Antitrust suit vs. the BCS can succeed without ‘winning’

Last week, Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff announced he would sue the BCS in coming months on antitrust violations. Much of analysis, understandably, has been about whether Shurtleff can win the case.

I have no idea how a judge would rule. We spent just a paragraph on antitrust in Death to the BCS because the issue is so uncertain. I’ve spoken to highly regarded lawyers who are convinced the BCS is vulnerable. And I’ve spoken to highly regarded lawyers who are convinced the BCS is safe.

What I do know is the case doesn’t have to get anywhere near a courtroom to have a significant impact on — and even serve as the crushing blow against — the BCS. Any analysis that focuses solely on the endgame completely misses the important road that would takes us there.

Here’s what the BCS is most susceptible to: exhaustion.

Insider after insider in NCAA power circles has told me the same thing: Even the chief defenders of the BCS are sick of the constant assaults.

Propping up the BCS is trying, frustrating and never-ending. Those who do it are an aging group of administrators whose numbers are dwindling. The next generation of athletic directors is not married to the bowl system. The group is overwhelmingly open to some level of postseason reform. The status quo is finally being questioned.

One example: Per the request of new West Virginia AD Oliver Luck, the Big East’s annual meetings this spring will include what Luck hopes will be “a legitimate and intellectually honest discussion about bowl finances.” Luck sees little reason for schools to continue to be forced into money-losing deals with bowl games.

Seems like a reasonable position. And it is to most people

So who wants to be the BCS defender to argue against it?

The BCS makes no business sense. It underperforms financially. It’s extremely unpopular with fans and players (don’t be fooled by the ridiculous claims of the BCS). It’s been stained by corruption at the Fiesta Bowl.

Now ethical questions plague members of the NCAA subcommittee and BCS “task force” who are supposed to regulate bowl games because many accepted gifts and travel from those very same games.

A lot of those people didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. That they should’ve isn’t the point. They’re paying for it now, one humiliating PlayoffPAC press release at a time. No one enjoys defending himself against corruption charges.

Really, the entire thing isn’t very fun right now. Even Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, the BCS’s chief proponent, has complained about “fatigue.” Penn State president Gerald Spanier acknowledged to the New Orleans Times-Picayune that “all of the debate about the BCS is certainly wearing to some.”

Well, an antitrust case isn’t exactly going to lighten the mood.

It’s going to stir up an already-active hornet’s nest. Let’s start with the costs. Two antitrust lawyers I spoke with pegged defending the case at a minimum of $3 million, with costs possibly running to the $5 million range.

Who is going to argue for the allocation of so much money to defend a postseason that already costs their schools so many millions? And would a single one of his peers back him?

Then there are the real hassles. The discovery process. The details that will no doubt emerge. And the depositions. The Fiesta Bowl investigation was embarrassing enough. Imagine the whole system stripped naked.

We have no idea about the finances of the BCS. It might have to release them now. And as much as tax documents provide a loose picture of expenditures of some bowl games, the in-depth look at just one game provided an eye-popping reality.

The Fiesta taught us about $27,000 car allowances and $33,000 birthday parties and John Junker’s $4.8 million in expenses over 10 years. That’s a lot of gentlemen’s club visits.

Anyone want to risk repeating that? Over and over and over?

“I think the Fiesta Bowl is the tip of the iceberg,” Shurtleff told USA Today. “I’m pretty confident from my research that there’ll be more problems with other bowls.”

That Shurtleff quote should prove he isn’t some overmatched publicity seeker. It was no off-the-cuff remark. It was a cannonball across the bow of the BCS, a flex of the muscle designed to warn conference commissioners of the mud ahead.

The BCS defenders are stubborn, but they aren’t fools. They all fear another Fiesta Bowl scandal because they realize it isn’t just possible, it’s likely. Is anyone really so naïve they believe John Junker was the only one who misused the tens of millions these games bring in annually?

Shurtleff is all but promising more of it, only this time he’ll have the opportunity to put the commissioners and presidents under oath, grill them about the culture of cronyism and then have their answers spread to the public.

An antitrust suit is a nightmare for the BCS, an endless headache long before it ever goes to trial, let alone judgment.

