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Friday, December 10, 2010
A tough few weeks for the BCS

By Andrea Adelson

It has been a tough few weeks for backers of the BCS.

First, Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee spouted off about teams from outside the power conferences, equating their opponents to the "Little Sisters of the Poor."

Then earlier this week, Jerry Palm discovered a major error in the Wes Colley computer rankings that affected the finishes of LSU and Boise State. Colley is the only one of the six BCS computer programmers to make his formula public, and hence the only one who can have his math double checked. There is no transparency provision for those computer rankings, but there clearly should be after this embarrassment. Imagine if the error had affected who was playing in the BCS national championship game?

Mid-week, we had Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and his cohorts threaten to go back to the old way of doing business if the non-AQs continue to push for more access. The forum in New York featured Delany, Larry Scott of the Pac-10, John Marinatto of the Big East, Karl Benson of the WAC and Dan Beebe of the Big 12, but did not do anything to make any of us believe the big conferences want to play nice. Those threats are nothing new, of course, and are an attempt to get the non-AQs to back down and accept the system for what it is -- something that has given them unprecedented opportunities.

Still, Delany complained about having to give up BCS spots to teams who have not had to do a lot. In fact, he interrupted Benson several times to make a point, none more striking than this one: "The problem is your big stage takes away opportunities for my teams, to play on the stage they created in 1902."

(Brief aside: To use an example, Florida is a relatively new football power. Because the Gators did not create a stage in 1902, perhaps they should not be allowed into the title game next time they are ranked high in the BCS standings).

Finally, to end the week, BCS chief Bill Hancock penned an editorial for USA Today in which he said the "abuse from critics is balderdash."

"As this season proves," he wrote, "outstanding teams can play in BCS bowls, including the national championship game, no matter what conference they're in. For much of this season, Boise State and TCU earned the ranking of No. 3 and No. 4. That can't happen in a rigged system."

He went on to describe the importance of bowl week, and keeping that tradition alive:

"A playoff, on the other hand, would be limited to a small number of schools, and it would turn their celebratory week into a series of one-day business trips because the teams would arrive the day before the game and leave right afterward. If they won, they'd need to get ready for next week's game. That's not a bowl party — that's another game on the schedule. For the schools that don't make a playoff, their bowl games would fade away. Sadly, so too would a great American tradition."


None of the comments from Delany or Hancock are surprising. The worst part of this week for those with BCS defense fatigue, as Delany described it, was the computer mistake Palm discovered. There are those who want a playoff, and those who hate the way the BCS system is currently configured. But this is the system we have in place. So I ask this -- how can anyone have confidence in a system that has secret computer formulas helping determine the BCS national championship matchup? What if Auburn had gotten left out because of a computer mistake that got TCU in?

What would the defense have been for that?