Today marks the day that college football fans around the country will begin to cross their fingers in the hopes that the voters and some top-secret computer will grant their beloved team the chance to play for the championship in January. Yep, the first BCS Poll was announced during a show that rivaled Lebron James’ hourlong The Decision on ESPN. Luckily, this time the network didn’t wait until 27 minutes into the show to share the rankings (if you haven’t seen them, click here).
Over the course of the last few years, I have stood in the background & mumbled under my breath when (inevitably) arguments bust out whenever the BCS was mentioned. Maybe I thought the powers that be would eventually get it right. Maybe I was too busy to really care. Maybe I just didn’t have time to express my opinion. Maybe…it’s time for me to go in on the BCS!
I grew up attending Boise State games (see my blog “Growing up a BSU Fan”) when they played Division I-AA football & had the opportunity to compete for a championship every year as was determined by a real play-off system that requires the team that will eventually hoist the championship trophy to do it the old fashioned way battling for 60 minutes on the field. Yes, that’s right. In I-AA football, they EARN IT!!
Maybe that’s why I struggle with many of those Olympic sports where a judge with a paddle with a number on it determine which athlete(s) wins a gold medal. You know what I mean, the Russian judge giving the German skater low marks in figure skating, the gymnast receiving a low score because he was the first one on the rings & was setting the bar, or the judges scoring a snowboarder on the half-pipe not on his run but instead on the cool outfit the USA snowboarders were wearing.
Anyway, I digress…back to my first public attempt at bashing the BCS. Yes, I have done plenty of bashing of the BCS behind closed doors to those near & dear to me. Well, by the looks on their faces, I would offer a guess that now they are tired of listening to my complaining, so I must take my case public. My apologies in advance to those of you who would prefer not to hear another rant about the BCS (Big Conference Scandal)!
I like to think that I’m pretty laid back & even-keeled. In fact, few things irritate me to the point where I get annoyed or upset, but (no matter the situation) when I believe that people are being disparaged, my ire kicks in! Especially when those people or groups are unable to defend themselves or affect change to that situation.
That’s what I suspect is happening with the BCS system. This ridiculous system is simply disrespecting what most of us expect from competitive sports. It’s discounting the value & the essence of the hard-work many 17-21 years olds are putting in every day on fields, courts, and courses around the country in collegiate athletics. It’s undermining the commitment that coaches (who don’t have household names or $3 Million salaries) & their staffs have in ensuring that these student-athletes embrace excellence in the classroom & on the playing fields (well, not every coach cares about the work in the classroom…but that’s a topic for another blog).
In all honesty, the current BCS system is blatantly disrupting the fairness that we expect in college sports to the point of discriminatory practices.
Why is there a need to discriminate? MONEY & POWER as usual! The BCS and major conferences have no desire to change the system for fear of losing control over the money and the power in collegiate athletics. All of which, taints the spirit of what collegiate athletics used to stand for. Now, I’m the first to admit that college athletics is now big business and those of us in the sports industry certainly benefit for this model. Unfortunately, the distinct gap that used to exist between collegiate & professional sports is now just a fine line.
I won’t bother to bore you with facts, figures, and data analysis about the BCS. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before and will hear more about it over the course of the next several weeks. But I will share my criticism of the BCS with you. I will preface this by saying I “absolutely” am biased towards the Boise State Broncos, but in this blog am just using them as the subject to emphasize my points. Let the bashing begin (I’m not really bashing…not my style! Just pointing out some concerns)…
Here you go…a truncated version of my counterarguments to things that have been articulated by those defending the BCS (in no particular order):
The argument that Non-Automatic Qualifier Conferences don’t deserve a spot in a Championship Game because they play a weaker schedule in sub-par conferences.
- I will admit that this year, based on the parity that exists around the country, is a bit of an aberration. But there are so many holes in this argument. I realize that the SEC, Big XII, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, and Pac-10 are traditionally the power conferences with some really great teams. You are only as strong as your weakest link and, top to bottom, it is evident that there are some very weak links in each of these conferences. I can almost guarantee you that teams like Utah, BSU, and TCU would be most definitely be able to compete with Vanderbilt, Minnesota, Washington State, Clemson, UCONN, Ole Miss, etc. Why is it ok for teams like these to have a fair chance every year to compete for the championship while a TCU must prove their “body of work”. I will even venture to say that, this year in particular, the Alabama’s & Ohio State’s aren’t necessarily playing a tough in-conference game week in & week out. While the WAC & MWC may not be the glamour conferences, let’s not just arrogantly suggest that they play no-one during their conference schedules.
- I won’t dwell on this point, but why should a sub-par program from a major conference have a better chance to make it to the championship game simply because they reside in the basement of that conference & may on a rare occasion experience on-field success?
