Throwing the book at the BCS is a start, but not the total solution
A book written by three Yahoo Sports reporters (who are not yahoos) attempts to blow the boilermaker top off the sinister, fraudulent and perhaps illegal Bowl Championship Series, now entering its 13th preposterous season.
Yahoo, mind you, is no in-depth dandelion.
The same investigative news organization that brought you “Near-Death to USC football” has unleashed: “Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series.”
Eviscerated in only 195 pages, the BCS is portrayed as the devil incarnate.
The word “cartel” is more commonly associated with Colombian drug lords, but it is this book’s every fifth buzz word in broad-brushing the folks who run college football as evil-doers, money-grubbers, dopes and dupes — and that’s just at the Big Ten Conference office.
We’re not saying the premise is over the top, but the jacket cover could have been Snidely Whiplash (Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany in a mustache) tying Joe College Fan to the railroad tracks.
“The six Cartel members work with a legion of henchmen,” the book states of the six major conference commissioners, adding, "… so for now the BCS survives, a roach amid a typhoon of Raid.”
The authors — Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan — are 16-team playoff advocates who claim a well-oiled cartel is depriving college football of a lotto-type windfall that could rescue every nonrevenue sport from extinction and build an orphanage in Ethiopia.
The book accurately and diligently points out what people have known for years: The BCS is fundamentally flawed, at times a joke, and very controversial.
It is clearly not the best way to determine a champion for college football, but that doesn’t necessarily make it corrupt.
The book convincingly unveils how a 16-team playoff could work in conjunction with bowl games. The plan would give an automatic bid to all 11 conference champions with five additional at-large berths. The higher-ranked schools would host the first three rounds with the title game played at a neutral site.
The book suggests the Rose Bowl should host the national title game every year — which wouldn’t upset Granddaddy one bit.
“Death to the BCS” exposes the vagaries and shadiness of voting patterns since 1998, when the polls were used in conjunction with a computer component to form the BCS standings.
The book skewers voters for the California-Texas Rose Bowl-bid fiasco of 2004, after which the Associated Press pulled its poll out of the BCS. (It was replaced by Harris Interactive.)
Regretfully, the book praises the AP for its magnanimous walk-off without mentioning it had been part of the BCS formula for seven years before suddenly realizing it was crooked.
“Death to the BCS” insists bowls could happily coexist with a playoff — but then devotes a chapter savaging the bowls’ tax-exempt status and overpaid, do-little chief executives.
Many arguments deriding the BCS have merit.
What the book fails to do is adequately answer these questions:
— Where was the outrage between 1902, when the first Rose Bowl was played, and 1998?
The answer: Evil didn’t have a face before the BCS when, in fact, this system is much fairer than it was before 1998. The BCS is really just the result of the Big Ten, Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl agreeing to release their champions to a “title” game in years they finished No. 1 or No. 2.
In 1997, Michigan and Nebraska couldn’t play for the title because the Wolverines were contractually bound to Pasadena.
Before 1998, a team from the Western Athletic Conference had no shot of playing in the Rose Bowl. This season, the consolation prize for Boise State not getting a BCS title-game berth might be a trip to Pasadena.
The power conferences do hog a disproportionate share of revenue, but that was a result of a Supreme Court decision that busted the antitrust NCAA, which had a boa constrictor hold on television rights but would certainly be called in to run any 16-team football playoff.
— How come the same university presidents who favor the NCAA tournament for basketball oppose it for major college football?
The book tries to separate BCS and NCAA leaders, but they are the same leaders. Black-hat Delany is a former chairman of the NCAA basketball committee.
The book too easily casts university presidents as “stooges” who do only what their commissioners tell them to do. In fact, it’s the opposite. The presidents are in charge. If they wanted a football playoff, there would be one tomorrow. But they don’t — and a recent survey conducted by the American Football Coaches Assn. revealed that 73% of its members like the current system.
Don’t blame the BCS on the major bowls, either, which are virtually powerless to stop a playoff and would be first in line to be part of one.
It is also hard to fathom that presidents, in these cash-strapped times, would shun the kind of playoff money being talked about without good — or even mediocre — reasons.
Enough of them must think there is risk in walking away from what they have — which is pretty good.
— How come ratings keep soaring and television revenue pours in?
The Big Ten Network is printing so much money it is now annually paying $20 million per school. The Southeastern Conference just signed a $3-billion deal with ESPN and CBS.
CBS issued a news release Tuesday saying its average rating for SEC football games for the first four weeks of the season is its highest in 11 years.
You can reasonably argue a playoff would be more lucrative, and that ratings would be even higher, but that’s different than saying the BCS is like communism — as Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Texas) suggested.
Barton, portrayed in the book as the critical thinker in the argument, once convened a congressional hearing on the BCS with a Texas A&M (his alma mater) football helmet on his desk as he yukked it up with Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), who had a University of Houston helmet on his desk.
— Why isn’t ESPN pushing for a playoff?
The network just took over the full BCS bowl package for the next four years but has been Switzerland in this debate. When has ESPN been neutral on anything?
Part of the reason ESPN may not be pushing: It owns several of the bowl games that playoff proponents swear won’t be harmed.
“Death to the BCS” is a lightning-rod read, yet overreaches in trying to demonize people who, in general, are not pond scum.
The book might also require an addendum to the chapter detailing how the BCS cartel is designed to exclude schools such as Boise State from earning their way into the BCS title game.
The first BCS standings come out Sunday.
If the standings were released Wednesday, according to ESPN numbers-cruncher Brad Edwards, the No. 1 team would be … Boise State.