The dizzying media accounts of corruption, the increased questioning by ADs, presidents and even fans about why the sport outsources its most profitable product and the relentless stream of PlayoffPAC work has tested everyone’s will — all kids’ stuff compared to what Mark Shurtleff can deliver.

Do a bunch of commissioners on the edge of retirement still want to fight? Do they want history to remember them as the last dinosaurs? Or do they just choose one of the myriad playoff options, come up with a compromise and make it all go away?

Not all lawsuits are designed to reach a judge. This one won’t have to.

Posted in Antitrust, BCS, John Junker, PlayoffPAC | 9 Comments

As UConn and Va. Tech bleed, bowls roll in money

Maybe Connecticut shouldn’t feel so embarrassed after all.

University records released this week show the Huskies spent nearly $1.8 million more than the Big East allocated for participating in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. The biggest culprit: $2.9 million in unsold or absorbed tickets to the game, most of them vastly overpriced to the benefit of the Fiesta Bowl.

UConn was blamed for its small fan base and relatively mediocre season. The distance between Storrs, Conn., and Glendale, Ariz., also was cited.

So what’s Virginia Tech’s excuse?

The university provided its financial statement to us Friday, and it revealed the Hokies and the ACC spent $1.6 million more than allocated for the 2011 Orange Bowl.

Total expenditures ran $3,343,689. The ACC, like most conferences, pools all its teams bowl revenue and then pays out the money in an effort to allow teams attending smaller bowls to potentially break even. The listed bowl share for Va Tech was just $1,725,000.

The good news? Virginia Tech’s trip to the 2009 Orange Bowl incurred $3.8 million in expenses against an allocation of $1.6 million, a $2.2 million shortfall. At least they’re trying to tighten the belt.

Empty seats were, again, a plague. The school and the conference combined to absorb love that bureaucratic term 9,500 tickets, totaling $1,243,988. Technically, the ACC absorbed most of the unsold tickets all but $46,301 worth.

This makes it look better for Virginia Tech, but it’s mostly financial sleight of hand. Since all bowl revenue is shared, so are bowl losses. It’s all going into, and then out of, the same pot. They could just have the school absorb the losses yet pay them a bigger share of revenue. It’s the same difference.

The Orange Bowl’s other participant, Stanford, as a private school, is not required to provide its financial statements. Considering the distance from Palo Alto and the expressed concern over poor ticket sales, it’s safe to estimate Stanford’s ledger looks similar to Virginia Tech’s. It’s probably worse.

This entire charade is about the continued fleecing of college athletics by its supposed bowl “partners,” and it goes to explain why the BCS is so entrenched.

The focus shouldn’t be on the poor schools that lost money. It should be on who made it. And how they did it.

Both the Fiesta and Orange required schools to purchase 17,500 overpriced tickets. Nearly 1,500 of UConn’s allotment cost $255 a ticket, between five and 10 times what consumers could find in the secondary ticket market. There were thousands of seats available online for $50, many going for under $20.

For the bowl game, this is a boon. They are selling tickets at a false price, far more than a free market would accept. It allows the game to guarantee a nearly $7 million gate before selling one ticket to the general public. Those swaths of desolate grandstands you often see on television aren’t all that troubling to a bowl exec. They long ago figured out how to get paid for empty seats.

Through the years, schools have found it nearly impossible to sell their allotments for anything other than a few select bowl games the title game, the Rose or ones played locally. Making matters worse, the bowls provide virtually no complimentary tickets, meaning schools have to pay for even their bands to attend the game. The University of Iowa, for instance, dropped $51,000 to get the Hawkeye Marching Band into the 2010 Orange Bowl, even though Land Shark Stadium wasn’t filled to capacity.

Then there is the sky-high price of required travel. Va Tech spent $1.2 million. UConn dropped $1.15 million. Teams aren’t just on the hook for nearly all costs airfare, rooms, meals, etc. but must stay where, and for as long as, the bowl demands. Then some bowls collect commissions from the chosen hotels.

Virginia Tech, for instance, had to rent 150 rooms at the tony Westin Diplomat Hotel and Spa for $212 per night for seven nights and 325 rooms at the rate of $258 for three nights. There were 125 more rooms at the Sheraton for $175 per night for three nights.

