Monday, April 26, 2010

NFL Draft 2010 Recap

If you missed my thoughts on the first round, they can be found here. If you are a college fan, I hope the players from your favorite team were drafted. If you have a favorite NFL team, I hope you like the choices that were made. Here are a few things stuck out to me in the final six rounds.

It was a bad draft to be an ex-Notre Dame quarterback. It started with the Jimmy Clausen free fall. Then, before Clausen was even drafted, the Broncos drafted Tim Tebow. The Broncos recently acquired Brady Quinn. I know Tebow is sort of an oddity and the Broncos might plan to use him in unconventional ways. But, at the same time, you don't trade up to the 25th pick overall to take a player you don't plan to play most downs.

Back to Clausen. He fell completely out of the first round, and the second round was well underway when the Carolina Panthers finally took Clausen with the 48th pick. That was Friday, so on Saturday, Clausen was probably finally taking a few momemts to relax. Then, when he was finally getting over his fall to pick 48, he gets a phone call from a friend. "Hey, Jimmy, what's going on? Carolina just took Tony Pike." Yes, that Tony Pike, the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bearcats. I don't know what all this means. Clausen is definately plan A for Carolina, but how does that effect your confidence if your team drafted another quarterback later in the draft?

After four Oklahoma Sooners were drafted in the first round, only three others heard their names called in the rest of the rounds. That makes seven overall, tied with USC and Alabama for second most. Florida had nine.

One more sign that June Jones has revitalized SMU football: Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders was drafted in the third round before names like Jordan Shipley, Mardy Gilyard, Riley Nelson, and Dezmon Briscoe. This is even more significant when you consider a recent study showed that players from teams that don't play in one of the "Big 6" conferences are handicapped in the draft. The same study shows that these same players are more productive in the NFL. When you are making your fantasy teams, don't forget Emmanual Sanders.

Friday, April 23, 2010

NFL Draft: Round 1 Reaction

While this is a college football blog, I think the NFL draft still fits the scope of college football. For me, college football starts with a player signing a letter of intent, and ends with a player being drafted or signing as a free agent, or just moving on to grad school or the less glamorous part of the workforce. With round one in the books, five things stuck out to me.

1. Sam Bradford was the number one pick. Talk about the biggest case of “much ado about nothing” that football has ever seen. Bradford could have been the number one pick a year ago, but he decided to come back. He was injured less than 30 minutes into the season and the frenzy started about how much money he lost and how he should not have come back. It turns out it was all a waste of time and energy. What more productive and constructive thing could have been done with all that time and energy?

2. Big night for the Big 12. I saw the USA Today front page headline, “1-2 for the Big 12,” but that is only half the story. The first four picks were from the Big 12, three from Oklahoma, as well as picks six, fourteen, nineteen, twenty-one, and twenty-four. Nine players in all. If I had the resources, I would do the research to find out if this is precedent setting.

3. Three WAC players drafted. Ryan Matthews (Fresno State) was drafted number 12 by the Chargers, Mike Iupati (Idaho) was drafted 17 by the 49ers, and Kyle Wilson (Boise State) was taken number 29 by the Jets. As you can see, only one played for Boise State, and he was the last one taken. For all the criticism that Boise State gets for playing in such a weak conference, the WAC produced more first rounders than the Pac-10 and the MWC, an equal number of first rounders as the Big 10 and the Big East, and just one less first rounder than the ACC.

4. Tim Tebow at number 25 was not shocking. It happens every year. Someone is taken much earlier than expected. We all know the adage “it only takes one.” I just want to know what inside information Denver had that made them move back into the first round. Denver had the 22nd pick. If they really wanted Tebow this bad, they could have taken him then, or else wait for the second round. Someone else must have been hot on Tebow and was going to select him before the night ended, even with Jimmy Clausen still available. No only was this pick not shocking, but I like it. With the success Kyle Orton had last year in the Denver system, then I don’t see why Tim Tebow won’t be able to have a good NFL career there.

5. Jimmy Clausen. Quarterbacks falling in the first round has become common, but they still make it out of the first round. Not this time. Clausen is still without a team. Was leaving Notre Dame early really the right decision? How smart does this make Jake Locker in Washington look?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poll Results: Rate the proposed solution to the BCS

While my proposed solution to the BCS was favored by a 2:1 ratio over the existing BCS system, the majority (66%) still think that a playoff would be better for college football. Thank you to all who participated.

Friday, April 16, 2010

POLL RESULTS: When will Tim Tebow be drafted?

