The Times West Virginian

December 6, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN: BCS football system must be scrapped

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — After spending an hour or two trying in vain to come up with some clever way to back into what must be said today, we will take the direct route and make our point right out of the chute.

The BCS system used in college football today must be scrapped in favor of a playoff.

There is nothing wrong with declaring a game — no matter what kind of 21st century formula you use to get there — between Auburn and Oregon as a national championship game because the two, through totally different paths, wound up undefeated in the regular season.

It’s just that in reality it is no more a championship game without a playoff than if you’d picked the names out of a hat containing unbeaten, untied teams. In fact, knowing the way the NCAA runs things, if they had picked names out of a hat they’d probably wind up with TCU facing 6 7/8.

The way the BCS is set up at present, there really is only one meaningful postseason game — the championship game.

You can play around all you want but the truth is that Connecticut’s Fiesta Bowl game has no more meaning, except perhaps at the cash register, than does West Virginia’s Champs Sports Bowl encounter in Orlando, Fla., or even Pitt’s BBVA Compass Bowl game in Birmingham, Ala.

You want to know the truth, a player would probably as much enjoy playing between Christmas and New Year’s in Florida than to spend it fighting off scorpions and rattlesnakes in the Arizona desert.

A bowl win is a bowl win, period. End of story.

A bowl game serves no higher purpose than the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is a marketing tool that the cities and sponsors would drop in a second if something came along to draw more people to their towns or products.

One may ask what makes the BCS games other than the championship lack prestige? The first and biggest problem is that is not part of any championship structure. The Fiesta Bowl might as well be the Siesta Bowl, a who cares matchup outside of the states in which the participants play.

The other reason is because Connecticut is there while such teams as Alabama, Michigan State, Oklahoma State and Nebraska are not.

Connecticut is the champion of the Big East and, as such, may well have been invited to a playoff, if one were instituted, but the guess is they would wind up in some bowl game not associated with the championship playoff.

The NCAA pretends that putting together a football playoff would be so much more difficult than any other playoff that they just wring their hands, say “Never mind” and turn the naming of a champion over to the television people.

Goodness knows, that’s where the money is. Add that to the bowl traditions — some of them now as much as two years old — and you have a strong lobby.

But all you have to do is watch one NCAA basketball tournament or even go to the College World Series and you know that we can do better than this. Everyone knows it, even the coaches.

Dave Wannstedt, the Pitt coach who came out of the NFL which has a playoff system that seems to work just fine, culminating in something you may have heard of know as “The Super Bowl”, was asked on a conference call today where he stood on a playoff.

“I think everyone would like to see a playoff of some sort,” he said.

Then why not?

“I don’t think anyone has a plan to work through that with academics with time frame allotted,” he said. “I know the coaches voted unanimously to leave it as it is, but conversations I have with everyone says they would like to see something.”

Imagine, if you will, a tournament with the eight or 16 best teams in American. It sounds tough to do, yes, but is it really? If you were to have an eight-team tournament you would have four games on one week, two games the next and two weeks later a championship game. Only two teams would play three extra games.

And you think that isn’t better than watching Oklahoma play UConn with nothing at stake?

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