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Miscellany

Bill Hancock Presents His Cliche and Nonsense-Ridden Defense of the BCS

BCS executive director Bill Hancock wrote a piece in USA Today defending the BCS. The result was laughable. Mr. Hancock ignored one truism of the Internet. If you’re going to make a silly, illogical argument, don’t do so in easily accessible print, because some jerk will parse through it line by line to make a fool of you. Today, I am that jerk. Apologies to Ken Tremendous, dak and Junior.

We’ve been called communists, a cartel, crooks — and worse — but that’s malarkey. And I’m proud to stand up and point out why college football is so popular and why our system works so well.

The Communist argument is misconceived. The BCS is not Communist. It is protectionist. It runs a system counter to the free-market. It shields certain conferences through measures that inhibit fair competition.

The BCS does not place teams based on merit. It guarantees big conferences an automatic bowl bid, even if the team is as bad as Connecticut. It allows the bowls, with some restrictions, to choose their own participants regardless of the rankings. Not coincidentally, second teams from the two most powerful conferences, the Big Ten and SEC, get in every year.

One could argue the BCS is a cooperative arrangement between the large conferences to promote their mutual interest of accumulating wealth and maintaining the balance of power. That, friends, is a cartel.

College football was one weekend away from Boise State participating in the BCS National Championship Game because of what happened on the playing field — not in a chatroom, a boardroom or a newsroom.

False. Both Boise State and TCU had Sisyphian existences for nearly a decade. Strings of undefeated and one-loss seasons went unrewarded. People in chatrooms (do those still exist?) and newsrooms made this injustice a point for public debate. Voters took action. They placed both schools in the top ten to start the season. With enough assistance Boise State could push the boulder over the top of the hill. Unfortunately, Boise lost and the BCS system jettisoned them at the first opportunity. They ended up begging their way into the Las Vegas Bowl.

The BCS rankings are based on how a team plays between the white lines, and the results speak for themselves.

So, cheerleader attractiveness isn’t a consideration? Of course on-field occurrences dictate the rankings. The trouble is the rankings don’t reflect the on-field occurrences accurately. The math isn’t statistically valid or even verified. The system did work this year. It didn’t work last year. It hasn’t worked in other years. It will continue to not work in future years. The results have spoken for themselves.

If the BCS were corrupt, how could a missed field goal in the Boise State-Nevada game and a 24-point comeback by Auburn over Alabama have made such a difference?

Yes, Boise State had a chance to make the BCS Title Game, but this is the token pauper at Oxford argument. One oik slipping through the cracks on merit does not discredit the notion that Oxford is, by and large, a system to reward the wealthy and keep them in positions of power.

Boise State and Ohio State had similar schedule strengths. Both had one loss and failed to win their conference. Ohio State got hammered by a Top 20 team. Boise State lost a heartbreaker in overtime to a Top 20 team. The BCS welcomed Ohio State’s economic clout and cast Boise into oblivion.

As USA TODAY reported shortly after Boise State lost its first game and TCU decided to join the Big East, “It’s been a bad 72 hours for BCS bashers.”

This wasn’t “reported” as fact. The opinion was written. The system did not descend into chaos. That’s not an argument that it works ever year. It doesn’t discredit arguments against the BCS. It just makes it a less opportune moment to present them.

The purpose of the BCS is to match the nation’s top two teams in a championship bowl game while creating a series of other exciting matchups. It’s nothing more than that. This season, that means the No. 1 Auburn Tigers vs. the No. 2 Oregon Ducks.

Oklahoma and Connecticut, feel the excitement. Matching the nation’s top two teams in a championship bowl game would also be the purpose of a playoff. This does not explain why opinion, spreadsheets and faulty math would be preferable to a concise, enjoyable tournament.

If this were the shady system that some people claim, how could Boise State have been only inches away? And if the system were designed to shut out schools from the so-called non-power conferences, how could TCU — undefeated and No. 3 in the BCS rankings — play in the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl?

TCU ended up in the Rose Bowl because the system was designed to shut them out. The BCS actively manipulated the system by forcing the Rose Bowl to accept a representative from the great unwashed this season. Granddaddy has suckled sweet milk from BCS conference teats since it joined the BCS. He wishes he could do so this season. He will continue to do so in future seasons until ordered to do so again.

