The Bowls And BCS Vs. Playoffs

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - December 14, 2005
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The offices of the Bowl Championship Series is awash in red, white and blue as stenographers exchange high fives and IT men celebrate victory of a job well done. It will be USC vs. Texas for the title. The blind squirrel has found a nut and no one could be happier. The system works. Just so long as you believe Oregon (No. 5 in the BCS) is undeserving for the second time, that Florida State (No. 22) belongs and that no coach would violate his conscience by voting for the benefit of self-interest.

Just swallow all that and life is good.

(Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, whose Ducks have been squeezed out twice in the past four years, is not among those folks. As he put it, BCS stands for Bad Cancer System.)

But the real purpose of the BCS is to get the two best teams in the country competing for the national title. This year, at least, it has done that. But that’s not the problem. The BCS also controls every big payday game for the benefit of the wealthy and to the detriment of those less affluent. That’s the problem. Because the rules say certain conference champions get an automatic bid, Florida State slides in with an 8-4 mark and West Virginia winds up in the Sugar Bowl. Things weren’t always this way.

Though the games weren’t known as “bowls” at the time, their invention had nothing to do with sport and everything to do with bolstering tourism. It did just that in Pasadena and saved the floundering Tournament of Roses.

Following the success of the “Granddaddy of them all,” other cities began their own events, and post-season charity games were held in the hundreds. Even later on, games were created to do nothing but sell products. Unfortunately, the games have ended up in a position of power for which they were never intended.

Until the 1960s, AP had always crowned its champion prior to any bowl games. The thought at the time was that the season had ended so it was time to award the trophy. The bowl games were just an add on. In essence, exhibitions.

Oh, how things have changed. The BCS, the system installed to fix the problems in naming a national champion, has screwed up again. Shut out are Oregon, Miami (No. 8 in the BCS), Auburn (No. 9) and Virginia Tech (No. 10). This happened in part because of some self-centered and just plain strange voting by coaches and those taking part in the Harris Poll.

Miami’s Larry Croker put his team in the No. 4 slot. Steve Spurrier voted the Gamecocks as the 21st best team. He also put Notre Dame at No. 14. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, in the battle with Oregon for an at-large spot, put the Ducks down at No. 9. Ohio coach Frank Solich, for whatever reason, had LSU 5 and Georgia 15th even though the Bulldogs beat the Tigers in the SEC title game.

Care for some more wacky voting behavior?

Hall-of-Famer Don Maynard saw it this way: West Virginia No. 6, LSU No. 7 and Ohio State 9. Pat Haden makes Notre Dame No. 3, two spots ahead of a Penn State team that was one play away from an undefeated season. And don’t worry about the devotion of Rocket Ismail. He’s got the Irish fourth, Ohio State fifth and Oregon way back at No. 11.

Yes, in setting up the title game, the BCS is better than the old system that could, and did, award numerous championships. Over the years teams have been recognized by the likes of AP, UPI, the International News Service, the Football Writers Association, the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, and even by individuals like Frank Dickinson, an economics professor at Illinois who created an early RPI-type system. He was followed in this line of work by Dick Dunkel Sr., Paul Williams and Frank Litkenhous.

If the history of the game has taught us anything, it’s that the system does not work. No matter how many times it’s changed - unless it’s an honest playoff system.

As much interest as the BCS bowls are sure to attract, compare those matchups to this potential first round of playoff games:

USC vs. Miami, Texas vs Georgia, Penn State vs. Notre Dame, and Ohio State vs Oregon.

Is there one game there you’d want to miss?

Not me.

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