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The BCS Is Indefensible
The ratings for Ohio State-Texas; Virginia Tech Cincinnati and Alabama-Utah will be miniscule. The only BCS bowl that will get any kind of rating other than the championship game will be Penn State-USC in The Rose Bowl, in part because if there is one bowl that really does have tradition it is the Rose Bowl, and because the matchup is fascinating with Joe Paterno who will be 82 by kickoff and it is possible it might be his last game.
Let's hope Paterno comes back. College football needs a lot more of him and a lot less of guys like Nick Saban, who can somehow connect losing a game to 9-11, and a lot less of the presidents, commissioners, athletic directors and blowhard executive directors of coaches associations who continue to defend what is so clearly indefensible.
There is one other thing college football needs sooner rather than later if one truly cares about the traditions of the game: someone who can fix Army's broken football program. The Cadets (who need to stop this silliness of calling themselves the Black Knights) were humiliated on Saturday for a seventh straight year by Navy. The final score was 34-0 and the game was over when the Mids scored three minutes in to take a 7-0 lead. You could actually see the players on the Army sideline sag as they watched a re-run of the same nightmare they have lived every year since 2002 begin to unfold.
Navy has done just about everything right since it hired Paul Johnson seven seasons ago. It will play in its sixth straight bowl this year (and not with a 6-6 record; it is 8-4) and it has now won an almost unthinkable 13 straight games against Army and Air Force. The six victories over Air Force, each of them hard-fought to the end, are a reflection of how good Navy has become under Johnson and now under Ken Niamatalolo, who has done a remarkable job in his first year after Johnson left for Georgia Tech last December. Air Force is also a very solid program, 8-4 under second-year Coach Troy Calhoun -- in a Mountain West Conference far superior right now to both the ACC, the Big East and maybe the Big Ten -- who has rebuilt the proud program that had slipped in Fisher DeBerry's final years.
Navy's seven straight wins over Army by an average margin of 39-10 (think about that) are a reflection of the complete incompetence within the Army athletic program, dating back to the disastrous decision to briefly join Conference USA and the even worse decisions to hire Rick Greenspan as athletic director (he also ruined basketball at Indiana if you're scoring at home) and Todd Berry as football coach.
Army has now had 12 straight losing seasons and hasn't won more than four games in any of them. Its record during that time is an incomprehensible 30-109. This year's second straight 3-9 is at least an improvement on the 0-13 delivered by Berry and Greenspan in 2003. The only good news is that Army is back to running the option, the offense that every successful service academy team has used for the last 25 years.
Current Coach Stan Brock, who was forced last spring to install the option after he had once called it "a stupid idea," needs to be replaced. Army needs to hire a coach with real ties to the school and affection for the place, the traditions and the history -- Kansas offensive coordinator Ed Warriner and New York Giants assistant coach Mike Sullivan (an Army grad) jump to mind instantly -- and it needs to surround the new coach with coaches who played at Army or have coached at Army and know something about the option offense.
What's gone at Army is unfair to all those who have played there, past and present. They deserve better. Beyond that, the tradition of the Army-Navy game deserves better. Army-Navy games aren't supposed to be over at halftime. They're supposed to be decided in the last 10 seconds.
In the mid-90s, Army won five straight games against Navy. The average margin of victory in those five games was two points. In 1996, after Army's last great team (the Cadets were 10-2) beat a very good (9-3) Navy team by keeping the Mids out of the end zone on four plays inside the 10-yard line in the final minute, Bob Sutton (who never should have been fired as Army's coach) pointed at the clock as quarterback Ronnie McAda took a knee on the game's final play.
"We killed them," he said. "We had it won with eight seconds left."
That's the way Army-Navy should be. It is up to Army's leadership to stop making excuses (something no Cadet is ever allowed to do) and get serious about bringing in people who will make the Army-Navy game -- not just what surrounds the game -- great again.