The abuse from the critics is balderdash. The fact is the BCS accomplishes its mission with a stunningly popular national championship game. It regularly draws more viewers than the NCAA Final Four, the World Series, the NBA Championships and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Fans enjoy college football. Viewership does not indicate tacit approval for the BCS. If it does than that’s an argument for a playoff, which would lead to more viewership.

And it does this while maintaining college football’s wonderful regular season and also by preserving America’s unique multiday bowl tradition that rewards student-athletes with a celebratory bowl-game week.

Articulate the “wonderful regular season.” It’s a vapid cliché. The season has two parts. The conference season and the non-conference season.

A playoff would enhance the conference season. It would make every conference game more meaningful. Under the current system, the ACC ceased to be nationally relevant when Virginia Tech, Florida State and Miami lost games in mid-September. Under a playoff, the ACC winner would still get a crack at the title. Those games would still have national relevance and be meaningful to more people. Every conference championship game would be relevant every year.

A playoff would alter the non-conference season. The non-conference season needs altering. It sucks. The BCS cultivates paranoia among elite teams. They schedule games they can’t possibly lose. Three of Alabama’s four non-conference opponents were San Jose State, Duke and Georgia State. Having 35 bowl games incentivizes mediocre teams to schedule games they can’t possibly lose to get to 6-6 and pick up their trophy. The result is a smorgasbord of blowouts where good teams hardly ever play each other unless ESPN offers them a treasure bath. Keeping this status quo is an argument for the current BCS?

As for the “unique multiday bowl tradition,” why does that end because of a playoff? The playoff would generate more money providing more subsidies to keep the lesser bowl games afloat. The current BCS bowls could be encompassed within the current playoff system. I did it here. The National Championship game was once a bowl game. The bowl game could be a semifinal for a playoff.

Arguments that a playoff would destroy the bowl game have no credence. It is shameless fear mongering.

As this season proves, outstanding teams can play in BCS bowls, including the national championship game, no matter what conference they’re in. For much of this season, Boise State and TCU earned the ranking of No. 3 and No. 4. That can’t happen in a rigged system.

The system is rigged to reward big conference teams. It rewards teams ranked highly to start the season, which are most often big conference teams. Voters manipulated the system to give Boise State and TCU a chance by ranking them highly to start the season. Their relevance was not a natural outcome from the BCS system. If the system was not rigged, the BCS would not have counteracted the rigging by adding rules forcing the bowl games to accept at least one non-AQ team.

Commies? A cartel? Give me a break. The BCS is a voluntary arrangement that benefits every university in the NCAA’s Bowl Subdivision. It has provided all schools with more revenue and more access to the major bowl games than ever before.

The BCS is a voluntary arrangement, a voluntary arrangement by powerful conferences with the balance of power to ensure they maintain the balance of power. A cartel.

One could plausibly argue the BCS benefits every university in the NCAA’s Bowl Subdivision, but it does not do so fairly or adequately. Tens of schools start the season with no chance to win the “national title.”

The BCS has provided more revenue and access than ever before. The primary reason to have a playoff is that it would provide more revenue and access than ever before. That’s an argument for a playoff. We didn’t stick with the landline telephone because it was an upgrade over the telegraph. That backward logic is nonsensical.

Sure, I understand that many football fans want an NFL-style playoff instead. I know that they want to fill out a bracket, and that they want to watch more college football in December. They want their favorite team to have a slot in that bracket. But the desire for a different postseason format doesn’t justify the false attacks against the BCS event. And as the person who used to manage the NCAA Final Four, I know that what works for one sport doesn’t work so easily for a different sport.

“Demonize the playoff. Pass it off as foreign. FEAR.” It’s not an “NFL-style” playoff. It’s a “college football” style playoff. The FCS and lower divisions have playoffs. It’s not an untested concept for college football. It has worked swimmingly for years. FBS, with its vastly superior resources, could replicate and improve upon that system with ease.

College football has the best regular season of any sport, and the lack of a playoff is one big reason why. Millions of football fans this year tuned in to watch the season-opening game between Boise State and Virginia Tech because there was so much on the line —starting early in September. If there were a playoff, the Alabama-Auburn game wouldn’t have been as important nationally, or as dramatic.