ACC officials were contractually obligated to buy 15 rooms for three nights at $319 a night at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne.

There is undoubtedly a financial and promotional benefit to attending these games. No one is denying this. Bowl games are also fun to play in, attend and watch on television.

That doesn’t mean the schools should be forced to lose money. The UConn players no doubt had a good experience at the game, at least until Oklahoma beat them soundly. For the same $1.8 million price, though, the school could’ve cut the 85 scholarship players a $20,679 check.

They probably could’ve gotten by for a week in Phoenix on that.

Bowls financial structure easily could be altered (shorter stays, cheaper hotels, no ticket guarantees). Of course, that would come at the expense of bowl CEOs, their lavish expense accounts and the first-class lifestyle.

The Fiesta Bowl paid its CEO, John Junker, nearly $600,000, according to its most recent tax filings. He’s currently on paid leave while the bowl, prompted by multiple federal and local inquiries, conducts an internal investigation into improper campaign contributions and expense payments.

The entire bowl business is an illogical arrangement for college sports. Ask athletic directors why it exists, and they say because it’s always existed. They acknowledge they’re getting taken to the cleaners. It doesn’t hurt the bowl industry spends freely on lobbying, advertising, public relations and Washington law firms.

College football is the only sport, and perhaps only business, that outsources its most profitable and important product in this case its postseason. Rather than control and profit from it, athletic administrators remain a hostage to the bowl industry that annually makes a killing running the system.

It’s why things aren’t settled on the field.

The BCS isn’t a way to crown a champion. It’s merely a stop-gap plan by the bowl industry to maintain its control over a business that prints money.

Posted in Death to the BCS, Fleecings, John Junker, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is Mark Cuban persuasive enough to kill the BCS?

The heart of Death to the BCS is the numbers, the ones that nauseate college football fans, the millions of dollars universities forfeit to the thieves who run bowls and the hundreds of millions more they deny by obstructing against a playoff system. These numbers had a different effect on Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner and foremost entrepreneurial spirit in American sports.

They sparked a business idea.

It was only a matter of time before somebody with a brilliant mind and a hefty bank account looked at the Bowl Championship Series and proposed to blow it up. Cuban is reading Death to the BCS these days, and his public proclamations over the last 24 hours that he wants to run his own college football playoff has set afire the hearts and minds of fans ravenous for anything other than the current system.

I am not sure if Mark Cuban is college football’s savior, which is to say I’m not certain anybody can do the job single-handedly. The political minefields on the road to college football playoff Valhalla are laced with IEDs. Jim Delany, already battening down the hatches with his not-so-veiled threat that the BCS is going nowhere, will double, triple and quadruple down if necessary. If the BCS dies, it will do so surrounded by a pile of shell casings.

I am sure that Cuban has latched onto a salient point in any potential overthrow of the BCS: The business model makes as much sense as directions from Ikea. Time and again, the Cartel has failed to answer why it funnels more than 50 percent of the revenue from its most profitable product — its postseason — to the middle men who run bowl games. When 106 of 120 athletic departments lose money, as they did last season, turning down any sum of money — let alone Cuban’s proposed offer of $500 million per year — is criminal.

“If there’s something everybody hates and there’s all kind of inefficiencies and there’s a lack of transparency,” Cuban told the Dan Patrick Show today, “somewhere in there is the business opportunity.”

Sooner than later, the victims of the racket — the universities getting fleeced by the arrangement — are going to seek something better. For the second time in three years, Virginia Tech is preparing to get stuck with a massive load of unsold tickets to a BCS game that will set the school back a seven-figure sum. UConn is bleeding like a stuck pig, ready to eat $2.5 million in Fiesta Bowl tickets, according to the New Haven Register. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples pointed out that more than a quarter of Connecticut’s athletic budget comes from the university, which is funded by taxes. Surely, given a choice, Connecticut taxpayers would spend the $2.5 million on something of benefit to their state rather than an exhibition football game 2,500 miles away.

