High Atop the Trojan Horse...For Three Weeks Anyway 

High Atop the Trojan Horse...For Three Weeks Anyway

Note: Absurdity of BCS Caused One Fan to Switch Allegiances (Temporarily)

It was a momentous New Years for me as I found myself uttering a phrase unlikely to ever cross my lips again during football season - GO TROJANS!!!!!

As a proud University of Washington alum from the early 1990's, nothing other than our annual trouncing of in-state rival Washington State gave me more pleasure than sticking it to USC on the football field. The team, the school, the fans with their Verizon "V for Victory" fingers in the air, the one-hit wonder that is the USC band playing that one freaking tune that sends 99 % of the college football world into a murderous rage, and the cheerleaders with those ridiculously tight sweaters - OK, maybe those aren't so bad, but there were still plenty of reasons to root against our neighbors to the south.

But on January 1, there was no bigger USC fan than yours truly. I had the purple and gold that typically flows through my veins temporarily replaced with the whatever and whatever the Trojans don every fall weekend. I wanted them to crush Michigan in the Rose Bowl and stake their claim to a National Championship. Why? Had I seen the light and all the wonderful things that USC has done for our society? Heck no! I wanted the BCS to get screwed beyond all recognition. I was rooting passionately for a split national title to once and for all expose this sham of a system and bring a long overdue playoff format to college football.

Ranked number one in both the Associated Press and Coaches' Top-25 polls entering the Bowl season, USC was left out of the national title hunt December 7th, when the BCS rankings appeared saying Oklahoma and LSU were the top two teams in the nation and would meet January 4th in the Sugar Bowl. The Coaches' Poll is required to vote the Sugar Bowl winner as its National Champion, so USC had no chance of displacing either team, regardless of their Rose Bowl performance. The AP poll however, is under no such obligation. USC's impressive 28-14 victory over the Wolverines resulted in the Trojans retaining their top-ranked AP position, splitting the National Championship with LSU after the Tigers 21-14 win over Oklahoma. Such a scenario severely tarnished the BCS's already shaky claim of being the best way to crown a college football champion, because it was designed to prevent this very outcome - two teams laying claim to the title. The growing legions of fans demanding a playoff system have reason to grow even louder, the media now has ample material to fuel this already hot controversy and the BCS Bowls themselves may have reason to reconsider the enormous amounts of money they've invested if the system can no longer guarantee the Championship Game they're paying for.

The arguments against a playoff are well chronicled:
1. It hurts the sanctity of the Bowl games - Guess what? The sanctity is already long gone. Except for whatever Bowl is hosting the championship game, the BCS system has rendered every other Bowl game meaningless. Every fan knows that except for the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar, the Bowl game coming to their town will determine nothing more than whose fight song is more catchy; attendance has suffered as a result. Besides, anyone concerned with the sanctity of the Bowls would never have allowed the wave of sponsorship that has resulted in the "Capital One Bowl," and "Continental Tire Bowl" to name a few - to appear on the schedule. A playoff system could easily incorporate the Bowls and make every one, from Boise to New Orleans, a huge game - sponsored or not.

2. A playoff system would ruin the tradition of the Bowl games - Yeah, and January 4th has a long history in college football. Playing on New Years Day used to be something every college football player dreamed of. Now the date is nothing more than a warm-up act that teams consider a consolation prize to playing three days later. Five Bowl games were played after New Years Day in 2004. It appears tradition only matters if ABC can't put it in primetime. Don't be surprised when the BCS Bowl games are pushed back to February sweeps.

3. A playoff would make the season too long - Probably the most valid point. Playing two or three extra games a season is taxing on the student-athletes, who are exposed to potential injuries with every additional play. However, it is interesting how this only seems to be a concern for Division I football. Grand Valley State won the Division II title last month, finishing the season with a 14-1 record. Delaware defeated Colgate on December 19 for the Division I-AA Championship - the 15th game for both schools. With Pre-season 'Classics' and Conference Championship games, the Division I season is already longer than ever. Oklahoma and LSU played 14 games this season and Kansas State 15. An 11-game regular season with potentially three playoff games would result in no more football than is already being played.

4. A playoff system would keep student-athletes away from the classroom for longer periods of time - College football players miss fewer classes than most any other collegiate sport. With few exceptions, games are played on Saturdays, meaning teams can leave on Friday afternoon for most away games. A playoff format would take place in December when the majority of schools are already on Christmas break. College baseball and basketball teams can be away for a week at a time - longer during their post-season tournaments. No one seems to worry about those sports.

In the absence of a playoff, the BCS has done what it's supposed to. It has matched the two teams that best match its criteria for earning a shot at the National Title. The media gets a say, the coaches get a say and the computers have their say. But what about the players? Where's their voice? Every other collegiate athlete has the champion of their sport determined on the field. Why must football be so different? To placate traditionalists and a television network at the expense of all the effort these young men put into their craft is an insult to them all. There is simply too much passion devoted to college football in the United States to allow third parties to determine who is the best. The media will not catch a game-winning touchdown as time expires. A computer will not kick a fifty-five-yard field goal to win the Sugar Bowl. Players leave their heart and soul on the gridiron every Saturday afternoon in the fall. What happens there, and there alone, should be the ultimate factor in deciding which school is number one.

Please don't make me ever root for USC again; bring a playoff to college football.