Tim Tebow will have to wait until the 3rd round of the NFL draft to hear his name called, according to 66% of you. The only other votes were for the second round.

If you haven't voted already, there is a new poll posted about how my proposed solution to the BCS compares to what we have now.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Solution: It's About Conference Champions

This is the final part of the BCS Bash series. For part one, click here. For part two, click here. For part three, click here

The BCS structure is about conference champions. While it holds the altruistic aim to match number one versus number two, the BCS is influenced much more by the automatic qualifying status for the six self-proclaimed elite conference champions. Being a conference champion in the Big 10, Big 12, Big East, ACC, SEC, or Pac-10 is so reverred that teams with four losses and barely ranked in the top 25 are not stripped of the right to play in an elite bowl game against a team that is truly elite; that teams catapult up the rankings in the final week of polling only because of the conference champion label; that an undefeated season guarantees a spot in the national championship (barring the rare occurrence that three teams are undefeated).

This obsession with conference champions is the solution to creating a fair and equitable BCS. It is, after all, the Bowl Championship Series. The corrective action that the BCS needs to take is to stop filling six out of 10 bowl slots with conference champions and start filling 10 out of 10 bowl slots with conference champions. The BCS will be inherently unjust until all conferences have equal access.

As presently constituted, the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of NCAA football has 120 teams grouped into 11 conferences, with three teams remaining independent (Notre Dame, Navy, and Army). As presently constituted, the BCS has 5 bowl games that 10 teams compete in. Without making any changes to the existing conference alignments or the BCS set up, my proposal to correct the injustices of the BCS would be the following:

• The 10 BCS slots would still be filled using a system to rank teams;
• The ranking system will be programmed to emphasize overall record and use head-to-head results if two teams have identical records;
• The ranking system, however, would only be applied to all 11 conference champions and the three independents (only for the purpose of determining the best independent team);
• The top 10 teams (10 conference champions or 9 conference champions and the best independent team) would fill the BCS bowl slots;
• The top 10 teams would be paired 1 vs. 2, 3 vs. 4, 5 vs. 6, 7 vs. 8, 9 vs. 10;
• The pairings would be adjusted, as necessary, to avoid rematches from the regular season, including and especially for the national championship (no double jeopardy) unless the number two team beat the number one team in the regular season, then a rematch would be in order;
• The revenues would be shared equally as well: 1/120 for each team in your conference, except bowl revenues would be proportionate to the seeding—the 1 vs. 2 would be the highest, the 3 vs. 4 would be $500,000 less, etc.;
• The bowls would continue the rotating double hosting system for the championship game, and they would rotate which pairing they hosted each year so that the bowls host each pairing once every four years.

To illustrate, here is what the BCS bowl games would have been for 2009 if this system was used:

National Championship Game: Alabama vs. Texas
Sugar Bowl: Cincinnati vs. TCU
Rose Bowl: Oregon* vs. Ohio State
Fiesta Bowl: Boise State* vs. Georgia Tech
Orange Bowl: Central Michigan vs. East Carolina
(Note: These pairing were made using the final BCS standings and the last USA Today poll before the bowl games.)

* = Following the 1 vs. 2, 3 vs. 4, etc. order, Boise State and Oregon would have played in the same game. Since they played during the regular season, I paired Oregon with Ohio State for a more traditional game in the Rose Bowl. Another alternative would have been to pair Boise State vs. Ohio State and Oregon vs. Georgia Tech.

For all the traditionalists out there, which I am one, I would be willing to allow the Rose Bowl to continue hosting the Pac-10 Champion vs. the Big 10 Champion, as long as both are in the top 8, but not in the top 2. That means the worst case scenario would be 3 vs. 8 and 4 vs. 7, which should still be good games. The price would be that the Rose Bowl would have the pay out that would normally go to the pairing for the lower seeded team (i.e. If the Rose Bowl is team 4 vs. 6, the pay out would be for 5 vs. 6 and not 3 vs. 4).

This solution would guarantee access to the BCS for a team from 83% of the 12 groups of teams in college football, as opposed to 50% of the groups that the current BCS format guarantees. If we want to be truly all inclusive, then we have two options: 1) Force conference realignment to form 10 conferences of 12 teams each, or 2) add the Cotton Bowl as a sixth BCS bowl.

Yes, we would still have controversies, but nothing in life is without opposition. The whole point, though, is to crown a national champion. The only teams that should be eligible are those who were champions of their conferences. The only teams that should compete in this series are champions. It’s like the Olympics. To make it to the finals of an event, you have to win the qualifying rounds. The qualifying round for the BCS would be the regular season, and a qualifying mark would be to win your conference.