If Cuban, or any independent businessperson, can build a playoff, it’s not going to be a situation where everybody jumps in the pool simultaneously. There will need to be a brave, forward-thinking commissioner to rip his schools away from the traditional power structure. That, and someone who is willing to sell out his supposed business partners. As we know from the conference-realignment shenanigans last offseason, the conference commissioners ultimately look out for themselves. And if Cuban offers, say, the SEC $150 million for its participation, surely the 12 university presidents aren’t so wedded to the bowl system that they would pass up such an opportunity.

The rest of college football would join soon enough out of fear that a moneyed SEC would turn into even more of a superpower than it already is. Six of the 10 best ratings on college football games this year were from the SEC, even as overall viewership plummeted. It’s not a stretch to blame it on the BCS. The Big Ten and Big 12 lost any shot at a national championship by Halloween. With a playoff, three Big Ten teams and at least one from the Big 12 would’ve been relevant into November, through December and perhaps January.

Instead, we look forward to 35 bowl games, the first of which starts Saturday. Some will be great. Some will be duds. All will end the season of the participating teams, keeping us from latching onto players, onto stories, onto the sort of things so desperately lacking in this system. Athletic directors should recognize this, but they’re too compromised. Presidents should, too, only most listen to their ADs and conference commissioners. Cuban’s idea to hit schools in the checkbook by urging boosters to cut off donations until the school supports a playoff is novel and could work.

The simple fact that Cuban has given this as much thought as he has bodes well for college football. Amid a sea of partisan bickering, he is an impartial voice, one whose stake is entirely personal. Such a moment can serve as a flashpoint, another tick mark on the timeline toward the demise of the BCS. Patrick asked Cuban whether he’d prefer to own a baseball team or run a college football playoff. He chuckled, the answer so obvious.

“With the BCS,” he said, “you go down in history and make a lot of people happy.”

Posted in BCS, Death to the BCS, Ikea directions, Jim Delany is freaking serious, Mark Cuban | 9 Comments

The BCS is why Wisconsin should’ve tried to score 100

Running up the score doesn’t bother me like it does some people, so I just shrugged when I saw that Wisconsin had drilled Indiana 83-20 — including 24 fourth-quarter points. They have scholarships at Indiana, too. The Badgers backups have a right to play all out.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema denied that he was running up the score to impress poll voters. “There’s not one style point on that board,” he told ESPN.com. Except, you know, for that 74-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter (and yes, it was third-and-6, but come on).

For the sake of this argument, though, let’s accept Bielema’s word. Because he should’ve been trying for style points. The smartest coaching move he could’ve made was purposefully dropping 83 points on Indiana and creating a wow-factor result. Otherwise, the game would’ve been otherwise ignored by national poll voters who may hold the Badgers’ Rose Bowl hopes in their distracted hands.

Hell, Bielema should’ve gone for 100.

One of the many fraudulent excuses trotted out by the BCS is that its sole purpose is to pair No. 1 vs. No. 2 — according to the BCS, of course — in the title game. That isn’t even close to true and is a complete insult to anyone’s intelligence when it gets repeated. The BCS standings will determine the Big Ten’s champion if things hold, and there is a three-way tie for first place among Ohio State , Michigan State and Wisconsin.

None of these teams will play for the BCS title, mind you. None will be ranked No. 1 or No. 2 (unless there is complete anarchy). The BCS has long ago ruled their seasons irrelevant and pointless.

As such, the BCS rankings shouldn’t matter to these teams. They shouldn’t have to care what some retired SID living in Florida who has a Harris Poll vote thinks. Yet they do. They have to.

Wisconsin needs to remain ahead of Ohio State in the BCS standings. Wisconsin defeated Ohio State head-to-head earlier this year but is under siege right now. The Badgers have just two games remaining, at Michigan and home against Northwestern. They should win both and elicit a yawn from voters.

Ohio State, meanwhile, is at Iowa (a possible decent victory) and home against Michigan — and when Ohio State plays Michigan, it’s a national affair of great import because of Woody, Bo and other factors that have nothing to do with the actual 2010 season.

So the smartest move Bielema could make to help his players go to the Rose Bowl was runs up the score on Indiana. How could a poll voter drop a team that just scored 83 points? By scoring the most points in a Big Ten game since 1950, Wisconsin’s victory became newsworthy, earning extra highlight time on ESPN and additional headlines in the newspapers.