Brian Killgore

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Wed May 19, 2004 7:48 am MST by jennythedoggielover@yahoo.com

Comment Right on Brian!! Zennie is correct in that the money controls the decisions, but the solution is quite easy. There appears to be more demand for a playoff system of some sort, hence more money to be made. There simply has to be a payoff to the current stakeholders or a way to nearly insure that they will be made just as well off as they are now. There is enough money for this given the higher demand for a playoff system. That will happen because most of the current BCS teams will be a part of a playoff system. The "tradition" keeps getting changed anyway, so it is a moot point. We appear to want a single champion because we have polls for who is #1, so saying that having the old bowl system is nice because there are many winners is no more true...

Wed Jan 21, 2004 7:41 pm MST by Dan Rascher

Comment The Rose Bowl is actually part of the BCS game system. In fact, it has a higher payout than the BCS Championship. Another game must cause the restructure of the payout pattern of the BCS contests. The final game pits the two best teams of the current BCS games. But "tradition" is a nice idea, but in reality the only constant in life is change. The system has evolved to meet the challenge of providing adequate "visual compensation" for the sponsors and TV organizations that have pumped so much money in NCAA College Football since 1984, when fees and sponsorship rates started to rise.

Mon Jan 19, 2004 8:03 pm MST by Zennie

Comment Adding one playoff game does not fix the problem. At the end of the College football season, there were four one-loss teams and at least five two-loss teams. It is easy to assume that USC and LSU would play for the National championship, yet at the end of that game there would still be three one loss teams. I argue for tradition because college athletics, unlike the professionals, is not just about winning. It is about learning, about juggling an academic schedule while competing and about growing into adulthood. We corrupt the very institution we are trying to support, education, when the most important issue is winning. With the very small percentage of players who will earn a living as a professional, the rest are left to capitalize now, on a free education. Lets not re-order their goals. Sports is big business. But the BCS has failed to capitalize upon it. The BCS championship game, televised during primetime hours, surpassed last years game as the lowest rated in BCS history. In fact, the BCS primetime game was viewed by less people than the Rosebowl, a game featured on a Saturday afternoon. Finally, on a different note, the BCS did fail USC in strength of schedule. The Pac10 finished the bowl season with a 4-2 record. And one of the losses, my poor Oregon Ducks, was on a last second field goal. So much for computers, looks like the Pac10 fared pretty well against the rest of the country. Can you say 'East Coast Bias?'

Wed Jan 14, 2004 2:02 pm MST by Keith D

Comment The problem with "turning back the clock" is that the sponsor and television money will not permit that. "Turning back the clock" will take us back to a time where the total payout to all bowl teams from sponsors was about $62 million. Now, the revenue transfers for BCS teams ALONE was over $150 million. As I have tried and tried to explain in each post, the sports industry has changed to the place where it's identified as just that. It's valued at about $250 billion. That's money going to many organizations, including colleges, and its a lot of "bling." The time has come to have one more playoff game in the BCS System. There's too much sponsorship money and television rights fee value at stake. I think that part of the incremental growth in revenue from these sources should be transfered to women's sports in BCS schools. But that launches another topic... If you want to understand the impact of television money on sports, play the XFL Simworld.

Wed Jan 14, 2004 1:07 pm MST by Zennie

Comment Points Taken. However, it seems that if you take away the ranking system, you won't have each week being a life-or-death ball game. The beauty of college football is that if you lose, you're going to have to endure the shame of, at best, sharing a title--regardless of a computer ranking. It makes every game so exciting knowing its relevance to the season's end. Don't you believe a playoff system would compromise that?

Mon Jan 12, 2004 2:35 am MST by Drew

Comment In the Mid 80's an international corporation changed gears. They hired the hottest TV personality and promoted their product as 'New'. They failed miserably. A few years after making the mistake, this corporation returned to its roots, its original product, a 'Classic'. The corporation was Coke. People just did not like the new taste. Whether or not they like Max Headroom (?) is unknown. Coke returned to its orginal recipe and we have been drinking "Classic Coke" since. The same should happen to college football. Lets go back to tradition. The Big Ten vs. the Pac Ten in the Rose Bowl. Now for a little bit of history. The Rose Bowl is the first Bowl game, the "Grandaddy of them all." Before there was a Superbowl, a Sugar Bowl, an Orange Bowl and a Continental Tire Bowl, and a bowl season, there was the Rose Bowl. The 'Bowl' season actually gets its name from the Rose Bowl, because that's where they played the game, at the Rose Bowl. Pretty simple uhh... I, like Brian, hated to find myself rooting for the Trojans. I am an Oregon Duck. Every year I look forward to the Duck opening 'Cans of W.A.' upon the instate rival Beavers, the Washington Huskies and the Trojans of USC. In '94 when the Ducks went to the Rose Bowl and lost to Penn State, arguments were made that Penn State, undefeated and ranked number 2 should have played Nebraska for a shot of the National Championship. However, like the 100 previous years, the pac10 played against the big10. (note: even though the ducks lost, their rankings improved after the game.) And then two years ago, my Oregon Ducks were ranked #2 in both polls only to be sidestepped by the BCS, which placed Nebraska in the championship game. The Ducks went on to spank Colorado by 30 points, while Nebraska (much like Ok.) did not even win their division and then lost the BCS title game by a landslide. The ducks lost even more when the BCS game was played at the Rose Bowl and the Ducks were sent to Arizona. Something is wrong when the Pac10 champs are playing in Arizona. So, instead of playoffs lets bring back tradition. Pete Carrol said that when they started the year their goals were simple, win the Pac10 and go to the Rose Bowl. They did and ended up with the National Championship as well. And when the season gets rolling next year and the players are asked about the split national championship, an answer of LS-Who should suffice.

Fri Jan 9, 2004 3:35 pm MST by Keith D.

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