It doesn’t matter if Boise State played the 96th toughest schedule and only four teams in its conference had a winning record, while Texas played the 38th toughest schedule and was one of seven teams with a winning record in its conference. It doesn’t matter if Boise State is from a state with a total population less than the Austin metropolitan area. Playing a tougher schedule, playing in a certain conference, and having more money supposedly makes you better, but the real measuring stick is if Boise State can beat Texas. If they can despite the disadvantages of playing a “weak” schedule, playing in the WAC, and having less money for facilities, recruiting, coaching, etc., that is what matters. The BCS is bowl games. That is all it pertains to—the bowls. All of this other mumbo jumbo trying to justify the discrimination is irrelevant. To stick with the Olympics comparison, we never hear criticism that an athlete did not deserve to be in the Olympics because of the country he or she came from or the inferior facilities, coaching, etc. available to that athlete. That athlete qualified by being the best in his or her country. If that athlete then goes on to surprise everyone and win a medal we do not say he or she did not deserve it because it was easier to get to the Olympics by living in that other country. The BCS should not discriminate and exclude based on stereotypes—not on conference affiliation, schedule strength, or media markets. There is a reason the Super Bowl is the most watched television event EVERY year, regardless of who is playing. We love football and will watch whoever is playing in the championship game.

All 120 teams in the FBS make up the success of college football and the bowl system. The truth is that, just like a big family, Texas, Florida, Ohio State, Alabama, and USC all benefit from San Jose State, North Texas, Navy, Troy, and Wyoming, and vice versa. While each child of the family differs in age, strength, and abilities, the parents work together to ensure that each child is loved, is safe, and eats dinner at the same table. The parents of college football, the NCAA and the BCS, are not working well together. The BCS has turned into a domineering, controlling spouse that the NCAA is scared to stand up to. Some outside the family (the rankings) see what is going on, and they simply form their judgments to fit what is happening in the house. The BCS is a parent that plays favorites with its children. The abused children have been unable to find redress with the NCAA. The oppression has led the abused children to seek government assistance to get the help that they should find in the family.

Epilogue—No Playoff?
Many of you may be disappointed that I have not proposed a playoff as the solution. Fundamentally, I am opposed to a playoff. As I mentioned earlier, I consider myself a traditionalist. Honestly, I like the bowls (yes, there are too many, and I want January 1 to be what it once was). The bowls give one last chance to binge on college football before hibernating for almost nine months. The bowls have also become a launching pad for the next year’s Heisman Trophy campaigns and other awards. The bowls give players an opportunity to increase their draft stock. I believe a playoff will have a negative impact on rivalries and other defining characteristics of college football.

The biggest reason I don’t want a playoff is because I don’t want a three or four loss champion if a one or two loss team exists. Having played organized football for many years, I learned to appreciate that an undefeated season is a major accomplishment. Most years only one or two teams finish undefeated (we may be witnessing a paradigm shift, however, with the BCS, which has placed an increased emphasis on undefeated seasons, therefore, what happened last year—5 undefeated teams—might become more regular), so throughout the regular season a process of elimination is already happening. If a team was able to finish the year 12-0, with all that entails (overcoming injuries, not having a slow start to the season, avoiding trap games, avoiding a mid or late season let down, surviving down the stretch with a bulls eye on your back), that team should not have to put that perfect record on the line against a 9-3 or 10-2 team. It was hard enough to swallow the first two loss national champion two years ago (no offense to LSU, I realize a two loss team was, pretty much, our only option).

In the future, I will not be surprised to see a plus-one system. If three or more undefeated teams becomes the norm in college football, I will gladly support the plus-one system. However, that presents other issues. If we had a plus-one in place this year Boise State would have been left out and Utah would have been left out last year. After the bowls, however, it was obvious that they were underrated all year and deserved to play in a plus-one game. In any case, a playoff system with more than eight teams would be inappropriate. Player safety is a real issue. A long playoff system would increase injuries, and I can’t find any reason that you need to field more than eight teams to ensure that the best team is included.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Evidence: Performance on the Field

This is the third part of the BCS Bash series. For part one, click here. For part two, click here.

