New BCS wrinkle: Trash-talking school presidents
More trash-talking by university presidents could be just what college football needs.
After all, we've become immune to their coaches shredding what little of the sport's credibility remains at the end of each year by shamelessly lobbying for slots in the Bowl Championship Series' five big-payout games. Ever since the BCS hijacked the postseason, that whining has become a rite of autumn, like rivalry games and falling leaves.
But this year promised a particularly nasty debate - and that was before Ohio State's clueless president, Gordon Gee, volunteered his two cents on why the game doesn't need a playoff. He said last week that teams from outside the six BCS conferences didn't deserve to play for the national championship after padding their resumes against opponents the caliber of the ''Little Sisters of the Poor.''
His pre-emptive strike was aimed at Boise State, everybody's darling to run the table yet again and finally loosen the BCS conferences' stranglehold on the title game. But a funny thing happened to the No. 3-ranked Broncos late Friday against Nevada; up 17 points by intermission, they got beat in overtime.
Coupled with comeback wins earlier the same day by BCS front-runners and unbeatens Auburn and Oregon, the debate might have ended then and there. But there's still the problem of what to do with TCU - which inherited Boise State's No. 3 slot in the latest BCS rankings and finished the regular season 12-0 at New Mexico - especially if Auburn and Oregon stumble next weekend in their remaining games.
Plenty of self-proclaimed experts, more than a few drawing paychecks from that very same BCS, contend that shouldn't matter. In their eyes, a one-loss Auburn or Oregon team, or Stanford, Wisconsin, Ohio State or Arkansas for that matter, is more deserving than TCU.
The Horned Frogs' last chance to state their case would have been running up the score Saturday against the lowly Lobos. And they wound up beating New Mexico 66-17. But that was with quarterback Andy Dalton benched in the second half after a sack left his right elbow numb. There's no telling how many points TCU could have put up if it was trying.
''We ran the ball the last quarter and a half and we didn't throw a pass,'' coach Gary Patterson said. ''I'm not going to quit doing what was right. They knew I wasn't going to quit doing what's right for the sake of a national championship.''
If only the people in charge of the BCS cartel and their hired help had the same scruples. They began piling on Boise State almost from the moment the Broncos turned up near the top of the preseason rankings, and didn't let up until they lost. And if either Auburn or Oregon lose next weekend - the former against South Carolina in the SEC Championship; the latter against Oregon State in the annual ''Civil War'' - just watch how quickly they refocus their sights on TCU.
The Horned Frogs are a much easier target in some respects. Boise State boasted the pedigree of a Fiesta Bowl win last season (against TCU, no less), beat a very good Virginia Tech team in the season opener, won nine straight by double digits, and ranked in the Top 10 in more than two-thirds of the offensive and defensive statistical gauges the NCAA tracks.
TCU, on the other hand, posted its best win was against a fast-fading Utah team, wasn't quite as dominant as the Broncos week-in and out, and struggled to beat SMU and San Diego State.
For all that, the voters in the two human polls as well as the computers ranked the Horned Frogs at No. 3 this week. And if either of the two teams ahead of them - or both - lose, it's going to be difficult to make the case that they shouldn't move into the national championship picture.
But not impossible. That's what the BCS machinations, rationalizations and tweaks are for.
Gee conceded he had no idea how the system actually worked, only that it worked in his favor at least once. That was in 2007, when Ohio State lost its final home game of the season to drop to eighth in the BCS rankings, then benefited from a long series of upsets to make it into the national championship game
''We were No. 1 then No. 11 then No. 7 and we ended up playing for the national championship. I think I kind of like that mixed-up mystery,'' he said, conveniently forgetting the Buckeyes were clobbered 38-24 by LSU in the title game.
A handful of school presidents will be wishing for a ''mixed-up mystery'' of their own this season, and if either Auburn or Oregon lose this weekend, here's hoping that several of them do more than just hope.
Silly and desperate as coaches have come to seem over the years when pleading their cases, it would be a whole new level of ugly if the presidents started swapping insults.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org