Since many poll voters are probably unaware that the bottom half of their top 10 could determine the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl rep, it stands to reason they aren’t focused on where they rank the Badgers and Buckeyes. You need to use any trick possible.

(Michigan State has no chance in a three-way tie because the Spartans lack the brand name that poll voters — many of whom have never seen them actually play — gravitate toward.)

The BCS clearly promotes style points. And it highlights the ridiculousness of its argument that margin of victory should not be included in the system’s computer formulas. The concept that a mathematical formula can be devised to accurately rank 120 teams that play diverse schedules is specious to begin with.

Taking out the second-most important piece of information — the first question asked about a game is who won, and the second: what’s the score? — makes them patently useless.  Bill James, of Moneyball fame, calls the BCS computers “nonsense math.” Dr. Hal Stern, of UC-Irvine, says it’s the BCS using the illusion of math as a public relations tool. He was the first — and not the last — quantitative analyst to call for a boycott of the BCS.

Even the BCS’s in-house computer guys admit they can provide “better” formulas. Jeff Sagarin calls the non-margin of victory formula “the politically correct version” of his numbers and suggested to the Associated Press that it’s a way to systematically close out teams from smaller conferences: “They might as well acknowledge before the season starts, ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter if the following teams go undefeated, they’re not going to get in the (championship) game.’ ”

How big a difference would margin of victory provide? Sagarin offers a second set of numbers on his Web site that illustrates it. Auburn goes from No. 1 to No. 9, Boise State from No. 12 to No. 4, Ohio State from No. 18 to No. 6. Stanford is ranked second. Nothing is the same.

Sagarin went to MIT. A half-baked argument on behalf of sportsmanship doesn’t exactly satisfy a professional logician, nor anybody who considers just how flimsy and hypocritical it is. The BCS assumes college coaches, players and fans are idiots and will buy another wrongheaded bill of goods.

Sorry, we aren’t and we don’t.

What everyone understands is that margin of victory is an overriding factor in the way college football is played. The poll voters are acutely aware of it and the coaches have responded as such. Oklahoma ’s Bob Stoops even admitted to giving up against Missouri this season in an effort to keep the margin of loss down.

Whatever Bret Bielema’s intentions were on Saturday matter not to anybody outside of the Wisconsin and Indiana football families. The implications, however, concern all of college football. Because it illustrates one more reason, on top of so many already, that the BCS is rotten to its core.

And if the Badgers do get passed by OSU, the team they trounced, something eminently possible in this backward system, perhaps next time they’ll hang a hundred.

Posted in Uncategorized | 64 Comments

We’re on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week

Many thanks to the editors at Sports Illustrated for bringing in Dan to co-author this week’s cover story with the great Austin Murphy. And even more gratitude to our editors at Yahoo! Sports for allowing us to help spread the word.

Having the greatest institution in sports journalism so directly take on the BCS is another step in trying to educate fans as to why the system is so slipshod. And that’s my favorite takeaway from the cover: the story does answer the why as much as the how, and it’s many of the same themes we hit on in Death to the BCS.

The issue went to print tonight and will be on newsstands and in mailboxes midweek. Please enjoy, and, remember, to help get the message out, tell friends and family how much you enjoyed the book and send them here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Why Oklahoma quit

Trailing Missouri 36-27 with 2:24 remaining on Saturday, Oklahoma had the ball and at least some hope of springing a miracle comeback. This is college football after all, and while the Sooners chances were slim, stranger things have happened.

Bob Stoops saw it differently. Facing 4th and 10 from deep in his own territory he punted, effectively conceding the game to Missouri. The Sooners flat gave up. He did it for one reason: he feared that if OU was stopped, Mizzou would punch in another score and extend the margin of defeat.

A 16-point loss would look worse to poll voters that make up two-thirds of the BCS formula. So rather than try to win, he went with a new concept: running down the score.

“It’s a long year. Who knows how poll people look at scores?” Stoops explained to the Daily Oklahoman.

This isn’t a criticism of Stoops. He made the smart decision that comes from having such a dumb system of determining a champion.

Stoops weighed the long-odds of a comeback against the long-term damage of a double digit defeat and decided he could live with a nine-point road loss.