We all come to a point in life when we have to make a decision, but the best choice is not clear. However, after we make and carry out that decision, we are able to judge if the decision we made. The Bowl Alliance decided to include the Big East, Big 8, Southwest, Atlantic Coast, and Southeastern conferences and to exclude the Western Athletic, Mid-America, and Big West conferences. The Bowl Alliance decided to have the participants in its three bowl games be the conference champions of the five included conferences, plus one at-large team. The BCS made these same decisions three years later. (Note: The Big 8 and Southwest conferences merged in 1996 to form the Big 12. For clarity, I will refer only to the Big 12 for the rest of this article.)

The declared intent was still to match number one and number two in a bowl game, but the actions of the organizers sent a clear message that participating in the elite bowls was for conference champions. If you are a champion you have automatic access. If you are not a champion get in line and hope your name is called. The automatic access, however, was not granted to all conference champions because not all conference champions were viewed as equal. Champions of the SEC, ACC, Big East, and Big 12 were in a higher class than the other conference champions. They were given automatic qualifying status because they were "extra special." The other conference champions were merely mediocre.

This is America and we have the freedom of speech, so there is nothing illegal with anyone making that statement. In America you are also innocent until proven guilty, so let’s take this to the judge.

Court is now in session. Charges have come against the Bowl Alliance/BCS for unjustly limiting the automatic qualifying status for conference champions to the ACC, SEC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, and Pac-10. The prosecution argues that for anyone to be a conference champion, they earn that distinction through their performance on the field of play. If these six conference champions are so superior to the other conference champions, their performance on the field of play will reflect that.

Exhibit one is the win-loss record and winning percentage before bowl games for the conference champions for the automatic qualifying conferences dating back to 1996.

Year....ACC....SEC....Big East..Big 10...Big 12...Pac-10















Total 143-26..157-17..143-19....154-17..157-19...145-17

Win % 0.846...0.902...0.882.....0.901...0.892....0.895

Relevance: The ACC champion had the lowest winning percentage (0.846) among the conference champions awarded automatic qualification to a BCS bowl. If this winning percentage is significantly higher than that of the conference champions not awarded automatic qualification to a BCS bowl, then the BCS is justified for excluding those other conferences.

Exhibit two is another table that shows the win-loss record and winning percentage before bowl games for the conference champions for the non-automatic qualifying conferences dating back to 1996.

Year...MWC*...WAC**...MAC...Conf. USA















Total 147-20...139-25......131-40.... 128-37


* = The Mountain West Conference (MWC) did not exist prior to the 1999 season. The data used for 1996-1998 are the records of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) champion since the MWC members competed in that conference at that time and all WAC champions during that time are now members of the MWC.
** = Most of the teams comprising the WAC today were members of the Big West Conference from 1996-1998, so the records of the Big West Champion was used for those years.

(Note: The Sun Belt Conference did not exist prior to 2001, so for lack of data, the Sun Belt Conference was not used in this comparison.)

Relevance: On the field of play, both the MWC and the WAC champions, over a 14 year period, have sustained better on the field performance than the ACC champion. The WAC champion’s winning percentage was 0.001 better, and the MWC champion’s winning percentage was 0.034 better. It is also important to point out that the MWC champion’s wining percentage was only 0.002 less than the Big East champion. The performance on the field of play by the WAC and the MWC champions has exceeded that of the ACC. The MWC champion is even on par with the Big East champion.

Exhibit three is the results of the “BCS Busters” against teams from automatic qualifying conferences.

2004: Utah 35, Pittsburgh 7 (Pittsburgh was the Big East Champion)
2006: Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (Oklahoma was the Big 12 Champion)
2007: Georgia 41, Hawaii 10
2008: Utah 31, Alabama 17
Overall Record: 3-1 (2-0 versus automatic qualifying conference champions)

Relevance: On the field of play, non-automatic qualifying conference champions have won 75% of the time they have played in BCS bowl games against teams from AQ conferences, and 100% of the time these non-automatic qualifying conference champions have played automatic qualifying champions.

While Hawaii lost to Georgia by 31 points that does not hurt my case. Teams from conferences with AQ status have lost by 31 points or more in Bowl Alliance or BCS games on six occasions.

Florida lost to Nebraska by 38 points in 1995
Florida State lost to Florida by 32 points in 1996
Notre Dame lost to Oregon State by 32 points in 2000
Maryland lost to Florida by 33 points in 2001
Oklahoma lost to USC by 36 points in 2004
Illinois lost to USC by 32 points in 2007

The BCS’s decision to exclude cannot be justified by Hawaii’s blowout loss since it is not the only time that a BCS game has had such an outcome. In fact, Hawaii did not have the greatest losing margin of all teams in BCS games in 2007. On the other side of the coin, Utah won in 2004 by 28 points, which begs the question, “Why would such a superior conference champion lose so lopsidedly?”

