Unfortunately, the time has come in the college football season where the only thing to write about is the Bowl Championship Series and its many problems. I already have a headache.
The BCS suffers from many ailments, and I can only hope Texas Tech loses to Oklahoma, sending the entire process crashing down. Until that happens, however, I must be content with refuting the major myths that surround the mysterious BCS machine. Here is a look at the three biggest myths perpetuated by the very few BCS supporters.
Myth No. 1: Attention is attention, no matter how negative
We can call this the Paris Hilton Effect. Seriously, some people have used her as evidence of how negative attention can boost popularity. The difference between college football and that Hilton chick, however, is college football was already established before the negative attention was brought on. Sadly, Ms. Hilton was not.
It is true that the BCS receives an inordinate amount of attention from the media, but the negative attention has not increased the popularity of the game. According to Fox Sports, the TV ratings for the BCS championship have been in the 17’s every year, except for the USC vs. Texas game in 2006 which garnered a 21.7 rating. Shockingly enough, 2006 was the only year where the BCS paired what were unquestionably the best two teams in college football. I know this is surprising, but it appears when the top two teams in the game face each other, the popularity for the game increases.
Furthermore, the average margin of victory for the past two BCS championships has been over 20 points a game. Nothing kills a sport’s popularity quicker than a boring championship game. The reason these games were blowouts? Ohio State — which appeared in both games as a “top two team” — wasn’t close to the level of competition they were facing. The BCS is definitely the most talked about part of college football. But instead of praise, it is used as a punch line.
Myth No. 2: The regular season is a de facto playoff
Worst. Playoff. Ever. The regular season should be just that: regular. The purpose of the regular season is to build up to the postseason. Unless you go undefeated, however, the first loss of the year nearly destroys any national coverage a school might otherwise receive. USC serves as the perfect example. Pete Carroll’s crews are perennial national title contenders, but an early season loss to Oregon State has completely knocked them out of the national picture. This is a shame because the Trojans boast the best defense in the nation and are only allowing 6.7 points per game.
Supporters of this myth claim that each week presents big games because one loss can potentially knock you out of it. Well this is nice in late October and November, but we are robbed of potential out-of-conference classics in September. When one loss might knock you out of the National Championship race, most coaches (note: I said most, not all) are unwilling to risk a slip up so early in the season.
Further busting this myth is the undefined rules of this “playoff.” In most playoffs, once you lose a certain number of games, you are out. In college football, when you lose one game you are … well, no one knows what your status is. This hanging-in-limbo thing produces anxiety, nervousness and uncertainty, but it does not produce drama or excitement.
Finally, the biggest reason the regular season is not a playoff is the final outcome. In all other playoffs, only one factor decides who advances to the championship game: the scoreboard. In college football, a bizarre combination of voters and computers determine who will advance to the championship. When humans are involved, there will always be error, and the college football “playoff” is full of them.
Myth No. 3: A playoff is impossible because of academic priorities
The fans are constantly told the “student” in “student-athlete” comes first.
“We do not believe a playoff would be in the best interest of the sport, the student-athletes or our many other constituencies,” David Frohnmayer, chair of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, said.
How could we forget? The NCAA and the universities are always more concerned with the student part of “student-athlete.”
Except when the athletes are paid during the recruitment process. And except for the ones who don’t graduate. And don’t forget the ones who don’t attend class.
Using the “student-athlete” as a defense is incredibly transparent. If the “student” part were so important, they wouldn’t have added an extra game to the regular season in 2005. If the “student-athlete” is so important, why does college basketball host a tournament that lasts almost a month?
The BCS uses the “student-athlete” defense to hide behind because it is convenient, not because they believe in the good of the “student-athlete.”
The BCS and its supporters stubbornly repeat these myths to defend a broken system. The status of these myths: busted.