Oklahoma dropped to 9th in the BCS standings but trail just Alabama (No. 6) among one-loss teams. The Tide’s defeat, though, was by 14 to South Carolina. If it comes to politicking between the two in early December, you can bet margin of defeat will be mentioned by folks in Oklahoma.

Our book is about debunking the BCS’s well-worn talking points by showing how real-world application is generally the exact opposite; just about everything the BCS says is unsupported spin.

This is the latest.

The BCS claims “Every Game Matters” and it protects the “sanctity of the regular season.” Then Oklahoma gives up on winning a game because it’s trying to game the system.

A small, educated selection committee would be equipped to see the circumstances that go into margin of victory or defeat. The coaches who admit they don’t watch anything but game film on their next opponent and the Harris Poll voters – a sizeable portion of whom think Florida is having a good season – have proven they don’t pay attention to much of anything.

Stoops decision also shows the folly of the BCS stripping its computer formulas of margin of victory in the name of sportsmanship. The human voters already consider margin of victory, so it doesn’t add any bit of sportsmanship. As unfortunate as a team running up the score is, isn’t it worse that the BCS is causing coaches to alter late game strategy and give up on their players?

The BCS doesn’t promote sportsmanship at all. All it does is pervert math to the point the computer guys admit they are provided a “less accurate” ranking than they could. It’s poorly thought-out public relations.

“It’s not the best way to do it,” said Kenneth Massey, one of the computer guys.

How different would the BCS ranking be with margin of victory included? Jeff Sagarin offers two sets of rankings, the one without margin of victory he calls “politically correct.”

Missouri would go from No. 1 to No. 5. Oregon would jump from No. 6 to No. 1. Michigan State would go from No. 2 to No. 25. TCU and Boise State would rank 3 and 4 respectively rather than 7 and 11.

On and on it goes. I don’t know whether the math on these formulas is any good. I do know actual mathematicians we interviewed for the book said it wasn’t.

And I know that every game doesn’t count when Bob Stoops is quitting on a comeback because he’s worried about bizarro world style points.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 12 Comments

Why is Florida still getting votes in the Harris Poll?

The University of Florida hasn’t won a football game in a month. Its current losing streak is its worst in 11 years. Its early-season victories came against opponents with a combined 14-16 record.

It just hasn’t been much of a season for the Gators, something even the most ardent UF fan would acknowledge. Hey, it happens. Tim Tebow isn’t walking through that door.

There’s a reason not a single coaches’ poll ballot has featured Florida for a couple of weeks.

All of this appears lost on an unknown number of Harris Poll voters who continue to defy even minimal standards of awareness, respect and effort.

Last week, we laughed when the Gators wound up ranked 29th in the Harris Poll with 47 points. You get one point for being ranked 25th, two for 24th and so on. Assuming there isn’t a completely brain dead voter or two that still has the Gators in the top five, it meant there could be a stunning 15 or 20 voters who were unaware that Florida had just lost to Mississippi State at home.

The game ended late last Saturday and, with all due respect, the Harris Poll voters aren’t exactly the most youthful lot in America. It’s a lot retired sports information directors, retired referees and retired administrators. Maybe the morning paper didn’t have the score and firing up the Internet tubes before actually voting was just too time-consuming.

Since the ballots are secret, we have no idea who is asleep at the wheel. We figured it would be corrected, a one-time joke.

Only the Harris Poll came out again and Florida received the same 47 points. Even better, the Gators moved up to 28th despite having an off week.

So apparently the voters still don’t know Florida is having a lousy year.

Fans understandably focus on the top of the poll. You’ll learn just as much about the competency of these enterprises by looking at the back. How can anyone trust the judgment of a voter that isn’t aware Florida’s last victory was on Sept. 25?

You can’t. It’s why the BCS formula is so patently ridiculous.

We do an entire chapter on the polls in Death to the BCS, so I won’t bother rehashing it. But in the absence of a rightful playoff, it remains mind-numbing that a sport would employ this system.

Remember, the Harris Poll voters were hand-selected by the BCS. These are the establishment’s people. In its infinite wisdom, the BCS deemed these 114 voters the most uniquely qualified group of individuals in America to determine college football’s championship matchup.