Exhibit four is the changes in conference make up. Since the Bowl Alliance formed in 1995, the composition of the Big 8, the ACC and the Big East have all changed. The Big 8 added teams from the SWC and the ACC swiped teams from the Big East. The Big East, however, reached into the pile of leftovers (teams not in a conference granted automatic qualifying status) and added three teams. Since the Big East added teams, three out of five years one of the former outsiders won the conference.

Relevance: While the Big East conducted research to determine the best candidates to add to the conference, the Big East did not need authorization by the BCS. The BCS did not conduct its own analysis of performance on the field of play and conclude who were the three most qualified teams in college football for membership in the exclusive BCS circle. The precedent established in 1995 changed the rules for conference expansion. The ACC added teams from a fellow AQ conference, but if a conference was going to reach outside the AQ boundaries, then the BCS should have to approve the move.

Furthermore, the immediate success of these new Big East members shows that, on the field of play, teams from conferences without an automatic qualifying conference champion are NOT inferior to the teams in conferences with an automatic qualifying conference champion.

Exhibit five is that the expressed purpose of the Bowl Alliance, which the BCS continued, was to create a system that would match the number one and number two ranked teams in the same bowl game.

Relevance: On two occasions (Nebraska in 2001 and Oklahoma in 2003) teams who were not conference champions played for the national championship. To play for the national championship, a team must be ranked either number one or number two. Since teams who were not conference champions qualified for the national championship game, the BCS showed that automatic qualifying status for conference champions was not necessary to accomplish its intent. Therefore, one or more of the parties involved in creating the Bowl Alliance and the BCS were working to protect special interests by creating the automatic qualifying status for a limited number of conferences in college football.

Closing Arguments: The defendant will, undoubtedly, attempt to counter my evidence with the strength of schedule for teams from the conferences with automatic qualifying champions. I rebut that argument by reiterating what was covered yesterday regarding “overall conference strength.” This notion of “strength of schedule” is a false perception born out of misconceptions that have, unfortunately, corrupted all forms of rankings and ratings for college football. When the issue is automatic qualifying status for conference champions, the only evidence that matters is performance on the field.

Specific to exhibit three, the defendant might rebut by incorporating regular season head-to-head competition of teams from conferences with automatic qualifying status versus teams from conferences without automatic qualifying status. That is irrelevant evidence. First, any head-to-head comparison should be between conference champions in the year that both teams were conference champions. Second, head-to-head competition is not a criterion used for selection of any team to the BCS bowls. USC and Notre Dame have both played in BCS bowls in the same year, regardless of the results on the field of play in the regular season. The same can be said for Florida and Florida State. Even in 2008, USC embarrassed Ohio State during the season, but both played in BCS bowls. The tables in exhibits one and two include all regular season games. Any head-to-head competitions that occurred are a part of those records. Bringing in regular season head-to-head competition is another bad cover up. It would be like lying: once you lie, you have to use another lie to cover it up. Regular season head-to-head competition would be using an injustice to cover up the original injustice.

The evidence I have presented clearly shows that two conference champions that don’t have automatic qualifying status have performed equally on the field of play to the conference champions that do have automatic qualifying status.

When we find out that we made a bad decision, we take corrective action. The BCS needs to take corrective action. Like most corrective action, it will hurt the wrongdoer. Fortunately in this case, the corrective action is simple. For now, though, we have had enough for one day. Come back tomorrow for The Solution.

Part 4: The Solution: It's About Conference Champions


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Cover Up: Overall Conference Strength

This is the second part of the BCS Bash series. For part one, click here.

Once the Bowl Coalition and its successors adopted a platform that would use conference champions as a means to its end, and then gave automatic qualifying status to the champions of the participating conferences, these entities needed to justify that platform. Justifying this platform was easy to defend in the beginning. Few criticized them and most just glossed over the automatic qualifying element. As time has passed and very good teams from the other conferences were overtly excluded from playing in one of the bowls, greater scrutiny has been given to the automatic qualifying status for six conferences.

The automatic qualifying provision has been exposed as a bad cover up. The conferences with automatic qualifying status needed some incentive to join this pact, and the automatic qualifying status for their champion was the incentive. Of course, if you are going to extend privileges you need to justify those privileges. To justify this privilege and to try and keep the hidden agendas safe, the battle cry became “overall conference strength.” The overall conference strength of these six conferences is so much better than the rest of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences that these six conference champions earned, by play on the field, one of the ten (formerly 8) slots in the participating bowl games. The other conference champions were relegated to parading themselves for style points from the voters and computers in a competition with the second and third place teams from conferences with automatically qualifying champions for the four (formerly 2) remaining slots.

