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College football

Greed prevents real championship game

By JOHN ROMANO
Published December 8, 2003

It is not, as they say, unfortunate.

Nor is it regrettable, frustrating, disheartening or any other euphemism meant to convey a shared sense of commiseration.

It is, in a word, idiotic.

And what's particularly galling is everyone knows it.

The leaders of college football have, once again, allowed a season to go unfinished. There will be games missing and matchups forever lost.

A team that deserved to play for the undisputed national championship will not get that chance. A nation of fans who have waited for the season's conclusion will be left wanting and wondering.

And, to this, college football's money-grabbers shuffle their feet and promise to convene as soon as the weather warms and the greens are available.

So go on. Be furious. Curse the folks who brought you this charade of a postseason and chide those who don't understand why it's outrageously wrong.

There are a minimum of three teams deserving to play for the national championship this season, and the NCAA has no way of pulling it off. So one team gets the shaft, and an entire season gets smeared.

This is the crime of the BCS. Not that a computer cannot understand the nuances of a game. Nor that the polls will forever be flawed.

The real disgrace is the system still exists. That Division I-A college football - the greatest revenue producer the NCAA knows - is the only sport that does not end its season with some semblance of a playoff.

The BCS has been around for six seasons and has created a mess three times. It's like watching Toto pull the curtain back year after year and seeing the Great Oz commit his ruses and hoaxes in front of you.

"When the public yells and screams, it matters," said Big East conference commissioner and BCS official Mike Tranghese. "Even if we didn't have any controversy this year, there is a segment of the population that wants a playoff no matter what happens. And I understand why they want it.

"But it's not part of the system, and our presidents are not intending on going in that direction."

And why is that?

It can't be because university presidents are worried about student-athletes missing too much class. Not when they allow regular seasons to be lengthened. Not when Division I-AA and Division II have football playoffs.

It can't be because the bowls have too much tradition. Not when conference allegiances have already been shredded and most of America could not even name half of the country's bowl games.

It can't be because an overwhelming majority are in favor of the BCS. Not when mid-major conferences are seeking relief from Congress and fans are shouting in every direction this morning.

So why is it?

It could be these college leaders are remarkably dense. But I have a difficult time believing that. I tend to think they are amazingly greedy.

A handful of conference leaders, bowl organizers and university presidents have figured out, under this system, they can share obscene amounts of money without letting everyone else in on the gig.

Which, and stop me if I'm wrong, is not really compatible with the spirit of higher learning. These leaders, to me, are far more harmful to intercollegiate athletics than the basketball coach with a beer bong or the football coach who wears his heart on a G-string.

This is not the weakness of an individual.

This is systematic pilfering.

How does it possibly benefit the players or fans when the best teams do not meet in the season's final month? There is no rational explanation.

Why wouldn't an eight-team playoff work? And if that's so distasteful, why not let the BCS games spit out the two best contenders for a national championship game a week later?

Instead, in a good year, we have about two dozen meaningless bowl games and one national championship. In a bad year, like this one, we still have the meaningless games except without a real championship.

Do you know why USC could win its conference title, be No.1 in both polls, have the same number of losses as Oklahoma and LSU and still not be in the Sugar Bowl? Because Hawaii lost to Boise State and Notre Dame lost to Syracuse. Those two losses affected USC's strength of schedule and allowed LSU to leap the Trojans in the BCS standings.

Strength of schedule?

Why not measure lack of shame?

Or perhaps degree of idiocy?

Tranghese said BCS leaders might tweak the system in April to prevent similar problems in the future.

This is like a man who, day after day, steps in a puddle of mud. Instead of looking for a new route, he seeks a better polish for his shoes.

Same thing with the BCS. Year after year, the system fails and college officials tinker with the formula.

If they really cared, they'd stop stepping in the same mess.

[Last modified December 8, 2003, 01:46:15]


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