowls. One automatic berth is given to the highest ranked champion of a non-BCS Conference IF (and only if) (1) it is ranked in the top 12 or (2) ranked in the top 16 and higher than one of the BCS Conference champions. This is crazy, right? So, with the Conference Champions of the top six conferences taking up 6 of the 10 spots there's little room for the rest.

My sophomore year, 1998, my Greenies actually achieved the seemingly impossible and went undefeated. (Insert your arguments about the lack of competiveness of Conference USA here.) Yet, despite their extraordinary season, the 1998 Green Wave was given no access to a major bowl game (and the national exposure that would come with it) or the National Championship. If you play your season, and you win out, then you should have equal opprtunity to play for all of the marbles. See Boise State last year or Hawaii this year. The current system relies on computers and polls, preseason rankings and "strength of schedule" to determine the top two teams. There is never a clear and undisputed National Champion. The year of Tulane's perfect season there was only one other undefeated team, University of Tennessee. Their opponent, Florida State, was beaten once in the regular season. Tennessee ended up winning the Mythical National Championship. And Tulane's Tommy Bowden, left for the greener pastures of Clemson where he would actually have the opportunity to play for a national championship under the current system. While recent "tweaks" to the BCS have marginally increased the odds of a Non-BCS school being included in a BCS bowl (Utah 2004, Boise State 2006, Hawai'i 2007), no non-BCS school has ever competed for the National Champoinship under the current system, even when being one of only 1 or 2 undefeated teams in the country. The current system practically assures that this will continue into perpetuity.

This year has been very competitive as far as college football games with lots of flipping around in the polls (for whatever that is worth), overtime games, and general parity among teams. No clear number 1 has emerged and clearly dominated its opponents. LSU suffered two losses by unranked opponents; Ohio State got beat by Illinois who even Iowa, having a rebuilding year, managed to beat. I'm somehow unsurprised that the coordinator of the BCS is also the head of the SEC, representing what I would call a significant conflict of interest. I mean even Tulane played with LSU for 3 quarters of a game. The score on the LSU/ Tulane game was farther apart than the actual game. A Number 1 or 2 team should have dominated Tulane this season.

The BCS System is, at best, a corrupt and ridiculous system. It is, at worst, completely anti-competitive and a violation of Anti-Trust laws. Why does it matter? Well, it matters because if you are a little guy in a non-BCS conference like Tulane, the only chance you have to capitalize on an extraordinary season is to get the exposure and monetary compensation (yes schools make money for playing in bowl games the teams that play in the BCS shared like $150+ million last year) that comes with playing in a BCS game - it's imperative for recruiting and sustainability.

Rykert's distate for the system became inflamed in 2004 when his beloved Auburn Tigers were aced out of a shot at the Mythical National Championship, though undefeated, by USC and Oklahoma. That year, Auburn defeated a top-25 team in Tennessee to win the SEC championship, while Oklahoma beat un unranked Colorado Team in The Big 12 championship game. Clearly undermanned, USC trounced Oklahoma 55-19 in the B(silent C)S championship game. Auburn defeated a top-10 Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl 16-13. By the way, non-BCS Utah finished that season undefeated as well.

The problem is the system, and it is not the fault of the teams that were chosen. Schools, coaches, players, pundits, and fans should be outraged at the system as it now exists. I'm completely shocked by the mainstream football commentators who attempt to justify the system. It is inherently subjective and unfair. A play-off style system would alleviate controversy and name a single, undisputed national champion. I have never heard anyone make a convincing argument as to why there cannot be a play-off system and why the BCS System, as it currently exists, is satisfactory. As Rykert put it, the justifications for the Iraq war make more sense than those put forth about the BCS. That's a sad state of affairs. If you look at other Division IA collegiate sports (Baseball and Basketball, for example), all teams are able to compete regardless of size and the classification of their conference. So a Tulane can make it to the Baseball World Series or the Final Four and play with the Tennessee's and the LSUs and the Ohio States.

One more thing, if you are going to try to argue about the "traditions" of the bowls, please spare me. The whole bowl system has gotten unbelievably ridiculous. I mean, do you remember with great nostalgia the the " Papajohns.com Bowl" or the "AutoZone Liberty Bowl" or the "Pacific Life Holiday Bowl" or the "New Mexico Bowl," which features, big surprise, the University of New Mexico, of old. We are just a season away from the Tampax Bowl. Seriously. Rykert's all-time favorites: the Continental Tire Bowl and the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl

