Tuesday, January 02, 2007

1st post of 2007, College Football and the slingshot

I've decided to make my first post of the new year about something light hearted and non controversial. Something that doesn't raise the passions of the interested parties, or cause undue stress and concern.

But then I watched the Fiesta Bowl, and decided to make my first post of the new year about the BCS system. I could have made my first post about the disaster that was the Saddam execution and not have been as controversial or emotionally heated as far as the parties involved are concerned.

First let me, in the interest of full disclosure, tell the reader that I am not a disinterested party to this particular controversy. I live in Eugene Oregon, the home of the University of Oregon Ducks. The BCS system robbed my team of a chance to play for the national championship in the 2001/2002 season. The Ducks lost one game that year, to Stanford who was ranked. That loss was in Eugene, and the game was insanely exciting with the outcome in doubt to the bitter end.

The teams who played for the championship that year (which game was played in the Rose Bowl, to add to the indignity because Oregon were the Pac 10 Champions) were Miami with a perfect season to that point, and Nebraska with one loss. The nationwide consensus was that Miami deserved the spot in the championship game fair and square, but there was a raging controversy over who they should play. Nebraska's loss was in their conferences championship game. Nebraska didn't just lose that game, they were destroyed. So with Nebraska's one loss being a rout, on the road, and Oregons loss being in Eugene, but razor edge close... the computers did their wizbanging whirring computations and placed Nebraska in the championship game. Oregon was placed in the Fiesta bowl v.s. Colorado.

Most of my readers problably could not care less about this, but you may recall a controversy that erupted at the time over a statement made by Oregon head coach Mike Belotti. When he was told the results of the BCS selection process he had to tell the team they would not be playing for the championship in the Rosebowl, and later told the media that the BCS system was like a cancer, which comment still gets play by sports columnists. He was reviled and panned at the time. But to be honest I could see it from his perspective. This is his life. It is what makes him him. It would be the same as hearing that the goal you have set for your entire life, which it seemed you had earned fair and square had been denied based upon an injustice. It would feel like you had been robbed by an insidious, uncaring and malignant system. It's easy for the armchair generals and pundit spectators to gasp in horror at Belloti's comment, but I don't think they had the perspective of the coach.

To wrap up the tale of Oregons 2001 season, but not the post by a long shot, Oregon creamed Colorado in the Fiesta bowl, and Miami destroyed Nebraska in the championship Rose Bowl. It was obvious to all concerned that Oregon should have been playing against Miami.

Don't get me wrong. Oregon is not the only team to be robbed by the BCS. In fact the BCS didn't stop ANY of the controversies we used to toil under prior to their cutsey little computer/pundit/coaches models started running the show. We've had a split championship. Every year brings new controversy. And the 2006/2007 BCS is no different.

You may recall I started the second paragraph of the first chapter of this book by saying that I had watched the Fiesta Bowl last night. After seeing that game I can not imagine the justification for not giving Boise State a piece of the national championship. They have gone undefeated, and in the course of a perfect season beat the number six team in the nation on a neutral field. Justice means giving this team what they have earned. Since the BCS does not allow for any type of playoff system, I think Boise State has done all they can to be crowned the co-champions at the very least, and flat out absolute champions if Ohio State loses to Florida.

Believe it or not, the University of Oregon actually had a hand in the scheduling of Oklahoma to play Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon played Oklahoma and beat them in Eugene on one of the worst travesties of officiating (favoring my team to be sure) in college football history. By all rights Oklahoma ought to have been a one loss team after beating Oregon, and be one of the contenders in the national championship. As an Oregon fan I actually found myself rooting for Boise State. Besides them being the biggest underdogs in my memory in a big bowl game like this, by beating Oklahoma they silenced once and for all those who pointed to the Oregon travesty and said that Oklahoma's entire season had been ruined in Eugene by a blown call. If Oklahoma can't beat Boise State, they obviously do not deserve the national championship, and the loss at Oregon is not the seasone ruiner it may have been otherwise.

