Subjectivity. And I don’t mean that in the narrow sense of whether Alabama or Oklahoma State is more deserving of playing LSU in the title game. I mean it in a systemic sense.
Listen to Chris Petersen’s complaint here:
… Petersen also questioned the polls, saying they lack credibility when teams ranked in the top 10 can’t get into BCS games. Arkansas, South Carolina and Kansas State were top-10 teams that were also left out of the marquee bowls. “When I’m voting, I’m trying to make the best case for Boise State to get in there,” said Petersen, who voted his team fifth in the final USA TODAY Coaches Poll. “I probably shouldn’t be voting. Why are we voting at all if it doesn’t really mean anything?”
On the one hand, you have to admire his honesty for admitting his purpose in voting and acknowledging that he has a conflict of interest in doing so. On the other hand, is there any doubt at this point that the Coaches Poll is a complete, total and absurd joke? It’s not as if Petersen is the only voter out there thinking like that. He’s just the only one saying it publicly.
And don’t stop there. The Harris Poll shouldn’t be considered any better, at least as long as clowns like this are allowed to cast a vote.
The Harris Poll panelist who voted Houston No. 5 and Oklahoma State No. 6 this weekend said he believes the system that selects the teams for a national championship through polling and computer rankings needs to go, in favor of a method decided on the field.
“I think the BCS is just a mess,” said George Wine, 80, who retired as sports information director at Iowa in 1996 and still writes stories for the Hawkeyes’ official site. “I think college football is crying for a playoff system. This voting is highly subjective. I realize that voting is subjective and often arbitrary. I probably don’t do as much research … but who the hell knows whether Oregon is better than Wisconsin?”
Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe there’s a question about the relative merits of Oregon versus Wisconsin, but Houston and Oklahoma State? Either somebody’s not even bothering to make the effort or just wants some attention. No matter which, that’s embarrassing.
And before you go there, a playoff in and of itself doesn’t fix anything. In fact, it makes things worse. Petersen’s understandably pissed because Boise State missed out on playing in a BCS game, but the bowls have always been a popularity contest at heart, BCS rankings or not. In essence, they’re nothing but gussied up postseason exhibitions. The Broncos will get a smaller check and their fans will miss eating oysters at Acme Oyster House, but that’s as far as it goes.
But tie this garbage to tournament seedings? Hoo, boy, are you going to have a mess on your hands.
Petersen’s suggested solution – the establishment of a committee, similar to what’s used for NCAA tournaments, to pair teams in the major bowls, then for a “plus-one” system after the bowls to decide a championship matchup – isn’t workable for several obvious reasons, starting with that his peers have fought like hell to keep the Coaches Poll in play (which is weird when you consider how few of them put the actual time in to cast a ballot). Further, the bowls simply aren’t going to relinquish their control over the process or agree to be made completely subservient to a plus-one playoff.
College football isn’t at the point where it’s ready for the optimal solution, which is a conference champs-only playoff. That would drain much of the subjectivity from the swamp. (A tournament would presumably still seed the schools involved.) We won’t see it happen until there’s a fairly level field between all the conference participants, though. It’s something to expect with the inevitable arrival of the super conferences along with the weeding out of the rest of D-1 which will go with that. But like I said, we’re not there yet.
In the meantime, some serious effort has to be made to weed out the bias, the conflicts of interest and the lack of care that are part of the process now or the rot will eventually consume the system. The BCS title game isn’t corrupt but it’s in danger of being corrupted by a process that grows ever more cynical. It’s no way to determine a champion. College football’s powers-that-be stay blind to that at their own risk.