And yet a decent portion keeps voting for Florida.

(In the Associated Press poll, the Gators inexplicably received a 24th-place vote from the Hartford Courant’s Desmond Conner. He didn’t include Mississippi State, one of just two voters not to do so. That’s a thoughtless ballot, but the AP poll has no impact on the actual championship system. It’s a harmless, pointless opinion poll. The Harris Poll matters.)

Every week, I’m at a stadium or in a coach’s office or a locker room, and on the wall hangs some motivational motto. College football loves things like “commitment” and “accountability” and “hard work” and “reliability.” Life skills, the coaches will say, even if they really just want the punt team to properly pick up a block.

Still, college football demands excellence. The players work relentlessly — from the endless, early-morning offseason conditioning to the drain of spring practice to the heat index of summer two-a-days. They sacrifice. They battle. They push on.

Then there are the coaches that nearly kill themselves with work. Nick Saban and MarDantonio and Jim Harbaugh and Gary Patterson and Urban Meyer and Bo Pelini and on and on the list of perfectionists go. They set the tone for this sport.

Problems are fixed. Weaknesses are addressed. Mediocrity, failure and disinterest are not tolerated.

Their collective effort — coaches and players alike — merit respect from the people empowered with making or breaking their seasons.

Instead, we get the Harris Poll and another week of head-in-the-sand excuse making from the BCS.

Posted in BCS, BCS standings, Harris Poll, Retirees love Florida | 1 Comment

We have inspired a song, and it is good

We’ll have another post up soon, and it’s a doozy. In the meantime, enjoy this slice of awesomeness from the guys at Mock Session.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A poll-emic: More ugliness and spin from the BCS

We could certainly do an entire post on the absurdity of the polls and how they impact the BCS standings. After all, nothing illustrates the system’s general failure quite like the University of Florida earning 47 points (good enough to be ranked No. 29) in the Harris Poll.

Yes, the same Florida team that’s on a three-game losing streak, its longest in 11 years.

No voters in their right mind would rank Florida among the top 25 teams in the nation this week. Not one in the AP, coaches’ or Legends Poll, featuring retired coaches, did.

There are all sorts of scientific theorems that show polls are incapable of accomplishing what the BCS is trying to accomplish, but even those could never assume the level of incompetence — or disinterest — of the Harris voters. They might be worse than the computers.

In a poll teams get one point for being ranked 25th, two for 24th and so on. To score 47 points, I assume, meant that a number of voters went against all logic and ranked the Gators in the 20s. This suggests that perhaps dozens of people the BCS believes are uniquely qualified to select the college football title game match-up have proven they aren’t actually paying attention to college football.

One of my Twitter followers, Matthew Gaskill, argued that perhaps it was just two people, one who put the Gators second and another third. At least he hoped so because, as he wrote, it “might be better to have 2 crazy voters than a couple dozen.”

This is the BCS.

This isn’t even the most inaccurate opinion polling involving the BCS, though.

In defending the system, the BCS seems to have given up with many of its traditional arguments that we defuse in the book. After all, touting the “charitable bowl games” isn’t a real good idea at this point.

Its new angle this year is to cite two “opinion polls” that claim the players and coaches are in favor of the BCS. As such, the BCS has a mandate to make sure nothing gets monkeyed with. Or so goes the BCS case. You’ll no doubt hear it during radio interviews.

As with any opinion poll, the most important part isn’t the answer but the question. You ask a question a certain way, you get a certain result. This is the basis for professional polling and why reputable surveys keep the question bland, obvious and honest.

And here’s the absurdity of citing these polls: Both questions are based on a false premise and therefore completely useless.

The American Football Coaches Association, run by a former BCS director, asked whether coaches “prefer the traditional bowl system over a playoff.” Professional pollsters would likely point out the use of a positive term such as “traditional,” but the real issue is that the choice isn’t a real world one.

As we show, in painstaking detail, the choice is never between playoff and bowls. You can, and would, have both. No bowls need to go out of business if you install even an expansive 16-team playoff and use home field for the first three rounds. Anyone who understands the business of bowl games understands this.

To suggest otherwise is wrong. To ask to choose between the two is a loaded question.

