Thursday, June 10, 2004
Just more of the same
By Ray Ratto Special to ESPN.com
The beauty of listening to David Frohnmayer and Kevin Weiberg explain the new BCS national championship proposal is it gives off the same warm glow that comes from watching people wearing graduation gowns rolling drunks.
There's the dignity of the office, and there's the money -- all in one handy package.
The two gents -- Frohnmayer, the University of Oregon president, and Weiberg, the Big 12 Conference commissioner --- held a telephonic press conference Thursday to share with us an exciting and new idea, BCS High Carb. They didn't call it that, but they'll spitball it with their pals in the upper echelons of college athletics and come up with something that will be the same thing.
The details, such as they are, are these: They want to try a national championship game to be held after the major bowl games (the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar) and rotate it around the four cities (Pasadena, Tempe, Miami and New Orleans).
This is as opposed to the current system (which everyone agrees stinks to high heaven), wherein the national championship game is in fact one of the major bowl games.
In other words, the proposal Frohnmayer and Weiberg offered for our mastication is basically this: One more week of college football after the four months we already have.
More to the point, the ensuing discussion surrounded not why this is a good idea (or, in this case, isn't), but the logistics of buying off the Rose Bowl, mollifying ABC, sweet-talking the sponsors and convincing the bowl committees that this isn't further diluting their galactic importance.
In the meantime, it addressed the following issues not at all:
The essential capriciousness of the system.
The exclusionary nature of the system.
The extension of the college football tentacle into yet a new part of the school year.
The tenuous claim that football is different than baseball or basketball, viz., a playoff system.
Well, let's address those in order.
Caprice: Hey, they'll fix the computer models to include a couple of hyperactive junior high kids.
Excluding the mid-majors: This was never about the mid-majors anyway, and the current stance (tough darts, Miami of Ohio) is good enough.
Extending the season: Sure, fine, no problem.
Football's special status: As long as there are 28 bowl committees with access to 28 different pots of money, what's a playoff system?
In other words, this new proposal isn't new at all. It isn't any more inclusive, or truer to the notion of deciding on-the-field matters devoted to the field, or establishing a limit to the season based on academic requirements.
It's another bowl game, and that's all it is. It shows yet again that the system has one real role, and only one -- protecting itself.
Frohnmayer's position as a university president is fairly clear. His fellow presidents don't want football to turn into the NFL by offering a month of playoffs. This, of course, flies in the face of every verifiable truth, including the Division II and Division III playoffs, the conference playoffs, the bowl system itself and the very existence of the BCS.
In other words, it's a load of top-grade methane, and everyone on the planet understands that.
Weiberg's position as a commissioner of one of the two most powerful football conferences is easier to understand. There's more money in this, and money is the be-all, end-all and all-points-between-all of the athletic director's art.
But you have to hand it to them both, they didn't sound like they were toting revolvers and wearing masks, so it isn't exactly like an episode of Deadwood.
So let's summarize. College football's way of deciding its finest team is flawed. The fairest way of deciding it is not as financially rewarding as the current system. So two men of obvious brainpower have spent hunks of their lifespan squeezing more money out of the flawed but lucrative system. And the rest of it is just figuring out into which drawer the paperclips go.
In a certain hilarious way, it's ingenious.
What it isn't, though, is important. It's just countering the rash of pre-Christmas bowl games with one more post-New Year's Day bowl game.
Nice work, boys. I'm sure there's a plaque in it for each of you.
Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com