Bill Hancock has to defend the BCS -- and doesn't mind a bit

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

OVERLAND PARK, KAN. -- The thin, bookish man who ran the Final Four for 13 years and is on a first-name basis with every Division I conference commissioner in the country swears the best promotion he ever received came when he was a 13-year-old growing up in Hobart, Okla. Bill Hancock had spent three years as a paperboy for the newspaper his father owned before finally moving into a position in the publication's headquarters.

"I was promoted to being a janitor," Hancock said. "And it was the best promotion I've ever gotten because I didn't have to go out in the cold weather on my bicycle throwing papers. And I didn't have to collect. Collecting is the hardest thing for a paperboy. Twenty-five cents a week. I'd have to knock on every door and get their 25 cents. Every week. And then they would yell at you, or they weren't home."

In October, Hancock was asked by the conference commissioners he had worked with over the past four years as the administrator of the Bowl Championship Series to serve as the event's first executive director. They wanted someone who knew the BCS well, who could tell the event's story aggressively from the side of those who believe in its virtues, who could defend the most highly controversial postseason in all of sports against a tidal wave of vociferous critics.

The commissioners chose Hancock, 59, a man with a gentle smile and a congenial tone. Dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans, Hancock spent two hours one recent afternoon inside a barbecue restaurant over a lunch of pulled pork and beans explaining why his latest promotion wasn't the gulag sentence it appeared to be. He understands the vitriol with which many college football fans view the BCS, but he attributes much of it to misperceptions and the prolonged inaction of those who run the event.

Now, Hancock once again must knock on doors, withstand inhospitable greetings and try to get his point across.

"Any time you work for something that's not popular it can be difficult," Hancock said. "But I look at it as these universities that created the BCS and manage the BCS have very strong feelings about it. They are very much in support of it. And it's my job to articulate their support. So I look at it as a chance to finally have someone representing the universities' viewpoint in this."

As executive director of the BCS, Hancock will serve as the event's full-time spokesman, in addition to carrying out the administrative duties he has fulfilled over the past four years. Hancock's role will replace that of the BCS coordinator, which rotated among conference commissioners on two-year terms for the event's first 12 years. ACC Commissioner John Swofford's second stint as BCS coordinator will conclude following the national title game Jan. 7.

Hancock noted he will not become the sole voice of the BCS and that the commissioners still will manage the event. But his public presence will grow, as was evident by the number of radio interviews Hancock had done the day before (five), as well as the number of Facebook and Twitter messages to which he responds daily (he loses track).

"The BCS exists because of a consensus of votes of the 120 [division I-A] universities," Hancock said. "It's not unanimous, but it's a strong consensus. And there never has been a voice to represent the consensus. And now that's me. I don't want to be critical, but if the conferences and the universities had created a voice 12 years ago when this started, I think the arrangement would be better received today. Because I think we were silent for so long that the critics scored a lot of points because we were just on the sidelines.

"We know that it will never be perfect, and may never be popular in many circles, but we're also real proud of it and happy to tell the story."

And so Hancock states all of the reasons -- a diluted regular season, logistical issues, etc. -- he believes a playoff is not a superior postseason option to the one in place. He rattles off statistics that support the BCS's cause. He points out all of the "landmark" matchups the BCS has created since its inception, referencing Texas-Southern California, Ohio State-Miami and Boise State-Oklahoma, among others.

"I believe that the BCS is one of the very best things that ever happened -- it may be the best thing that ever happened -- to Boise State football," he said. "And a case could be made that it's one of the best things to ever happen to the football in the WAC and the Mountain West."

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