It's official. Oklahoma gets the nod to go to the Big XII title game and play Missouri for a shot at the national title game. The Sooners did this by way of a tiebreaker system, designed by the Big XII conference, that's only a half step above the Friday Night Lights coin flip.
Two things that should be learned from this:
1. The Big XII tiebreaker system is ridiculous
2. The BCS is ridiculous
Since we're a Pac-10 blog for a Pac-10 team, I'm not going to focus on #1. That's the Big XII's issue to deal with. What I am going to focus on is a BCS system that is broken, and the people in the conference who are still cheerleaders for the status quo.
What floors me is that at the dawn of another BCS controversy is how Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen can defend the system to its death. This despite the unbelievable number of times it has harmed this conference both in terms of money and noteriety.
First, with Oregon State's loss last night, we once again have a season where the Pac-10 sends only one team to the BCS. Among the six BCS conferences, here are the number of years each conference has sent the maximum of two teams into BCS bowl games.
SEC: (5) '98, '99, '01, '06, '07
Big XII: (4) '01, '03, '04, '07
Big Ten: (7) '98, '99, '02, '03, '05, '06, '07
Big East: (0)
Pac-10: (2) '00, '02
And now in terms of total team appearances by conference:
Big Ten - 17
SEC - 15
Big XII - 14
Pac-10 - 12
Big East - 10
ACC - 10
Independents (Notre Dame) - 3
WAC - 2
Mountain West - 1
Throughout this BCS madness, the two strongest supporters of the system have been the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences. It's obvious why the Big Ten loves this system so much. Only three times since the creation of the BCS have there been less than two of their teams going to BCS games. And that's a lot of money earned. Meanwhile, the Pac-10 sits in fourth in terms of two-team years, above the Big East and ACC who have been limited to one team every single year (including this year, regardless of who their champions are).
The Pac-10 has had two years with two BCS teams: Washington and Oregon State in 2000, then USC and your Washington State Cougars in 2002. The Pac-10 is being shorted the money and national attention the BCS creates, and yet the conference leadership still defends it. And buddies up to the Big Ten, a conference making a staggering amount of money year-in and year-out.
What's worse, though, is how often Pac-10 teams have been left out of the BCS or national championship when they should have been in:
2000 - The 10-1 Washington Huskies beat the same 11-1 Miami team that beat 12-1 Florida State. FSU gets to play for the title, and loses to Oklahoma. Not the biggest controversy, as Washington lost to Oregon earlier in the year and Miami was ranked #2 in both polls. But still, an argument for UW can be made.
2001 - The year Oregon got absolutely hosed. The one-loss Ducks were behind both one-loss Nebraska and the team that obliterated them, two-loss Colorado. The Ducks made up for it by beating the dickens out of the Buffaloes in the Fiesta Bowl. But it wasn't enough to prevent the travesty that was the 2001 Rose Bowl, where Nebraska was promptly destroyed by Miami.
2003 - The BCS rules that an Oklahoma team that was blown out in the Big XII championship was a more worthy title contender than a USC team ranked #1 in both polls. Whoops. LSU takes care of Oregon, and USC goes on to split the national title.
2004 - Mack Brown lobbies for Texas to earn the final at-large BCS bid over California. Cal loses out because of a weakish 26-16 win over Southern Miss. However, the controversy dies down after Cal loses the Holiday Bowl to Texas Tech.
2008 - One-loss USC has almost no shot at a national championship game, despite having only one loss. Other one-loss teams include Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Penn State and Texas Tech. Only #1 Alabama is undefeated. Currently, USC is ranked fifth in the BCS standings.
How can Tom Hansen and the Pac-10 conference leaders still defend this system? Hansen hides behind the University presidents and the "tradition" aspect of the Rose Bowl game. Still, this is more about money than it is about Hansen. The NCAA is afraid to take any sort of gamble that could cost them money. In all likelihood a playoff system would bring higher ratings and more publicity than the current BCS bowls, but I have to believe the NCAA just doesn't care about that. If it ain't broke, why fix it? And the current system isn't broke in terms of the cash it brings in. The thoughts of the fans, players, coaches and media just don't matter.
The other inherent flaw in the BCS is how its decided. Why not a selection committee a la the NCAA basketball tournament? The human polls are always flawed - with the coaches delegating their votes to someone with enough time to watch the games, and the Harris Poll made up of random voters from random places.
And then there's the computers. Computers aren't stupid; stupid people with computers are stupid. Case in point: how the BCS uses the Sagarin Rankings. Jeff Sagarin actually has three rankings. The PREDICTOR, where only scoring margin matters. ELO-CHESS, where only winning and losing matters (score doesn't matter). And the overall RATING, which is a synthesis of those previous two opposites. Sagarin actually says on his website that the ELO-CHESS is "less accurate in its predictions for upcoming games" than the PREDICTOR. Guess which one the BCS uses? The ELO-CHESS. Not the RATING, which is how Sagarin actually ranks teams, and not the PREDICTOR, which he just said was a better predictor of a team's future performance. So the weakest part of the Sagarin Rankins are used, along with about 72 other computer systems designed to confuse the average fan into submission. Go BCS.
Will the playoff system ever be a reality? Unlike Kirk Herbstreit, I think it will be. But it will take time. At least six years, and probably closer to a decade before any real actions are taken. Remember, these are the same people who couldn't approve a plus-one model last summer, despite the wishes of the SEC and other FBS conferences.
But the pressure is on. ESPN, despite holding the new BCS contract, has been far from a cheerleader of the system (or at least its on-air personalities aren't). President-elect Barack Obama is openly in favor of a playoff system. Most fans are in favor of it, and high-profile coaches like Paterno, Carroll, Stoops, Brown and others have been grumbling about the BCS either this season or earlier. There is a chance to get something done, but the Pac-10 has to stop submitting to the will of the Bowl lobby and think for themselves. And when they consider the evidence, they will find that there's no reason for the conference to be in favor of the current system.