Friday, April 29, 2005

BCS redo is like a gown on a pig

Ray Ratto
Friday, April 29, 2005
Jeff Tedford is probably over his hurt at being considered by the crackpot fringe of NFL Draft junkies as the Guy Who Hosed Aaron Rodgers.
Even if he isn't, he's surely still getting a good hoot over the latest twist in the Great Bowl Championship Series Remake-O-Rama.
You may remember that Tedford and his California Golden Bears got good and hosed last December when the BCS (read: some of his fellow coaches) all but rigged the final voting to ensure that Texas would get the Rose Bowl invitation instead of Cal.
You may also remember that the Cal constituency lost any and all right to bitch about this apparent injustice by laying a great gray egg in the Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech, while Texas beat Michigan in the Rose.
Hey, you give up six scores to the fifth best team in the Big 12 when you're trying to prove you're the fourth-best team in the country, you not only have the right but the absolute obligation to remain silent.
All that having been disclaimed, the plain truth remains -- the BCS remains an absurd, borderline dishonest way of dealing with the football postseason conundrum. After meeting yet again this week in Scottsdale, Ariz. (why don't these yahoos ever meet in Buffalo, N.Y.?), the BCS brain trust remains neither brainy nor trustworthy.
What the 20 conference commissioners and other football insiders decided in the Scottsdale meeting was to ... declare its fervent intention to find a replacement poll for the Associated Press poll.
That would be the honest poll.
They still want the coaches' poll, of course, the one fraught with so many conflicts of interest that even baseball Commissioner Bud Selig would take a fistful of Tylenol PM to avoid having to explain them to Congress.
But instead of the playoff system the university presidents won't let them have, or the additional game the university presidents won't let them have, they decided the problem can be solved by finding former coaches, college players, administrators and sportswriters to create a new poll, called (one supposes) the Latest Lame Compromise Poll, to join the coaches poll and the computers to make a new BCS.
Oh, and they also widened the field to include all 11 Division I-A conferences rather than the Big Six. That's in case the Missouri Valley, the Sun Belt or the Big West ever produces a national championship-caliber team and nobody notices.
Oh, and they also wrote a letter to Congress saying they have everything squared away, and thanks for the interest, but bugger off, you old foofs.
Oh, and they acknowledged, through BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Wie- berg, that they might meet again in a few weeks and change the system again if they can't figure out a way to make this one work.
Which, of course, they can't.
It is clear that there won't be a playoff system. We know that because the NCAA is now pushing for a 12th regular-season game. It is also clear that the coaches poll is by its very existence an exercise in Soviet-era democracy, and should be either drastically diminished in importance or discontinued altogether. It is finally clear that a new poll would essentially make television an even bigger player in the national championship picture than it already is.
In short, this is a system that is headed straight for this scenario:
"By vote of the BCS committee -- the ESPN College GameDay crew, plus Dick Enberg, plus Tom Hammonds, plus Brent Musburger, plus six athletic directors, who have to balance their own budgets every year and need all the BCS money they can glom onto, the championship game will again pit either USC, or the SEC champion, or the Big 12 champ, or whatever can be verified to get the largest national TV audience, because that's all we're after anyway and we may as well stop making any pretense about it."
The solution to this perpetual state of evening-gowns-on-pigs is an easy one. One poll, with many voters -- an expanded AP-style roster, plus the TV types, plus whatever computers can adequately help the process. Make a voting system wherein a team such as Auburn, which went undefeated, but was punished for not having come into the year with a grand enough pedigree, is not penalized for fooling everyone. Make a voting system where every person is on the hook for his or her vote, and one in which the TV heads cannot release their vote prematurely, even in fake on-set conversation.
The alternate solution is equally effective. Two polls, one by sportswriters, one by TV and radioids, and let the best tavern fighters win.
Either way, the coaches and athletic directors cannot be involved for the simple reason that they can rig the results to their financial and job security benefit.
But they'll never agree to that, and because they can't have the playoff system they want, they'll just keep meeting -- in Palm Springs, in Las Vegas, in Orlando, in New Orleans (and never, ever, ever in Milwaukee or Providence, R.I.), always pretending to try to get it right while never coming close.
Yet, had Cal not taken the pipe so embarrassingly in San Diego, there might have been a greater interest in dramatic and helpful change by and to the BCS. As it is, the system remains profoundly wrong, silly and embarrassing for a sport that has more than enough access to smart people who aren't directly tied to one school or one conference.
Of course, this means that Jeff Tedford doesn't have a vote any more either, but hey, look what good it did him last year.

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