Monday, January 10, 2011
Hancock makes the case for the BCS
Bowl Championship Series -- Jan. 10, 2011
Remarks by Bill Hancock for the Football Writers Association of America:
First, I want to thank Tony Alba and his partner, recovering journalist Andy Bagnato, and Kristin Pflipsen and their entire staff for the tremendous job they have done this week. And it's also important to posthumously thank architect Edward Bowes, who designed the Camelback Inn back in the 1930s.
But mostly, I want to thank you for your kindness during the year. Although I left the newspaper business many years ago, I still feel like a member of this fraternity and you have allowed me to do that. This is where I belong.
The state of the BCS? It is healthy and strong. The first year of a new cycle is always an exciting time as we begin a relationship with a new television rights holder and with the bowls. And we look forward to the next three years under this agreement.
In the past few weeks, I have received dozens of calls and e-mails from folks who have said, "Congratulations & the BCS got it right again."
Of course, they are calling because tonight's matchup is the one that folks want to see. But for me, "the BCS got it right" has a different meaning.
The BCS got it right because University of Tulsa student-athletes, from my part of the country, were able to visit the USS Arizona memorial and museum. It was the first trip to Hawaii for many. For some, it will be the only time -- only because of a bowl game.
An, the BCS got it right because Kansas State students were able to visit New York City. Many for the first time and some probably for the only time. Maybe some of us take trips to Times Square for granted, and Yankee Stadium for granted, and we are wrong to do that. The BCS got it right because those students had the experience of a lifetime -- only because of a bowl game.
Other athletes toured civil rights museums, greeted soldiers returning from war, and visited hospitals to visit with sick children.
And it seems that some of us have forgotten what it was like to be 19 years old. And to have someone older and wiser quietly and discreetly create an experience for us and then step back and watch us enjoy it. That's what the keepers of the game have done by preserving the bowl system. The university presidents and conference commissioners will not lose sight of the fact that college football is not professional football. This game is played by students. And it has cherished traditions that cannot simply be tossed aside.
I knew the BCS got it right when I saw the happiness on the faces of celebrating athletes from schools like Florida International and Syracuse and Washington and San Diego State after their bowl victories. And did you see those TCU players dancing and hugging and dashing around the field? Winning their bowl game was way more than simply a great way to end a season -- it moment that will be etched into their hearts forever.
Of course, we know that some people want something different. I appreciate their feelings. But I have to believe that most of those people don't realize they would snatch those opportunities away from the students. But please don't kid yourselves --i t would happen.
Name a sport with a multi-team playoff that also has a second vibrant neutral-site post-season event. Even though a few bowls probably would survive in a playoff era, certainly the athletes in the playoff would not have a bowl experience. A great part of college tradition would die, and that would be a shame.
The teams would fly in for their games and they'd fly out afterward. For the 7 or 15 schools that lose, their season would be over. No celebration. No bowl-week memories.
And I certainly understand the lure of filling out a bracket, kicking up your feet with a bag of Tostitos and a jar of queso and enjoying the excitement of a four-week playoff from your sofa at home.
But is that in the best interest of the students, whose voices too frequently get lost in this debate?
Listen to Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, on his bowl experience: "We had a blast. If they got rid of the BCS and the BCS bowls, then a lot of teams would not be able to have opportunities like we have had the last couple of years."
And listen to Oregon State coach Mike Riley: "I like the opportunity for a lot of teams to have a successful season and to get a chance to go to a bowl game. We don't need to limit that to whatever the playoff deal is."
And what about the many avid fans who love going to bowl games? Many plan their family vacations around their school's trip to a bowl. Would they go to Miami one week, then to Pasadena, then to Phoenix?
I talked to a Fort Worth man who proudly told me that his grandfather played for SMU in the 1936 Rose Bowl. Can you imagine someone 60 years from now, telling a stranger that his granddad played in the 2025 first-round game between Troy and Wisconsin in Madison?
In a playoff, there would be no week in the sun.
As the people responsible for life on campus, it's the job of university presidents and commissioners to look out for the best interest of the student-athletes -- and that means preserving the regular season and protecting America's bowl tradition and experience.
I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the childish invective from a few undertakers who throw stones but are accountable in no way for the future of the game and for the athletes' experience. But you know that words like cartel, commies, corruption and criminal when used to describe the BCS event are just plain silly. At its heart, the BCS is a group of schools collaboratively doing what is in the best interest of their students. And for the game.
And, for goodness sake, what kind of corrupt cartel would create an arrangement where TCU can win the Rose Bowl? The Horned Frogs played in the Granddaddy of Them All solely BECAUSE of the BCS. And Boise State was THIS close to playing in tonight's game. The BCS is fair, and this year -- more than ever -- proves it.
I have enjoyed keeping our side of the debate respectful, in keeping with the dignity of higher education. And I will continue to do that. After the unthinkable event in Tucson, I pray that we all re-assess our attitude toward each other.
I understand that short memories have applied a coat of white-out to the happiness that greeted the BCS when it was first implemented 14 years ago. Nearly everyone wrote the same thing: At last, the BCS brought college football what it had long been missing: a guaranteed match-up of the top two teams in a bowl game.
Please remember the great benefits of the BCS.
You know the numbers, but it is important to place them on the table once again: the top two teams met in bowl games eight times in 58 years before the BCS. Since then? 13 of 13 by BCS standards, and 10 of 13 by the media poll, including the last seven years in a row. Those facts are impossible to ignore.
And please hear this: the BCS has sparked the rise of new competitors who have stormed into the upper level of college football over the past few years. Boise State, TCU, Hawaii, Central Florida, Oklahoma State, Connecticut, Oregon, Nevada, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Louisville, Stanford and Wake Forest are just a few.
This horde of new schools at the top table has been good for the game There is a new populism never before imagined. A new equity that could not have been envisioned just 10 years ago. New hope that previously was inconceivable. New national fervor for a game that some believed had reached its zenith, but whose potential now seems unlimited -- a tree growing to the sky.
How has the BCS done this?
It is very simple: by providing unprecedented access to the top-tier bowl games, by maintaining the focus on the regular season and by enhancing the entire bowl system that provides a foothold for programs on their way up.
Bill Snyder at Kansas State talked about how he used the incentive of playing in a bowl game to almost literally bring the Wildcats up from "worst" to "first," and said it very well: "Where the bowl system helped Kansas State go tells me if they had 100 bowls, they would probably be of value to a lot of programs throughout the country."
In conclusion, I want to ask you to remember that college football really is national treasure. We are very lucky to cover it, administer it, play it, coach it and play b-flat clarinet in its marching band.
I don't think there's anything else in the world to match the passion that we have in college football. Maybe World Cup, but maybe not.
I had the great pleasure of visiting with former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien at the Fiesta Bowl. He was overwhelmed by the pageantry and the passion. A few years ago the top man at Wimbledon attended the Orange Bowl. I think neither one of them had ever seen anything quite like it.
Tonight's atmosphere will be awesome. I suggest that you visit the field for just a minute before the national anthem to take in the whole scene.
And then, in the wild party after the game, one group of athletes will hold the crystal football aloft. They will be celebrating for the sheer joy of reaching a lifetime goal.
But without even realizing it, they will be rejoicing for those other 68 groups of students who were able to savor the bowl experience this year. When they lift that crystal football, they will be symbolically lifting up the collegiate model. They will be celebrating the game of college football that is thriving in no small part because the BCS got it right.