So, with some editorial assistance from Rykert, here is what we suggest. Each of the 11 Division IA conferences will name a winner who will receive an automatic berth to the play-off for the National Championship. If you can't win your conference, then clearly you may not be the best team in the nation. If you aren't in a conference (I'm talking about you Notre Dame), then get over yourself and join up, or be at the mercy of the at-large selection process. No automatic bid for a single school based on record/rankings. There would be a few at-large berths to accomodate situations where a single conference is particularly competitive and to fill out the bracket. The Conference Champions and few at-large teams are then seeded and placed into a single elimination bracket culminating in a single National Championship Game. The semifinals, etc. can still be bowl games - The Fiesta Bowl Quarterfinal, etc. If corporate sponsors want to sponsor low-stakes, ridiculous bowl games ( i.e. the Tampax Bowl), then they can do so with the remaining teams. Bowl sponsors could still make their money, and fans/alumni would see more than one meaningful bowl game and several consolation games.

And now I bust some of the weak arguments that will be thrown against our plan:
(1) Don't fix what isn't broken; the current system works. You're kidding me with this one, right? The current system does not work. The current system creates a tiered system where the haves ( i.e. BCS Conference schools) are given advantages over the have nots (the non-BCS Conference Schools) without any regard for performance on the field. Tulane, Marshall, and BYU have all posted perfect records since 1998 and have been locked out of high-payout BCS games. Utah, Boise State, and Hawai'i, while allowed token appearances in BCS bowls following undefeated regular seasons, have been consistently left out of any serious consideration for playing in the championship game. The current system does not work. There has never been a better example than this year, where a clear-cut #1 and #2 simply do not exist.

(2) The Regular Season Won't Count Anymore. Again, are you serious? Unlike college basketball where a team plays 30+ regular season games, football teams play 12-13 games. These games will mean just as much because you will have to win your conference and you can't do that by just lazing about all fall. Further, 5 at-large bids will be necessary if a conference is particularly competitive with two amazing teams. Conference games will be just as meaningful, if not more so, than before, thanks to automatic bids. Conference championship games would hold even greater stakes. Top tier teams would also have more incentive to schedule top-tier nonconference opponents, as a win over a quality opponent could separate teams with identical records when vying for an at-large berth. Instead of first week tune-ups, fans could see intriguing matchups in early-season games.

As it exists now the, Schools with "traditions" i.e. major conference schools, are at an advantage to create a softer schedule (weak nonconference opponents), causing a glut of yawner blowouts throughout the course of a season. People say the regular season is like a playoff now. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong. It may indeed be like a playoff, but that is only for teams that are undefeated, so one loss means you are "eliminated." To quote ESPN's Lee Corso, "Not so fast." LSU lost twice this year. Twice-beaten (though they did not even win their division, much less their conference) Georgia was a possibility to play in the championship game until the very end, as was 2-loss Oklahoma. Ohio State lost to its only truly tough opponent (Illinois) and backed into the BCS championship by NOT PLAYING. And does anyone in Honolulu think the regular season is like a playoff? My guess is no. Where is the do or die in this scenario?

Currently, the regular season is like a playoff for a decreasing number of teams week-to-week, provided a perfect set of circumstances. In a 16 team playoff, the stakes would be raised for more teams throughout the course of the season. Teams that might have lost a shot at their conference champoinship would have everything to play for, as they still must seek an at-large berth. Instead of a decresing number of games with championship implications, as exists now, an increasing number of games would have playoff implications.

(3) A play-off would ruin the tradition of the bowl games. Late-round games can be played at major bowl sites. Also, tradition is overrated (See list of nostalgic bowls above). The tradition is gone for a handful of meaningless games. Whoopity-doo. Libby rests here case.

(4) The Season would last too long. It lasts later and later every year as it is. Division IAA does this and it is successful. It would be, at most, an extra couple of weeks. Nobody would be complaining, because it is down time now between the regular season and the bowl games.

So there it is, our anti-BCS manifesto. Do I have any football fans among my readers who actually have an opinion on this?

2 comment(s). Tell me what you think!:

Rykert said...

I can't believe that none of your knitting cyber-compadres care enought to comment about the travesty that is the BCS. I was hoping for an onslaught of anti-BCS hats and scarves

Megan said...

You make an excellent argument; I agree that it would be nice for non-big-name schools to be able to get national attention, especially for recruiting purposes. One flaw I see is the cost of transporting the teams around for a long playoff series, which would cut into the profit schools stand to make, and also potentially into the time the players are able to spend with their families around the holidays. Also, there might be lost revenue if fans are unable to travel to multiple playoff games; I'm sure they'd be able to sell plenty of tickets, but I'm not sure they'd sell out. It would be interesting to see some of the non-BCS conference champs upset the big names in a semi-final, though.

I agree, the BCS system is majorly messed up. And if we get a couple more nutty years, it might even change :)

Post a Comment

 
Blog Design by Delicious Design Studio