Overall conference strength!!! Are you serious? How do you quantify that? Do you compare the last place teams in each conference? Do you look at each team’s non-conference record? Do you look at the end of the year rankings? While each of these can appear reasonable on the surface, the truth is they are all ridiculous.

Last Place Teams
This overall conference strength argument tells me that the powers that be must have done something to evaluate and compare the last place teams in each conference. Maybe they conducted 10,000 computer simulations of Vanderbilt vs. Tulane, Duke vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Iowa State vs. UTEP, Indiana vs. Kent State, Rutgers vs. Northern Illinois, and Oregon State vs. New Mexico State (in the early to mid 1990s these were the perennial losers). The results of these computer simulations must have been so compelling that any reasonable person would look at them and say, “You know, if the WAC champion had to play Iowa State instead of UTEP, then I would support automatic qualifying status for the WAC champion. I mean look at last year (1994). A win over Iowa State (0-10-1) was much more impressive than a win over UTEP (3-7-1).” Reality check: The competitiveness of the worst team in the conferences was never discussed and it had no bearing on handing out the automatic qualifying status for conference champions. Reality check #2: A last place team is a last place team, and two wins in a season is two wins. There is no way to sugar coat bad teams.

Non-Conference Record
Since it wasn’t head-to-head competition between the last place teams, it must have been the better non-conference record by those bottom-of-the-bucket teams that made the overall conference strength so great. It is quite logical that in 1994 Wake Forest was only 1-7 in conference games because the ACC was so strong top to bottom. Look at the Demon Deacon’s 2-1 non-conference record. However, in 1994 Hawaii was 0-8 in the WAC because Hawaii was awful, never mind that Hawaii was 3-0-1 in non-conference games. Sorry, but that logic is grossly flawed! The facts reveal that Wake Forest beat Appalachian State 12-10, beat Army 33-27, and lost to Vanderbilt 35-14. Hawaii beat Pac-10 champion Oregon 36-16, Cal 21-7, and Southeast Missouri State 34-0, and tied Missouri 32-32.

The overall records at face value for the worst teams in the automatic qualifying conferences often do look better than their non-automatic qualifying conference counterparts. When you start to compare, it is evident that this difference can be attributed to the bad AQ teams playing more Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams or other bad FBS teams than the bad non-AQ teams. Am I the only one that cringes when a team that was 2-6 or 3-5 in league play goes to a bowl game because they were 4-0 or 3-1 against terrible non-conference opponents (case in point: Auburn, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, Texas A&M, and UCLA in 2009)? Any ground that is gained by playing in a conference with greater “overall conference strength” is lost by playing much softer non-conference schedules. In other words, the season schedule as a whole is usually comparable.

We were wrong about comparing the worst teams from each conference, and we were wrong about the non-conference records. Therefore, the answer to the overall conference strength mystery must be those hallowed national rankings. Sadly, the rankings have lost their integrity and now have a decided BCS bias. In 1994, Utah was 10-2, second place in the WAC, and ranked number 10 in the final Associated Press poll. Every other team in the top ten had one loss or less, except one other two loss team, so I have to say the number 10 ranking was fair. Fast forward 10 years and let’s track how the Mountain West Conference (MWC) champion finished in the final BCS standings (Note: The MWC is comprised of virtually the same teams as the WAC was in 1994.)

2004: Utah was 11-0 and ranked number 6, behind one-loss Texas and one-loss California; teams that finished second in their conferences.
2005: TCU was 10-1 and ranked number 14. A 10-1 record for a conference champion from an automatic qualifying conference garnered a no. 3 and no. 11 ranking that year, while two-loss Georgia was no. 7, two-loss Ohio State was no. 4, and two-loss Notre Dame was no. 6.
2006: BYU was 10-2 and ranked number 20. However, the AQ conference champions with two losses were ranked numbers 5, 10, and 14, while two-loss LSU was no. 4 and two-loss Notre Dame was no. 11.
2007: BYU was 10-2 and ranked number 17. The AQ conference champions with 2 losses were ranked numbers 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9, while the teams ranked numbers 12 through 16 all had three or four losses.
2008: Utah was 12-0 and ranked number 6. Every team ahead of Utah had one loss, including its Sugar Bowl opponent Alabama. Utah won that game convincingly, 31-17.
2009: TCU was 12-0 and ranked number four. Every team ahead of TCU was undefeated as well. However, all season long, TCU was ahead of Cincinnati, an AQ conference champion, until the final standings when the Bearcats leapfrogged TCU.

