By John Feistein
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, November 12, 2007 6:51 PM
If the college football season had ended this past weekend, the matchup for the national championship game would be Louisiana State against Oregon. At least according to the geniuses at the BCS.
Which is wrong.
The matchup should be 10-0 Kansas vs. 9-0 Hawaii.
Why? One simple reason: neither one of them has lost a game. Quick, name another sport at any level of competition in which you can go undefeated and be told, 'sorry, you can't compete for a championship.'
The answer to that, as we all know, is that there is NO other sport in which that is possible. Only in the Long Lost Land of The BCS Presidents.
The argument can be made that there's never been a college football season quite like this one. Let's start with this simple fact: at one point this fall, the No. 2 ranked team in the country was The University of South Florida. From there you can proceed to Nebraska giving up 76 points to Kansas, a school it once beat 34 straight times. You can consider Notre Dame losing nine games for the first time ever -- couldn't happen to a nicer guy than Charlie Weis, could it? -- including back-to-back losses to Navy and Air Force. And you can circle back to this: there's a very good chance that the regular season will end with Hawaii as the only unbeaten team in Division 1-A or whatever it is the bureaucrats in Indianapolis want to call the 119 teams that supposedly compete for the national championship.
Remember that word, supposedly. Because the truth is the 67 teams that make up the six BCS Conference and Notre Dame (The Fighting Irish have turned down membership in the Big East and the Big Ten in recent years; maybe they should consider the Ivy League.) can actually play for the national championship.
Remember last year, when Boise State was 12-0 in the regular season, one of two unbeaten teams in Division 1-A. Of course it wasn't allowed to compete for the national title because everyone knows it doesn't play a tough enough schedule to qualify or compete in a league (The WAC, which is also Hawaii's league) worthy of sending a team to the title game. Really? Has anyone out there checked out the Big Ten or the ACC this year? Years ago someone described the ACC as being Florida State, seven Peach Bowl teams and Duke. That has changed. It is now ELEVEN Peach Bowl teams and Duke. The Big Ten isn't a lot better.
Would Hawaii win either league? Who knows. No one from either conference would dare schedule them on a regular basis, that's for sure. Maybe Hawaii is a fraud -- sort of like Ohio State proved to be last year. If so, fine, let's find out in a first round NCAA Tournament game. How entertaining would a first round game between Hawaii and Oregon be? Wouldn't you like to see Kansas open up against Southern California after the Trojans sneak into the tournament as the No. 12 seed and win their first round game against Oklahoma? No, that wouldn't be any fun at all would it?
Let's play out another scenario for this season under the current system: Kansas loses to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. That would probably leave at least half a dozen teams with one loss. So how do you choose between LSU and Oregon and Oklahoma and Kansas and Ohio State and West Virginia? Here's a crazy idea: instead of letting computers and coaches and sportswriters do it, decide it on the field.
The BCS Presidents are a lot like the current President of the United States. They think that if they keep repeating their lies and half-truths and remind people who they are enough times, people will buy into what they're selling. According to one poll, only 21 percent of the American people are buying what President Bush is selling, but it sure took a long time and lot of deaths to get there.
What the BCS Presidents are selling is far less harmful but just as dishonest. They hide behind the notion that they are educators rather than glorified fundraisers and snake-oil salesmen and laughingly claim their system exists to help the "student-athlete." They sell their souls to television and to corporate America and then climb onto their pedestals to talk about the purity of college athletics.
Oh please. The last time college football was pure was when Rutgers beat Princeton, 6-4 on the banks of the Raritan River in 1869.
That doesn't make it BAD in any sense. There's still nothing quite like a college football Saturday, whether you're attending the 122nd installment of Williams versus Amherst (pause here to toss a rare kudo to ESPN: nice job taking 'Game Day,' to Williams-Amherst. While it was a little discouraging to see very smart kids waving and holding up signs for the cameras you had to love the sign which said, "Amherst's quarterback is a virgin.") or heading to West Point for any game at Michie Stadium. Or witnessing Illinois beat Ohio State. Or watching Hawaii remain undefeated.
It is all great fun and there is no reason for college presidents to apologize for making money off of it. Just admit you're trying to make money and then, because it is (gasp) the right thing to do, announce that the BCS will go away when the current contract (two more years after this one) is done and will be replaced by a 12-team tournament.
Of course that's about as likely to happen anytime soon as President Bush standing up and saying, "Upon further review, I REALLY messed up in Iraq."
People who argue that the "tradition of the bowls," must be upheld need to get a life. First, there is no tradition of the bowls. The once-sacred four New Year's Day bowls are played all over the January map. Bowls come and go like hockey coaches and those which stay change their corporate names nearly every five years. So, let's not go down the 'tradition of the bowls,' road.
What's more, there is no reason for the bowls not to remain a vital part of a playoff system. If you play four first round games at home sites under the 12 team tournament format, that leaves seven games that can be played at bowl sites. Remember, by the way, that the "tradition of the bowls," no longer includes the national championship game. The rest of the bowls would continue to exist just as they do now as second-tier events in late December for all the teams that don't make the tournament and manage to squeeze out six wins.
Which brings us to The Air Force Academy. On Saturday, Air Force man-handled Notre Dame -- yes, yes, everyone beats Notre Dame this year but the Falcons, like Navy before them, had to overcome some brutal officiating to earn their eight win. The Falcons are 8-3 and have a good chance to finish 9-3 if they win at home on Saturday against San Diego State.
They have had a wonderful bounce-back season under first-year coach Troy Calhoun after not having been to a bowl since 2002, which means none of their seniors have ever played in a bowl. They also have one of the most exciting players in the country in Chad Hall.
And they might not go to a bowl game. Why? Because of the ludicrous system that allows bowls and conference and teams to tie in to bowl commitments before a game is played. Air Force is in the Mountain West Conference which has four bowl tie-ins: The Las Vegas Bowl will take the league champion, which will be Brigham Young. Navy is tied in with the Poinsetta Bowl and the Midshipmen don't want to give Air Force a rematch (they should, it would be a great game, a great crowd, a great TV rating and, most important, a great gesture made by once academy to another) so Utah will probably go there. The New Mexico Bowl wants (surprise) New Mexico to be the Mountain West rep and the best one of all is The Armed Forces Bowl, which is played in Fort Worth, Texas. That bowl wants TCU (which is in Fort Worth) even though the Horned Frogs lost to Air Force and are currently 5-5, not to mention 2-4 in a conference where Air Force is 5-2.
If TCU at least splits its last two games to become 'bowl eligible,' Air Force will be without a locked-in bowl bid. It might still get in someplace else because some conferences (the Pac-10 appears very possible) may not produce enough bowl-eligible teams to meet all their commitments.
But it shouldn't come to that. There is now way a bowl should be able to take a 6-6 team from the same conference as a 9-3 team that won head-to-head against the 6-6 team. What's more there should never be a year in which an academy is bowl eligible that its players don't get to play in a bowl. Those kids work too hard and sacrifice too much (while at school and after they graduate) to get snubbed in the name of selling (maybe) a few extra tickets.
We all know the bowl system is corrupt. The Presidents -- all of them -- are as corrupt as the system they have created and continue to defend. The system should be blown up; the Presidents should all be impeached, convicted and removed from office.
College football is great fun. All it needs now is a playoff/bowl system that's fair to everyone from the east coast to the west coast. And Hawaii.