Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The BCS motto: If it’s broken, don’t fix it

About a year ago, as the college football bowl games were getting underway, Nike ran a great ad in Sports Illustrated. It was simply a grid, matching up two games between the four undefeated teams in college football that year, followed by a National Championship Game for the two winners. It was like the Final Four grid in a college basketball pool. Underneath it read, “Just do it.” It was a tremendous advertisement, not because the concept of a college football four-team playoff was Nike’s idea – we had all heard it before - but because seeing it in print made everyone realize the practicality of such an inherently simple, and feasible playoff system. Just do it. Well, nobody did it.

In fact, nobody has done anything to remedy the issues plaguing the current BCS format of college football, a system by which several computers collaborate with various FBI agents to determine whether or not Iowa State has the right to play in the Sealy Posturpedic Mattress Bowl. It’s utterly ridiculous. The BCS (“Bowl Championship Series,” or, for the layman, “Big Confusing Scam”) system can’t even get things right during the regular season, best evidenced by the fact that one month ago, then-9th ranked Notre Dame lost to then-1st ranked USC on the last play of the game, which inexplicably caused the Fighting Irish to plummet to 16th in the rankings the following week, when they should have moved UP in the standings. And let’s not forget about three weeks ago, when USC, a team that had been ranked No. 1 for the past eight years, beat Washington on the road by 27 points, but fell to No. 2 because Texas won at home. Huh? Apparently, the computers saw something they didn’t like.

But hey – I’m certainly not the first person to hop on my soapbox and complain about college football’s ludicrous postseason format. And THAT’S the problem. Have you ever talked to, listened to, seen on television, read in print, went to the supermarket with, or engaged in email banter with someone who is happy with the current BCS system? Anyone?! Me neither. It is common knowledge that the format stinks. In fact, the running joke among college football fans is that the BCS system is best described by removing the “C.” Yet nothing has changed. The entire nation is so sick of the ongoing controversy caused by the BCS, but the powers that be won’t change it.

This just doesn’t make sense to me. Remember when Ray Handley, for lack of a better word, “coached” the Giants, but then everyone realized that he was the worst coach of all time, so he got fired? Or how about the time Michael Jordan retired from basketball to play baseball, realized that he couldn’t play baseball very well, so then came back to the NBA? And let’s not forget about the time the Fox Network created a show starring Michael Rappaport, realized that they had created a show starring Michael Rappaport, and pulled it off the air? (Well, okay – the show hasn’t been pulled YET, but c’mon.) Are we not all familiar with the concept of “when something isn’t working, fix it?” Well, under the current BCS system, Ray Handley would be in the process of leading the Giants to their 12th consecutive 2-14 season, Michael Jordan would have ended his career batting .039 for the Chattanooga Chickadees of the Independent League, and Michael Rappaport would be President of the United States.

Of course, the people running college football, whoever they may be, are full of excuses as to why there are no alternatives to the BCS system. Their biggest point of contention to a playoff format is the fact that it’s not right to ask the teams involved to play so many more games when they only play 10 or 11 games during the course of the regular season. Apparently, they are under the impression that we are asking for a 64-team tournament similar to that of NCAA basketball, which will start in January and end in May, and which will feature first-round matchups like Montana Tech versus Texas. That is not what we’re asking for, obviously. A four-team playoff is all we ask.

A four-team playoff, by which only two teams would play one additional game. A four-team playoff that would infinitely decrease the possibility of an undefeated team getting shafted out of an opportunity to play for the National Championship. A four-team playoff that would captivate the entire college football-loving nation, and inadvertently increase revenue for the NCAA itself, plus the schools involved. A four-team playoff that would alter virtually nothing regarding separate bowl games, and would only serve to give us an undisputed college football champion, which is something the current BCS can never guarantee.

Sounds crazy, right?

The BCS is seriously flawed. It is adequate only when a season plays out with just two undefeated teams at the top of the standings, and when that happens, it doesn’t mean the system works. It means the system lucked out. And hey – if there ARE just two undefeated teams left at the end of the season ranked No.1 and 2 respectively, then we don’t need the four-team playoff. It’s that simple. In fact, the computers were probably giving each other high-fives this past weekend, after undefeated Virginia Tech laid a big egg against Miami, and undefeated UCLA fell to Arizona. This now leaves us three undefeated teams – USC, Texas, and Alabama – and Alabama still has two very tough games remaining (LSU and Auburn). The system may luck out in 2005. It may not. But why this problem still exists is beyond me.

If the rest of this season holds true to form, USC is going to play Texas for the National Championship, which will make all the sense in the world, unless you happen to be a fan of Alabama, who has yet to lose. If they don’t lose, computers will ultimately decide that ‘Bama isn’t good enough to play for it all. And for no reason whatsoever, the idea of a four-team playoff continues to fall on deaf ears.
What else is there to say?

Just do it.

And cancel that darn Michael Rappaport show while you’re at it.

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