- Try scheduling a non-confernce game if you are a BSU or TCU. I mean, who wants to risk playing them & losing? There’s no way you go to a Boise & play because that would be a devastating loss on your schedule. A home loss to these teams would be even worse. So, maybe you agree to a game at a neutral site, but that’s highly unlikely. So what are these schools to do? No one will play them and they can’t control their conference schedule (because the power conferences certainly aren’t adding them to their super-conference wish list just yet).
- In basketball, teams schedule aggressively in the pre-season (especially those in smaller conferences) so that they improve their strength of schedule & prepare for the dance. They aren’t as afraid of losing to the little guy because it doesn’t weigh as heavily on the outcome AND they know that when/if they make it to the big dance, everyone has a chance to cut down the nets. On the other hand, big time football programs schedule games with multiple directional signs in front of their name (i.e. Northwest Southern XXXX State). Ummm….enough said.
- Ultimately, I think the stronger conference argument is just a weak attempt to demean programs like Boise State. We all love the front-runners (I was a Bulls fan in MJ’s prime, am a Cowboys fan, and am currently rooting for the Yankees…case in point). That makes it tough to accept that an unheralded program like BSU from an unknown state like Idaho could actually be good enough to challenge the big boys.
The argument that “sure these teams can beat a power school with a month’s preparation” or on any given Saturday, but…
- Well, in a bowl situation, BOTH teams typically have the same amount of prep time for that one game. It’s a neutral site for BOTH teams. Maybe the power school isn’t as motivated to come out & compete as the teams who are trying to prove they belong, but isn’t that on the players & coaches for that particular school. They are responsible for competing every night, no matter the competition. Anything less is not championship worthy.
The ESPN GameDay argument that Boise State has only had two First Round Draft Picks in their history (Kyle Wilson to the Jets this year & Ryan Clady to the Broncos in 2008).
- I can’t go into great detail about TCU & Utah, but I know that while Boise State hasn’t had many 1st Round selections, there are an awful lot of BSU alums playing on Sunday’s around the NFL. On top of that, they may not have been selected in the first round, but many of them have found their way into the starting line-ups for their squads (or are playing significant minutes). Off the top of my head, here are a few names…Clady, Mikell, Carr, Hall, Colledge, Naanee, and Scandrick (with my Cowboys). Oh, and by the way, wasn’t the celebrity quarterback Tom Brady selected in the sixth round? But he went to Michigan, my bad!
- When folks offer the argument that the Broncos would be destroyed if they played in the SEC, I think they forget that…if they play in the SEC, than they would also have the benefit of recruiting more SEC-caliber players. They already have a national footprint on the recruiting trail & obviously develop their players. Imagine what they could do if kids knew they could play in Coach Pete’s system & lace it up against the football elite every weekend!!
My counterarguments go on & on, but I won’t bore you with more of them for the time being. Hopefully, you get my point. I have to preface all of this by saying that, yes perhaps I am a little more incensed by the BCS idiocy because I would love nothing more than for my beloved Boise State Broncos to play in the championship game. But, deep down, I am simply a fan of college football who feels that the opportunity to compete for a championship should be determined in a fair manner.
Ahem, so you may be wondering, “now that you’ve bashed the system Angela, what’s your solution?” Well, what had happened was that I have spent more time talking about the problem than coming up with the answer.
If we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, we can do what they do in youth leagues. You know, at the end of the playing season, they simply give out trophies to EVERYBODY for participating!! Now what kind of life lessons are we really teaching our kids in that system? (More on this in a later blog). I mean, we have kids getting trophies for showing up on Saturdays, bad teachers with tenure keeping their jobs…what a shame!! Something has to give.
The truth is, I not really “bashing” per se. I am criticizing the system and don’t have any particular solution in mind. But as my brother Gary says, “we’ll debate this polarizing issue until the National Champion is truly determined on the field of play.” Until that point, the “haves” will always feel entitled to what they get & those who are left out will always feel wronged because they never have a chance to prove their merit. Players want to find out how good they really are by competing for the honor of being named champion. Administrators want to pad their pockets! Seems like a huge conflict.
While I don’t have all of the answers (don’t act like you’re so surprised), I do genuinely feel that we should keep the bowl system (because we all love watching these games during the holidays) in place and figure out a way to implement a championship game after the bowls have been played & have determined the two most worthy opponents for the championship game.
Not to twist the knife, but we have it right in basketball. A lot of money & excitement is generated during March Madness and all 64 teams in the tournament have a chance to EARN IT! You can’t replicate March Madness, but you can implement a system that generates it’s own excitement and validation.
The debate will go on because we all have a stake in it. At least those of us invested in college athletics whether as a career or as entertainment are determined to see it done right. In the end, it’s quite simple. I thought the great thing about sport was that winners were determined on the field. Isn’t that why we play the game!