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Once again, BCS hurts only little guys
Nothing bad happened to college football Sunday. No tragedy befell the sport. Nobody died.
What happened was a system everybody knew to be flawed produced a predictably flawed result. A group of agenda-ized coaches, idiotic variations of Craig James' Harris ballots and computer programs determined that replaying a game already played was the best arbiter of who is the best team in college football.
Because of who is playing (two SEC teams) and where they are playing (LSU's backyard of New Orleans), the BCS National Championship game will be an impossible ticket. The game is likely to be good, the first one boring only to the attention-deficit-disordered among us.
Y'all will watch. And until then, we'll endlessly debate whether The States — Oklahoma and Boise — or Stanford were worthier opponents, about good losses and bad ones and ultimately about the need for a playoff.
"The whole thing needs to be changed, there's no question about it," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "Everybody is just very tired of the BCS. I think that's the bottom line. Everybody is frustrated. Everybody doesn't really know what to do anymore. It doesn't make sense to anybody. I don't think anybody is happy anywhere."
Nobody except bowl execs, power conferences, the same people who always win.
No, college football did not get screwed Sunday. It won the day handily.
Who got screwed Sunday were the athletes from Oklahoma State, Boise and Stanford. "The kids" has become such a trite argument that I hate invoking it for fear of diminishing my point. The theoretical kids tend to be dragged into arguments — steroids, role models, et cetera — with the effect of cheapening, not strengthening them.
I am not talking about some theoretical 10-year-old, though. I am talking about Curtis Clay.
I came to know Clay while covering TCU Horned Frog football. He is what we love about college athletics — athletics in general, really — a kid who talked his parents into letting him walk on at TCU even though this meant forgoing a scholarship elsewhere and accruing almost $50,000 in debt.
A little smallish, he earned a scholarship his redshirt sophomore season by busting his butt on special teams. His greatest moment was a touchdown catch in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. And last season, his final season at TCU, his Frogs went undefeated.
This being the BCS, a flawed system that produces flawed results, their undefeated season was viewed not as favorably as Auburn or Oregon. It was the fine work of the same agendas, James-think and Apples that deemed Oklahoma State's one-loss to be inferior to Alabama's on Sunday. And so TCU ended up at The Rose Bowl.
It was a bribe. It was just good enough to stymie complaints of them getting screwed out of a chance at a championship.
And when we talked Monday, a year later, he talked again of how amazing that Rose Bowl experience had been and how he really can not complain. He feels for Oklahoma State, Boise State and Stanford, all one-loss teams, because not getting a chance is the worst kind of torture.
"It's funny,'' Clay said. "I was just talking to my dad a couple of days ago and I told him, 'I still believe that TCU team could have beaten anybody in nation on any given day. Oregon, Auburn, anybody.
"I'm not saying we should be national champions. What I am saying is if we had gotten in that situation, we would have won."
It is only now, a year later, as Clay is substitute teaching in preparation for fulfilling his dream of becoming a high-school teacher and football coach, that he wonders how he'd explain what happened to one of his players. How do you preach that, if you work hard enough, anything is possible, when the BCS disproves it.
"Hopefully when I get to the point, I'll be able to come up with a little better answer before then," Clay said.
"I'm a firm believer in 'work hard enough and believe in yourself and good things happen,' in athletics and everything you do. But life is not always fair. Yes, we were undefeated. But the way the system is set up didn't allow for that, and life is not fair. With anything, you may do everything in your power, all the right things and still come up short."
When Clay is being honest, the inability to play for a championship goes against everything sports supposedly represent. Games are decided between the lines, not by what a broadcaster somewhere thinks. And all of the arguments for replaying 'Bama-LSU are about what people think might happen.
Oklahoma State is all offense. Boise State does not play anybody.
Losing to Iowa State is worse than losing to LSU. How can you lose to TCU and expect to go?
We think Alabama is better. We think the SEC is better.
To determine a champion based on what we think might happen is anti-sport. It is more like life. Like Clay said, life is not fair, politics trumps all and life is too often a beauty contest and not a true measure of talent.
What he would tell Oklahoma State players and the Boise ones who undoubtedly already know is, it feels OK right now. It will be harder in a year, especially for the seniors. Because for them, there can be no making it right. And it is impossible to answer why the very things sports were supposed to stand for were scrubbed in favor of what makes money by the BCS.
No, nothing bad happened to college football Sunday — unless, of course, you count a sport letting down the very people who allow it to thrive a bad thing.
I do. And it is because of the kids like Clay.
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