The Boise State vs. Virginia Tech game was great.  Would it not have been great without the BCS ramifications?  Does the one game justify the hundreds of absolutely awful ones fans are forced to sit through? Because there is “so much on the line” in September, teams seldom schedule games like that unless offered large amounts of money. No team wants its season ended on Labor Day.

All the BCS ramifications accomplished was making a good Virginia Tech team nationally irrelevant. Their turnaround and 11-game win streak after the James Madison loss should have been one of the best stories of the season. It wasn’t. Because the current system rendered Virginia Tech and the ACC no longer nationally relevant, in mid-September.  Other sports have nothing like that, because it’s insane.

The Iron Bowl is always compelling and commands a national audience, because it is among the best rivalries in the country. It’s not about BCS placing. It’s about pride. Auburn’s 24-point comeback in Tuscaloosa would have been dramatic and lived on for decades without the BCS. It was a great moment. Great moments, not asinine consequences, are why we watch football.

A playoff also would mean the end of America’s bowl tradition as we know it. As Rick Baker, president of the Cotton Bowl, said, “A playoff system would ruin the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.”

The “AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic?” That says all you need to know about “America’s bowl tradition.”

This is a declaration, not an argument with credence. Why exactly would a playoff destroy the bowls? What specifically would a playoff do to kill interest in the Cotton Bowl? The Cotton Bowl would be played at the same time under a playoff. It would probably feature the same teams. There’s no evidence besides fear-mongering assertions that the Cotton Bowl wouldn’t attract the same audience.

Under the current system, 70 schools and hordes of fans arrive days before the big game and immediately become the toast of the town. Fans and families plan vacations around bowl week. Student-athletes are celebrated as the players get to see places and do things they otherwise never could do. No wonder a poll of student-athletes taken by ESPN the Magazine earlier this year showed that 77% of players would prefer a career with three bowl games to a career with one playoff game.

These polls tell us nothing. First, look at this question specifically. The way the question is framed, players are presented with the option of having three chances to win a game versus definitely losing one game. Of course they would choose the three chances to win. The only surprising thing is more of them didn’t.

The questions in these polls presented by the BCS always present a false dichotomy. A playoff would always accompany the complete dismantling of the bowl system. There’s no evidence for this besides baseless assertions. Coaches and players always approve the current system in those polls because they fear a 6-6 finish won’t result in a bowl game. That obstacle can be removed by (a) incorporating bowls into the playoffs and by (b) holding the first round of the playoffs during the regular season to allow the losers to play in bowl games.

The real question should be, would you prefer to play in a BCS Bowl game or to compete in a playoff with the opportunity to win a national title. Every team in the BCS excluding Auburn and Oregon would be unanimously in favor of a playoff.

A playoff, on the other hand, would be limited to a small number of schools, and it would turn their celebratory week into a series of one-day business trips because the teams would arrive the day before the game and leave right afterward. If they won, they’d need to get ready for next week’s game. That’s not a bowl party — that’s another game on the schedule. For the schools that don’t make a playoff, their bowl games would fade away. Sadly, so too would a great American tradition.

A playoff would restructure the current BCS system, which is already limited to a small number of schools. Bowls could be utilized as part of a playoff, ensuring players and sponsors have a good time. Other bowls would be on firmer financial footing because more money would be flowing into the system to subsidize them.

If ever a season showed that the BCS is fair and that it works, it’s this season. And it happened while maintaining the thrilling regular season in which every game counts.

Yes, ignore all the seasons where it demonstratively didn’t work.

Every declaration Bill Hancock presents in favor of the BCS here is counterintuitive, baseless or complete bullshit. His sentiments are designed to engender fear and create the perception of uncertainty where none should exist.

Not one small conference team has benefitted naturally from the BCS. The system required deliberate, active manipulation to achieve those goals. Jim Delany’s position in favor of the BCS has “nothing to do with money.” It has to do with perpetuating a system designed to keep the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big East and Pac 10 in a superior position to the lesser conferences. That system is corrupt, unfair and should be done away with as soon as it is feasible.

[Photo via Getty]

 

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