Of course coaches are going to choose the bowl system, especially when a specific playoff plan is not offered as an alternative. To just say, “playoff” leaves the coaches to imagine their own playoff scenario. It may include as few as four teams.

Since coaches get bonuses — often six figures — for appearing in a bowl game, they aren’t going to choose a postseason system that cuts participation from 70 teams to four. The majority of college football programs don’t expect they’ll ever reach the top four nationally. They’d be crazy to pick an undefined plan over one they know.

So 93 percent went with traditional bowl system.

The entire scenario is ridiculous, yet it gets cited repeatedly as the chief reason why the BCS should never even consider modernizing the postseason.

A more proper question is whether coaches prefer the traditional bowl system or a system that features a 16-team playoff featuring champions of all 11 conferences and the traditional bowl games for all the remaining teams.

If you want to slant it toward a playoff, you could add that the second scenario would pump more than $500 million a year into college athletics and would assuredly drive up coaching salaries.

In the AFCA poll, when offered any kind of specific plan, the coaches’ results changed. Even the meager plus-one garnered the support of 50 percent of coaches. The BCS talking point is that coaches don’t want anything about the BCS system changed; that’s obviously false when presented with other options.

The BCS use of the ESPN the Magazine players’ poll results is no different.

The false premise question is exactly the same: “Would you rather have an FCS-style, 16-team playoff (no bowls) or the current system?”

Like with the coaches’ poll, the question renders the results moot. Interestingly, the Magazine even mentioned that at least one of the players who rejected the 16-team plan did so because he favored a 32-team playoff. This is considerably different reason than claiming players are begging the BCS to be preserved.

More amusing is the BCS again cherry-picking that specific question. ESPN the Magazine also asked players: “Do you want a playoff?”

More than 62 percent of players said yes.

And like a Harris Poll voter still in love with the Gators, the BCS ignored actual results.

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The big day and the weeks ahead

In early February, we turned in the manuscript for Death to the BCS. After two years of work, we felt like we had sufficiently unraveled the Bowl Championship Series, and I won’t lie: I wanted to climb atop a mountain that day, shout out every nauseating fact — “The Sugar Bowl took in $34.1 million in 2007 and didn’t give a penny to charity!” — and let the public descend with pitchforks and torches.

So while waiting more than eight months certainly tested my patience, the rewards gleaned Thursday were, for lack of a better term, awesome. It wasn’t just seeing the Amazon rank shoot up and the positive reviews flow in. The nature of so many Twitter bursts and e-mails told us that there is a legitimate thirst for knowledge about the BCS, that people aren’t satisfied with mere anger against it. They want to elucidate themselves and lace their barstool discussion with the substance so severely lacking in BCS debate.

That the book just so happened to come out the week that Boise State will almost certainly be ranked first in the BCS standings — and, consequently, turn said BCS debate thermonuclear — was as much happenstance as design. The book originally was slated to drop in November. We asked for October. The publisher chose Oct. 14. Sometimes you just get lucky.

Now we get to watch this mess of a season unfold. Boise State could pull off a neat trick: be ranked No. 1 on Oct. 17, not lose another game and somehow end up dropping two or three spots in the final standings. Michigan State very easily could finish undefeated in the Big Ten and not play for the BCS championship. They won’t be the only ones with legitimate beef.

Currently, there are 10 unbeaten teams in Division I-A with a shot at a national championship: Ohio State, Oregon, Boise State, TCU, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Auburn, LSU, Utah and Michigan State. (Nevada, Oklahoma State and Missouri, still undefeated, are simply too far back in both polls.) The only matchups among them are TCU-Utah and Auburn-LSU. Nebraska and Oklahoma could play in the Big 12 title game. That leaves as many as seven undefeated teams after conference-championship season.

The din will grow louder, the cries more shrill, the heartbeat of dissidence stronger. And though it will lead to plenty of heartbreak for those whose schools the BCS does dirty, it will likewise fortify the college football-viewing public.

Death to the BCS is here, finally. Tell your friends. Spread the word. Educate the masses. And, if you’re so inclined, ready those pitchforks and torches.

Posted in BCS, BCS standings, Death to the BCS, Pitchforks and torches, Sugar Bowl greed | 4 Comments