Now I find myself rooting for Florida in the championship game. If Florida beats Ohio St. then everybody, except for Boise State has a loss. You would then have a split championship in my opinion, with the BCS and coaches poll (the coaches are contractually obligated to vote for the championship game winner) voting for the Florida, but the A.P. voting for the only undefeated team in the nation. Boise State.

Believe it or not folks I could go on for another 18 paragraphs on all this. I'm gonna try winding this up soon, but only after covering 2 more points; 1: why is there not a NCAA Division one College Football playoff, and 2: what a game last night!

Why is there no NCAA college football playoff? What other league has a system where in the season is wrapped up by a showcase of all the best teams playing each other and then the final results settled upon by computers and the wise old navel gazers who tell the rest of us what we all want to see manifested upon the field? The bowl system ought to be integrated into a simple playoff system. Right now who wouldn't love to see Ohio State play Boise State the week after the "Championship" game if Ohio State prevails? One extra game, after the traditional bowl games are done would go a long ways to settling this.

I'm convinced the answer to the question of why there is no playoff is simply because the college presidents are institutionally (not politically) conservative. They were raised in the bowl system, and it has served it's purpose well from their perspectives. Their schools make money, the national audience remains tuned in for the big bowl games, and the networks are happy.

There also is a major second leg to the current system that keeps it propped up... the networks are as much a contributing factor the the situation we find ourselves in as the college presidents. The BCS rakes in money for all concerned, but it does not satisfy the thirst of the fans to have a champion based upon their performance in a championship game. As long as the college presidents and the networks continue to benefit from the current bowl system, that system will remain.

The call for change will be heeded when it is clear to the people who make the decisions that it is in their best interests to give us what we want. It is for this reason that I find myself irked by the Beano Cookes of the world when they harrumph about how we will never have a playoff. It is in their own best interests that things continue as they always have. I believe this self interested pundit class is in large part a reason that we will never have public financing of elections. It is in the best interests of the media to have the billions upon billions of dollars poured into their coffers every two years. Why would they allow the side who wants to put a spigot on that cash flow to even be heard on their airwaves?

Finally let me comment on the Fiesta Bowl. As I said, I was rooting for Boise State, not just because they were underdogs, but because my team had a part in Oklahoma not playing for a championship. I was shocked (happily) with the rest of the nation when Boise State dominated the first three quarters of the game. When Oklahoma came back though I'll be honest... I gave up. I thought Boise State was fated to lose the game because I know so freaking much about the game. This is Oklahoma! Boise State has only been a division one team for like ten years! Oklahoma has like twice as many national championship trophies as Boise State has years in the NCAA! How could Boise State possibly pull off that upset?

Well last nights game will go down in history as one of the best played, most exciting, thrilling games in football history. This game had it ALL. I seriously can not rave enough about what I saw. For instance... there was the play. When you have big plays of significant impact in big games, those plays sometimes are given names of their own. The immaculate reception. The Stanford Band. The hook and lateral on 4th and 18 that gave Boise State the tying touchdown with seven seconds left to go in the game deserves it's own name. I nominate this play be named "The Slingshot". It vaguely describes many aspects of the play, but it was also the means by which one of the smallest schools, one of the biggest underdogs in bowl history, a modern day David slew Goliath. I told my wife when we were wathching that play that we would see what we were watching in highlights when we were old and gray.

Then Boise State actually gets tricky (after answering Oklahomas t.d. in overtime with their own t.d., again from 4th down) and does this weird behind the back handoff statue of liberty naked bootleg the place and my house goes insane play. Unbelievable! And to cap it off, the guy who runs in the two point conversion proposes to his now fiance on the field. It CANNOT get better than that!

So yes... we need a playoff, because Boise State proved they belong in the championship last night. We could freaking name it the Boise State bowl.

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