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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

ESPN Takes A Stand For Integrity

ESPN has yanked its poll from the BCS's determination as to who ultimately can be the national champion in college footbal. ESPN did so after the BCS announced that it would only reveal which coaches voted for what teams in the final poll of last season, but not preceding polls.

I raised a stink about the voting that took place late last football season, when Cal and Texas switched places, with Texas leapfrogging over Cal and into a BCS bowl game (as a result of this switch, Cal did not get to go to a BCS bowl game -- an absence which cost the school and its conference millions of dollars). My premise was that something appeared rotten in both the state of college football and the State of Texas and, further, that that "something" could be answered if the BCS revealed who switched their votes. If it turned out the clueless coaches in all but the Big 12 switched their votes, then the story would have been one of absolution of the Big 12 and of ridicule, perhaps, of the coaches who switched their vote so late in the season. If, on the other hand, it turned out that Big 12 coaches switched their votes, perhaps under pressure, then this would have been one of the biggest corruption stories coming out of Texas since the time Lyndon Johnson won his Senate primary against one-time Texas Governor Coke Stevenson by 56 votes, with all of south Texas coming in very late.

And, when the dust settled over the Lone Star State and college football, reforms would have been enacted. Good stuff, too.

The BCS stands for Bowl Championship Series, but it might as well stand for Blown Character Society at this point. What happened last year was wrong, and I can almost guarantee you that if voters leapfrogged Cal, from a more mellow conference and a state that's less passionate about football than Texas, there might have been a congressional inquiry. You have to believe that the Big 12 would have pressed for answers, as would have Texas Coach Mack Brown. But the guys who run the BCS, I believe, are a former Big 12 coach (Grant Teaff) and a current athletic director of a Big 12 school, and there wasn't a huge hue and cry from the West Coast that there would have been from Texas had the roles been reversed. There is certainly nothing to suggest that those guys have done anything wrong, but their failure to provide an accounting of what happened also leaves the average fan with a hint that there might be something embarrassing that the BCS does not want to reveal.

I am glad that the media outlets are refusing to take part in this charade of deciding a national champion through means of computers, given that the football crowd is generally an anti-intellectual bunch. The media outlets should be participants in the stuff they cover, period. Which means that the BCS will continue to find polls and rating systems that justify its ultimate paydays, instead of opting for the simpler solution of staging a national championship playoff system where the real champion is decided on the field. It could well be that the next pollsters who get a say in this drama are a group of eleven year-old kids from the mentally gifted math programs -- one from a city in which each BCS-eligible team plays -- who flip coins to decide worthiness, while another group of kids, this time cheerleaders from high schools in the areas of each BCS-eligible school -- will rate the teams based upon the quality of their uniforms and their cheering.

Meanwhile, the BCS higher ups have some explaining to do, and, if they do not opt to clarify what actually happened late last college football season, their voting systems will remain under a cloud.

The whole thing stinks.

Perhaps the only people who don't realize it are those who run the BCS.


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