The last six years the BCS standings have shown a clear bias towards teams from conferences labeled as automatic qualifiers. (If we looked at the first six years of the BCS the bias would be even more apparent.) A similar pattern is reflected in the individual polls—human and computer. The examples cited above only look at conference champions, but it has a trickle down effect on the overall conference. If voters are going to rank a non-AQ conference champion lower than the AQ conference champions, they will also rank the second and third place teams lower. A second place team cannot be in the top 10 if the conference champion isn’t even in the top 10. The third place team won’t even be ranked if the second place team is stuck in the 20s.

Although I love the rankings, they are very flawed because they are largely influenced by opinion. At present, the human voters’ opinions and the computer formulas are biased by the two misconceptions previously addressed, and other subjective elements like unreliable recruiting class ranks, theoretical strength of schedule ranks, and the historical success of a team. The BCS has caused the voters and computer programmers to draw a line of demarcation between schools in AQ conferences and schools in non-AQ conferences. If you happen to be in one of those six AQ conferences you are given the benefit of the doubt, but if you are on the outside you are handicapped. The outsiders have to repeatedly prove themselves to be considered legitimate, but if they slip up once along the way the voters and computer matrices hastily slam the outsider schools back to ground zero. An outsider must finish a season undefeated to play in a BCS game, while an AQ team can expect a spot in the national championship game if it finishes undefeated.

(NOTE: I used 1994 for many of my arguments because that is the last year before the Bowl Coalition morphed into the Bowl Alliance, and it is the time frame that would have been used when analyzing conference strength and weighing the merits of the decision to have automatic qualifying conferences.)

The SEC is currently considered the gold standard for football conferences. Interestingly, Chris Low, the blogger for the SEC compiled the record of each SEC team against teams in the final Associated Press and USA Today top 25 over the last five years. Here are the results:

• Florida – 14-9 (.609)
• LSU – 13-11 (.542)
• Alabama – 10-12 (.455)
• Auburn – 8-12 (.400)
• Georgia – 8-12 (.400)
• Tennessee – 5-17 (.227)
• Ole Miss – 4-14 (.222)
• South Carolina – 5-19 (.208)
• Arkansas – 3-20 (.130)
• Kentucky – 2-17 (.105)
• Vanderbilt – 2-17 (.105)
• Mississippi State 2-20 (.091)

Two SEC teams have a winning record. Seven teams (over half of the conference) average one or fewer wins per year against a top 25 team. The winning percentage for each of those seven teams is below 0.250 (1 out of 4). Thank you, Mr. Low, for providing more numbers to expose the fallacy that is “overall conference strength.”

At this point, we still have no evidence supporting the overall conference strength argument. The fact is that each conference has three or four teams at the bottom that are "easy" victories, and each conference has four or five teams that pose a legitimate threat to the eventual conference champion. All these arguments that one team had a harder conference schedule are not compelling arguments.

Proponents of the BCS and its predecessors use the cover up that the overall conference strength is so much better in certain conferences that the champions from those conferences merit preferential treatment (automatic qualifying status). As we can see, that cover up is full of holes, and the situation only gets bleaker when you look at the evidence against those supposed merits. The evidence will be on display tomorrow.

Part 3: The Evidence: Performance on the Field
Part 4: The Solution: It's About Conference Champions


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Scam: Automatic Qualifying Conference Champions

Note: This is the first part of a four part series on the Bowl Championship Series. Links to the other three parts are found at the end of this article.

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is a scam. Why? The provision that grants automatic qualifying status to certain conference champions. The BCS toots its own horn about how great it is because it guarantees that the number one and two teams will play in a bowl game to finish each year. Okay, so where does the need for automatic qualification come in? First a little history, so we can understand the real answer to this question.

Historically, bowl games had agreements with one or two conferences for the right to host certain teams in their games at the end of the year. The bowl games operated completely independent of any entity that ranked the top teams in college football. As attention to both bowl games and the rankings increased, the desire to see the top two teams play each other at the end of the year increased.

In 1992 the Bowl Coalition was created between the Big East Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 8, Southeastern Conference (SEC), Southwest Conference (SWC), and Notre Dame with the expressed intent to create better possibilities for a bowl game to feature number one and two. This coalition involved the Cotton, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Gator, and John Hancock bowls.

