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Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Last Honest Man

Interesting article in the Philadelphia Inquirer today about the BCS madness today and whether ultimately there will be a playoff system. When you read the article, you'll wonder whether the same eight oligarchs who control post-Cold War Russia run the six largest football conferences as well.

And, if you're Joe Paterno, you should watch who feeds you your soup. You have to hand it to Coach Paterno, who split his vote for the #1 team among USC, Auburn and Oklahoma in the coaches' poll (and took grief for it), for his absolute honesty. Like most, if not all, coaches, he doesn't have a clue, really, which of these teams should be number one. Unlike most of them, he wasn't willing to vote based upon which team is in his conference, which coach once wrote to him for guidance, which coaching staff has traded ideas with his or whether some alumni of Penn State have a good connnection with the other school. Instead, he admitted that he didn't have the foggiest as to which of the three teams is the best.

The reason I say most coaches don't have a clue as to which of USC, Auburn and Oklahoma is the best team is because of how hard all coaches work. They spend so much time watching film of their own team and their opponents that they really don't have time to watch Auburn play Tennessee or USC play Arizona State, but, somehow, they still vote in the coaches' poll anyway, and that poll has become more important than ever (now that AP has pulled its poll out of the mix). That's just a fine way to determine who is the national champion, isn't it?

Talk about Division I college football's version of Russian Roulette.

Meanwhile, of course, there will be no playoff, for reasons which are unfathomable and which are owing, according to Penn State President Graham Spanier, more to the university presidents at the DI schools than to the coaches, a majority of whom apparently favor some sort of playoff. If that really is the case, then the presidents should look to their Division I-A, II and III counterparts, all of whom participate in post-season playoffs except the Ivies (which are somewhat hypocritical given that other teams' seasons are longer than football and that all other teams are eligible to participate in post-season tournaments). Because, if the DI presidents look at those schools, they'll see some that offer just as good if not better educations and whose sole priorities are on graduating their kids, because no matter how good a Mount Union or a St. John's (Minnesota) are, it isn't like Scott Pioli or Tom Heckert are going out of their way to look at their kids on film to see if they can sign them as free agents or steal them in the sixth or seventh rounds of the draft.

So, if the "other" NCAA schools can have a playoff system for football, why can't Division 1-A?

Is it because BCS schools like Auburn, USC and Oklahoma really care about graduating their players?

Or, is it because, as the character Gordon Gekko said in the movie Wall Street, "Greed is good." Which would mean, of course, that the BCS schools once again are cloaking their lust for the big-time bucks in sappy discourse about caring about the academic futures of players who major in topics that many schools wouldn't dare to charge parents tuition for.

Meanwhile, some people will scoff at Joe Paterno, say he's the modern day Don Quixote, that he's tilting at windmills trying to find his perfect world in the midst of the BCS madness.

And Coach Paterno is right, he may well be a voice in the wilderness.

And a powerful voice at that.

After all, his graduation rate exceeds the combined graduation rates of Utah (41%) and Pitt (31%), who are meeting on January 1 in the Fiesta Bowl.

Yet, it's Utah coach Urban Meyer and Pitt coach Walt Harris who are moving on to "bigger" jobs, at Florida and Stanford respectively -- who get rewarded, while Coach Paterno has been under siege at Penn State. True, his team's on-the-field performance has been found lacking in the past five years, but, in the midst of all of the hypocrisy out there in BCS-land, Coach Paterno is a shining beacon of integrity and forthrightness.

I had posted before as to whether Coach Paterno should step down, whether the game had passed him by, whether he had the right to determine when it is time for him to retire, and now I am taking a totally different tact.

Run, Coach Paterno, run as fast as you can.

You deserve a whole lot better than what the BCS cooks want to serve in their bowls.


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