Low-ranking idea

OTHER VOICES

Despite confusion, one thing clear: Playoff still has detractors

On the BCS

January 02, 2008|By CHIP SCOGGINS

The annual smorgasbord of college football bowl games yesterday included an undefeated darling from paradise, a former No. 1 that got a last-minute snub, a red-hot Southern school that defeated three ranked teams down the stretch and the overwhelming preseason favorite that currently looks as good as advertised.

And none of them - Hawaii, Missouri, Georgia and Southern California - had a shot at the national title. Neither does Oklahoma, a team nobody wanted to play in the postseason. Or Virginia Tech, which has lost two games to teams that were ranked No. 2 at the time.

If ever a season begged for a playoff in college football, this wonderfully wacky season was it. As many as seven teams felt deserving of a spot in the championship game, and they had valid arguments.

We are left with an Ohio State-LSU championship game, which isn't a bad matchup. But that absence of clarity - some might call the current situation chaos - resulted in more controversy and loud calls for a playoff in college football.

Don't count on it happening anytime soon.

Created 10 years ago, the Bowl Championship Series has been criticized throughout its existence but, because of the topsy-turvy regular season, never to this extent.

The goal of the BCS is to determine - through a combination of human poll voters and six computer rankings - the No. 1 and No. 2 teams and match them in the title game. Problem is, it's rarely clear-cut, particularly this season. Parity reigned and made a mess of the system.

A so-called plus-one model - essentially a Final Four - has gained some traction among the sport's power brokers, but even that proposal has its share of detractors who believe the BCS system works well enough to keep in place.

"I really think that [the BCS] is intended to create a 1-2 game, and it's done that," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "It's intended to make the games in the regular season more meaningful, and it's done that."

Pacific-10 commissioner Tom Hansen told The Sporting News last summer that his conference would walk away from the BCS if it adopted a plus-one model because it could damage a long-standing alliance with the Rose Bowl. Ohio State president Gordon Gee was equally blunt when asked recently about a playoff.

"They'll have to wrench a playoff system out of my cold, dead hands," he said.

In other words, don't hold your breath waiting for a playoff.

It's hard to argue with the notion that the current system is flawed. Fundamentally, how is it possible to determine a true champion without a playoff? The BCS relies on voter bias, computer formulas and the sheer hope that two teams will emerge from the pack during the regular season.

BCS commissioner Mike Slive has said he is interested in the plus-one model but remains opposed to a full-scale playoff. Under one plus-one proposal, the top four teams would play in predetermined bowl games with the winners advancing to a "plus-one" national championship.

As profitable and popular as the current system is, a playoff or plus-one format would likely exceed it in both television revenue and viewership, experts say.

"Probably so," said Fox Sports president Ed Goren, whose company is in the second year of a four-year, $320 million deal to televise all BCS games except the Rose Bowl. "I say probably so, but you still have to balance out all factors. It's not just BCS officials. It's coaches who would prefer to keep it as it is. It's athletic directors. There are people on both sides."

Fiesta Bowl president and chief executive John Junker said he is intrigued by a plus-one but is deeply opposed to a full playoff because it would undermine the current bowl structure.

"The bowl experience is a very valuable part of college football," Junker said. "You hear people say, `There are too many bowls.' I tend to think there are too many major league baseball games. Plus, something that I think gets ignored too often is that we have the healthiest regular season in all of sports."

The question remains: Why can't college football have a healthy regular and postseason?

Chip Scoggins writes for Minneapolis' Star Tribune.

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