The Bowl Coalition was dumped in 1995 for the Bowl Alliance. The Bowl Alliance consisted of the same five conferences, but reduced bowl participation to the Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta bowls. Each conference champion would automatically qualify for one of these bowls and one at-large team would be selected. Theoretically, that at-large team could be from any conference in NCAA Division 1-A football.

That brings us to the BCS. The BCS brought all the “major” conferences and bowl games together for the first time in 1998. The Pac-10, the Big 10, and the Rose Bowl joined the others to form the BCS. In 1996, the Big 8 and SWC had consolidated, more or less, to form the Big 12, so the official make up of the BCS was the Big East, the ACC, the SEC, the Big 10, the Big 12, the Pac-10, and Notre Dame, as well as the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange bowls. The BCS continued the automatic qualifying status for champions from the six participating conferences. Notre Dame could automatically qualify if it had 9 wins and was ranked in the BCS top 10. Teams from outside the six participating conferences could automatically qualify if they were ranked in the BCS top 6.

In most cases, I give people the benefit of the doubt and believe they act with good intentions. In the case of the Bowl Coalition/Bowl Alliance/BCS, it is pretty hard to accept that some other interests besides matching the top two teams in the same bowl were not driving this process. All that would have been necessary to accomplish the declared intent was to have an agreement between the bowls that the bowl with the number two ranked team would release its rights to that team so that team could play in the same bowl as the number one ranked team. Of course the bowl losing the number two ranked team would want retribution for its losses, but I think retribution would be a minor detail that could be worked out easily and beneficial to all. Furthermore, if we are talking about having the top two teams play, why wasn’t the Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance, and BCS all inclusive—all bowls, all teams. When was it ever decreed that a team from a conference with ties to one of the other bowls could not be number one or two? If a team from one of these outsider conferences and bowls was number one, why would that team not deserve to play for the championship in its affiliated bowl? Limiting the conferences and bowls involved and by giving automatic qualifying status to those conference champions was self-serving and collusive. The real intent was to have number one and number two play every year in a bowl game and to ensure that number one and two were teams from this select group of conferences.

Digging into history a little further makes this whole bowl confederation look very sketchy. I am still scratching my head wondering how the Big East and the ACC were able to gain favored nations status if the organizers’ motives were pure.

First, the Big East did not even exist until 1991 (Bowl Coalition began in 1992), so there was little to no historical evidence that this conference was important in accomplishing the objective to have number one and number two play in a bowl. Now, it is true that the University of Miami, Florida, technically was a Big East member and won the national championship in 1991 (as well as in 1983, 1987, 1989 as an independent), the Hurricanes played only two conference games that year. Now that 20 years have passed, the evidence we do have is that the Miami Dynasty unraveled shortly after it became affiliated with a conference.

Second, the ACC was a glorified Western Athletic Conference (WAC) before the 1992 season. Sure, Clemson won the national championship in 1981 and Georgia Tech split the national championship in 1990, but that is it. Once in a decade the ACC champion was relevant. The WAC was having the same level of success as the ACC during this timeframe. In 1992, however, Florida State left the ranks of the independents to join the ACC. Florida State was 53-8 and ranked in the top 5 from 1987-1991. Again, the evidence we have post-1991 is that the ACC, as a whole, was mediocre; the Seminoles dominated the ACC for the next decade. Furthermore, the ACC has never fielded an at-large BCS team.

Let’s be honest with ourselves and accept that the only reason the Big East is an automatic qualifying conference is Miami, and the only reason for the ACC is Florida State. No entity stating that it was trying to match number one and number two in a bowl game would have any credibility if it left these two national powerhouses out. However, all credibility would be lost if several schools were being hand picked like Notre Dame was.

Now, back to the original question, where does the need for automatic qualification come in? The short answer is it is not needed, all it is merely a cover up. I will uncover this cover up tomorrow. Don’t miss it!

Part 2: The Cover Up: Overall Conference Strength
Part 3: The Evidence: Performance on the Field
Part 4: The Solution: It's About Conference Champions


Monday, April 5, 2010


I am affectionately anointing this week as “BCS Bash Week.” For the next four days I will attack the cartel disguised as the Bowl Championship Series. The four part series will include the following:

1. Tuesday: The Scam
2. Wednesday: The Cover-up
3. Thursday: The Evidence
4. Friday: The Solution

I have made significant research while preparing each day’s topic to ensure that I present accurate information and that I make substantiated assertions. I am not simply venting. I know your time is valuable, and I have ensured that each topic has enough substance that reading it will not be a waste of time.

Come back each day as we bash the BCS.