Are you ready for some lobbying, BCS-style?
The just-ended rivalry week ranks among the best that college football has seen in forever.
Now comes the hangover.
to whining week, that time of year when everybody from the university
president to the second-string long snapper for the program most likely
to be spurned by the Bowl Championship Series tries his hand at
First in line was Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs,
whose 11-1 Tigers were ranked No. 3 Sunday night in the next-to-last BCS
standings of the season, behind unbeatens Florida State and Ohio State,
respectively. Jacobs didn’t even wait to see the official result; he
knew what was coming. And so he began howling some 24 hours earlier,
just moments after Tigers running back Chris Davis put his foot down in
the end zone Saturday night to seal the Tigers’ wacky upset over mighty
Right after the game, Jacobs actually said “it would be a
disservice to the nation” if Auburn were to win next weekend’s
Southeastern Conference title against No. 5 Missouri and still be denied
a chance to play for the national championship at the Rose Bowl on Jan.
6. Given a night to sleep on it, he doubled down.
inarguable,” Jacobs said Sunday. “I think it would be, quite frankly,
un-American for us not to get a chance to go to Pasadena.”
seems like the perfect time to remind him that stifling competition was
exactly why guys like Jacobs created the BCS — and its previous
incarnations — in the first place. Nearly two decades ago, the power
brokers running college football’s major conferences hijacked the
sport’s postseason to make certain the choice spots in the big-money
bowls went to their friends. If occasionally that meant choosing one
friend over another, well, no need to take it personally; that’s just
how business works.
To be fair, Auburn has plenty to argue about.
The Tigers just beat top-ranked Alabama, winner of three of the last
four national championships, and three other top-flight teams. Neither
Florida State nor Ohio State built anywhere near as impressive a resume
this season, in large part because both belong to conferences — the ACC
and Big Ten — that look weak when stacked against the SEC.
somewhere in the back of Jacobs’ mind, no doubt, is the memory of how a
13-0 Auburn team was left out of the 2004 championship game that matched
similarly unbeaten, but much higher-wattage programs Southern
California and Oklahoma.
Just like those two teams, Florida State
and Ohio State have plenty of friends in high places. The BCS
gentlemen’s agreement that holds a one-loss team doesn’t leapfrog an
unbeaten in the rankings — provided both are from power conferences —
held this time around and will likely stick next week, too, even if
Florida State barely squeaks by No. 20 Duke and Ohio State does the same
against No. 10 Michigan State.
Come this time next year the
argument will be moot, or close to it, because the BCS disappears and a
four-team playoff will make its long-delayed debut. The debate, if there
is one, will be over who’s No. 5, and if there was a lesson embedded in
the last decade of results, it’s that there’s rarely more than four
legitimate contenders for the national title.
But wouldn’t it be a
fitting last-gasp for the BCS to make its exit just as controversial as
its beginning? Imagine if Florida State and Ohio State both lost next
weekend; suddenly the title game would between the Auburn-Missouri
winner and — who else? — Alabama. How satisfying would that be, at
least beyond the geography of the SEC?
Ultimately, that’s why the
BCS was doomed. The guys in charge said their system made every week of
the regular season like a playoff when it wasn’t. The path to winning a
national championship depended on dominating your conference during the
regular season, putting together the right numbers for computers to
crunch or simply losing at the right time. Just as fans did, the
athletic departments finally tired of doing all that math.
won’t be the last week of whining, to be sure. Teams will be jockeying
for position every season, even if the playoff field is eventually
expanded to eight. But the bitterness that marked previous campaigns —
remember when then-Oregon coach Mike Bellotti called the BCS “a cancer”
— is mercifully already a thing of the past. It may seem like a small
step, but at least the game is finally headed in the right direction.