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Alabama's in the title game, but is the BCS tide turning?

Coach Mack Brown has led Texas into the BCS championship game on Jan. 7.
Coach Mack Brown has led Texas into the BCS championship game on Jan. 7. (Ronald Martinez - Getty Images)
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By Michael Wilbon
Thursday, December 10, 2009

The powers-that-be in college sports cannot seem to get it right. Few things in sports are as perfect as the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

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As is, March Madness is sublime. Arguably, nothing in sports is better. Yet, this week it's reported that the NCAA and broadcast partners are talking about increasing the tournament field from 65 teams to 96. They want to mess with perfection.

On the other hand, few things are as egregiously flawed as the Bowl Championship Series. Yet on Sunday the BCS announced its bowl pairings, which included one game that will feature the only two non-BCS teams -- meaning the bottom line is the schools in what I call The Cartel can avoid the smaller schools both in the regular season and now the bowl season as well. The BCS is a plague, yet we've been stuck with it for 11 years now.

There is reason to believe, though, that the tide has turned in college football. Ten years ago it seemed a majority of people who follow the sport -- maybe as high as 75 percent -- favored sticking with the traditional bowl system. Anecdotal evidence now suggests 75 percent of people who identify themselves as football fans now favor some kind of college football playoff.

And on Wednesday a House subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer protection passed a bill aimed at bringing down the BCS.

If the bill becomes law it would prevent the BCS from calling its game a "national championship game" unless it was the result of a playoff system.

Okay, you're asking what good that does?

Plenty. One, it's symbolic. It puts The Cartel on notice that somebody its size is watching. Two, it says people in general are fed up with the BCS's arrogance and sense of entitlement. No, the matching of TCU and Boise State was not part of The Cartel's plan. There was a draft order of the BCS bowls and the Fiesta made its selections.

The Fiesta, mind you, was the biggest rebel in modern college football history, having elbowed its way into a New Year's Day slot when the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Cotton didn't want any piece of the Fiesta. The Fiesta is the last entity to beat The Cartel at its own game, back in the late 1980s when it matched Penn State and Miami and was the first game to go prime time on a separate night from the others.

Still, if there's a presumption out there that the fix was in to keep TCU or Boise State away from Florida in the Sugar Bowl or away from Georgia Tech in the Orange, it's merited because the BCS has done everything possible to actively and intentionally exclude the Mountain West and the WAC and MAC and others from the party.

If restraint of trade is involved -- and there are those who make the case that it is, what with millions of dollars being paid out for reaching these games -- then Congress ought to be involved. We're talking about American higher education here, or at least the front porch of those institutions.

Did you see where Mack Brown, the coach of the University of Texas, has been bumped up approximately $2 million a year for getting to the BCS title game against Alabama on Jan. 7? Suppose that one second that was put back on the clock had been allowed to tick off the clock and Nebraska had won the game? Do you really want to tell me there's no climate out there that created, by expectations, the notion that The Cartel wanted the BCS championship game to include Alabama or Florida and Texas? Is it coincidence to you that Alabama and Florida each got the benefit of at least three calls that could have changed the outcomes of games -- all in their favor?


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