BCS teams: Football vs. basketball success

Of the 10 schools that sent teams to a BCS bowl this year, only four of them — Alabama, Michigan, West Virginia and Wisconsin — have a team in the men’s NCAA tournament. That seems counter-intuitive, if not downright stunning. But here’s the stunning fact — four out of 10 is average for the BCS era.

In 14 seasons since the BCS began in 1998, 41.1 percent of the BCS bowl schools have sent teams into the March Madness bracket. Through 2005, when only eight teams went to BCS bowls, 39 percent of the teams made the NCAA basketball field. Adding a BCS bowl, which gave two more teams the chance to make both fields, helped only somewhat. Since 2006, the number ticked upward to 45 percent.

In the first year of the BCS, 1998, six of eight schools made the basketball field. That remains the high-water mark. In the two seasons 2002 and 2003 combined, only one school, Oklahoma in 2002, sent a basketball team to the NCAA tournament.

It may be as easy as blaming the SEC. In the last six years, when the SEC has put 12 teams in the BCS, only four (33 percent) of the schools also sent a team to the NCAA tournament. The Big Ten, on the other hand, has sent seven-of-12 (57.1 percent), including two this year and last. Of the six Big East schools that made the BCS, four (67 percent) also reached March Madness. The Big East takes its basketball seriously.

“What that tells me,” said Big East senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli, who is the conference’s COO for football, “is the notion that you need to have a really strong football program for your other programs to be good is not necessarily true. Otherwise, those football programs would have programs in the top 68 basketball teams more often.”

It also says that all the money in the world won’t compensate for hiring the wrong coach. As more and more programs turn to the business world and the development (fund-raising) programs to find athletic directors, they turn away from former coaches and administrators who understand the duties and stresses of being a coach. That remains the most elusive and the most critical element of success in intercollegiate athletics.