As BCS Selection Day Approaches, the Lobbying Begins
Thursday, November 27, 2008
After four days of campaigning, Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops was exhausted. Politics, he declared near the end of his weekly Tuesday news conference, was neither his forte nor his preferred platform. In repeated attempts to promote the accomplishments and qualifications of his team -- the third-ranked Sooners -- Stoops had used logical arguments, perhaps as much a cardinal sin in trying to manipulate the Bowl Championship Series as it may be in pandering to the public.
His rational points appeared to have gained neither him nor his team much ground, so Stoops thought it best to offer, at least for the time being, something of a concession speech.
"It's unfortunate; no one likes to do it," Stoops said of the campaigning in which he had partaken. "I think that's why more and more of us say, 'Hey, let's find a way to get a playoff in place so that we don't have to do that.' "
Oklahoma's problem, admittedly, is of its own doing. By beating previously undefeated Texas Tech, 65-21, on Saturday night, the Sooners increased the likelihood of the BCS's seemingly annual controversy. Should Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas -- each with one conference loss, which came against one another -- win their final regular season games, a three-way tie would exist at the top of the Big 12 South Division.
The tiebreaker in the Big 12 under such a scenario is the BCS ratings, which currently have Texas second, Oklahoma third and Texas Tech seventh. Whichever team is ranked highest in the BCS standings at the conclusion of the regular season will represent the Big 12 South in the conference championship game.
Three components formulate the BCS rankings: the coaches' poll, the Harris Interactive poll and an average of six computer rankings. Each component counts as one-third of a team's overall BCS score.
If Alabama (No. 1 in the BCS) and Florida (No. 4) win this weekend, those two squads will enter the Southeastern Conference title game with a berth in the BCS championship game almost certainly on the line. The common perception is that a Big 12 South team will claim the other BCS title game berth, as long as it beats Missouri in the Big 12 championship game.
One can understand, then, why Stoops deemed it necessary to begin posturing for the Sooners almost as soon as they completed their victory over Texas Tech.
"If you can't move us in front of Texas because they beat us, then you have to keep Texas Tech in front of Texas," Stoops said Saturday night before proceeding to address one-loss Florida.
"If you're going to forgive a team for losing at home to an unranked team because they're playing well now -- well, we're playing pretty well now, too. If it's logical for someone else, it's logical for us."
Pete Dawkins believes there isn't much room for logic or pandering when it comes to coaches trying to position their teams for a BCS bid. Dawkins, who won the 1958 Heisman Trophy at Army and has voted in the Harris Interactive poll since its inception in 2005, began a telephone interview about BCS predicaments by pointing out that "there are no rules" and that Harris Interactive voters "make up their own parameters for who they're going to evaluate more highly than someone else."
Dawkins, for one, relies heavily on data. He maintains a spreadsheet that allows him to compare teams from week to week, as well as keep track of a team's season-long performance. He said he tracks between 30 and 35 teams per week. "I don't have a scientific" formula, he said. "It's more of a Ouija board."
Oklahoma's performance against Texas Tech on Saturday left Dawkins "extremely impressed," and he said if the Sooners compete at the same level against Oklahoma State this weekend, they "may well migrate to the top" of his list.
But one thing is certain, at least in Dawkins's mind: Stoops and any other coaches who try to rally public support for their teams off the field can save their breath. It won't do them any good, according to Dawkins, and it may even hurt their teams' images.
"The results, I like to believe, speak for themselves, and if someone's trying to exaggerate or be cute in inferring that there's an obligation on someone making selections to do one thing or another, that's sort of not their role," Dawkins said. "Their role is to coach and win the game. Our role is to assess it and try to make a fair calculation of where they should stand."
Although that may be true, it doesn't mean coaches have to be comfortable with the arrangement. Texas Coach Mack Brown said this week that the possible tiebreaker situation between the Longhorns, Oklahoma and Texas Tech "screams for a playoff." In that case, multiple BCS title contenders from the Big 12 South would not have to worry about making it into the conference championship game just to have a shot at the national title.
In 2004, an undefeated Oklahoma squad represented the Big 12 South in the conference championship game and then in the BCS title game, but that didn't keep Brown from lobbying for his one-loss Longhorns to go to a BCS game. Brown argued publicly that the two human polls should place his team high enough to draw an at-large BCS bid. He was successful, and Texas went on to defeat Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
Back then, "I was criticized for saying I thought our team was good enough to be in a BCS game, and, my gosh, I was a politician and a whiner," Brown said.
"Now, what the system's doing, it's making coaches talk about why their teams should be voted, and that's very unfair to the coaches, in my estimation. But it is more popular now than it was then, so I guess maybe I was a trendsetter."