Media & Marketing and Sports Business

SPORTS: The season that should have silenced BCS bashers

December 12, 2005

On a recent Sunday morning, the talking head on ESPN introduced NCAA Division I-AA football playoff highlights by saying, "And now let's go to the action from where they actually decide the championship on the field."

Ah, how tiresome. How unfresh. How unoriginal. Just another shot taken at the Bowl Championship Series, another regurgitation of the media mantra aimed at the decision-makers in Division I who refuse to enact a championship playoff.

So, this year, we must settle for the universities of Southern California and Texas playing for, well, I guess it would have to be called a "purported" national championship.

Because, of course, neither team actually played its way into the championship game in the Rose Bowl, those respective 12-0 and 11-0 records notwithstanding.

The way the bobblehead would tell it, USC and Texas got there by appointment-or anointment-and not by running the table, from the heat of late summer to the first chills of winter.

He neglected to mention that Texas had to pull off a sensational comeback on the field at Ohio State in September, or it might not be playing in the Rose Bowl. And USC had to make that game-winning drive on the field at Notre Dame in October, or it might have missed being in the championship game.

After all the carping and complaining about the BCS the last few years, here's the single most important thing to know about how it played out this time.

Under the old system, pre-BCS days, this dream matchup of USC-Texas wouldn't have happened.

I repeat for emphasis: It wouldn't have happened.

Instead, USC would have been playing Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

And Texas would have been playing-I'm guessing-Miami or Florida State or perhaps Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.

Good matchups, but neither to decide the national championship.

In the meantime, just days before USC blew out UCLA and Texas hammered Colorado to play their way into the championship game, a Texas congressman, Joe Barton, was calling for hearings to investigate the BCS.

"Too often, college football ends in sniping and controversy, rather than winners and losers," he said. "The current system of determining who's No. 1 appears deeply flawed."

I must admit, a member of Congress would certainly be familiar with the concept of "sniping and controversy." But from this perspective, what's deeply flawed would appear to be the congressman's priorities. Don't he and his peers have something better to do?

I've also been amused by-during one of the more exciting college football seasons in memory-how often I heard or read commentators openly rooting for Texas or USC to lose, or for there to be at least more than two unbeatens at the end of the regular season. In their thinking, that would be further proof the BCS doesn't work.

Again, I would remind them now, USC and Texas-this blockbuster matchup at the end of a tremendous season-wouldn't have happened under the old system.

Yet somehow, the BCS is still worse.

I don't deny the BCS hasn't-and won't always-fit into a tidy little two-team bundle at the end of each season. Certainly, two years ago when there were split national champions and last year, when unbeaten Auburn was the odd team out, there has been-to borrow Barton's phrase-sniping and controversy.

But not as much as he, nor the popular media, would lead you to believe.

Rather than congressional involvement in postseason Division I football, I'd prefer to see another higher power become involved. That would be the NCAA.

I still have a difficult time understanding why the commissioners of the power conferences-plus Notre Dame-get to decide college football's postseason format.

And my guess is-strictly a guess-that if the nags in Congress and the media ever force college football into a playoff format, the NCAA will have to assume the leadership and responsibility roles.

But that's for the long term. For what's coming up in the next few weeks, wow. USC-Texas. Reggie Bush (Is there a more exciting player anywhere in football?), Vince Young and Matt Leinart. Notre Dame against Ohio State: Tradition on tradition. Penn State against Florida State-and the two winningest coaches in history in Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno. Georgia-LSU. Nebraska-Michigan. Iowa-Florida.

I see lots to be decided ... on the field.



Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to bbenner@ibj.com.
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