Pre-BCS hearings roundup (and a thought)

Just a few points before today’s Congressional nonsense:

  • I owe Dick Harmon an apology.  I should have known that somebody outside the state of Utah could write something equally insipid and hackish about this – thank you, Spencer Tillman.  You know when he comes out the gate with Gilbert and Sullivan, he’s telegraphing that his is a Serious Article.  This is even better:  “Angel wings turn into horns and Dante’s Inferno is their operating manual.” Oy.
  • There’s a tendency in bashing the BCS to confuse greed with arrogance.  Let’s be clear here:  the football guys are the greedy ones; the pols are the arrogant ones.
  • Speaking of the politicians, it’s good to see that there’s not much else on their plate this week.
  • For all the squawking about unfairness, the sad fact is that the non-BCS conferences simply aren’t competitive with the big boys (h/t College Football Resource)“As a whole, non-BCS schools are 77-392 against BCS opponents since 2005, meaning they win just 19.6 percent of the time.” Three schools – three – from non-BCS conferences have winning records against schools from BCS conferences during that time.  Competitively speaking, it’s not a level playing field, and all the whining in the world won’t change that.

I think what really drives me up the wall about what we’ve seen in the past few months is the stubborn refusal of those who want the system changed to recognize that there’s a market rationale to the flow of money in college football.  The TV networks and the bowls pay the SEC and pay Notre Dame huge sums because those are the schools an enormous number of fans want to see.  The Mountain West and the Sun Belt?  Eh – not so much.

The barrier to entry argument that those wanting to wield the antitrust ax against the BCS will make today is overblown.  What did the Big East bring to the table when the BCS was created?  Two things:  a University of Miami that was one of the top three TV draws in college football and a Michael Vick-led Virginia Tech that brought a rabid fan base in serious numbers to bowl games.  That’s it – the rest of that conference was, historically speaking, putrid.  (Today’s essay question:  would the Big East be a BCS conference if the ACC had raided it before 1998?)

The Mountain West, however admirable the performance of its best schools has been in the past four years, doesn’t bring anything like that to the BCS table.  But how impossible can that be to pull off if the Big East did it?  Basically, the MWC schools (and Orrin Hatch) don’t believe they should have to work for it like Miami and Virginia Tech did.  They simply feel entitled to a seat at the table because Utah beat Alabama.  But it’s the BCS guys that are the arrogant ones.

Expect to have your intelligence insulted more than a few times today.


UPDATE: Spencer Tillman thinks he knows Tony Barnhart, but this doesn’t sound like the Tony Barnhart he’s writing about.

… But bashing the BCS is like bashing the IRS. It’s easy. The fact is that with all of its flaws, it’s better than what we used to have. I remember Georgia Tech having to play in the Citrus Bowl in 1990 to win its national championship. I remember No. 2 Penn State not getting a shot at No. 1 Nebraska in 1994. I remember No. 2 Texas not getting a shot at No. 1 Nebraska in 1983.

The system is going to change because the marketplace is going to eventually demand it, not because Congress is going to push to make its constituents happy. And that’s a fact.

Barnhart makes two good points in that piece.  First, it’s only in the BCS era that schools like Utah and Boise State have gotten to play in New Year’s Day-type bowls.  Second,

… over the past five seasons the BCS has pumped about $80 million into those five Coalition conferences.

That’s a lot of money that did not even exist before the advent of the BCS.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Media Punditry/Foibles, Political Wankery

9 responses to “Pre-BCS hearings roundup (and a thought)

  1. CFR

    GREAT point about Miami and VT. I really wish Utah and others who aspire to be something more (or do they?) should look into their stories, and others.

    College football is not a closed system, monster programs can still be made, often from amazingly humble depths (seriously, Bruce Feldman’s book on Miami is a great read just for the weirdly inspiring story of the Hurricanes’ unlikely rise).


  2. Joe

    There is no way in hell Gtu would have been in the BCS title game in 1990. There is also no way they would have tied UNC, because ties no longer exist.


  3. Senator, I’ve made this point here before and it was the basis of my guest post over at Dawg Sports on Sunday. Orson Swindle nailed it by repeating “GRANDSTANDING GASBAG” yesterday implying Hatch. The anti-BCS crowd continues to conviently ignore the economic realities of the situation. There is a reason why Notre Dame has a $9M TV contract and Utah doesn’t. I don’t understand why it is so difficult for Hatch and Barton to grasp or at least acknowledge this economic reality. Perhaps this is because it weakens their argument.

    Considering that the BCS is a private contract among private entities that hands out a national title that doesn’t really exist (as it isn’t sanctioned by the NCAA), I don’t see how their is any anti-trust argument. You can’t restrict competition for something that isn’t real.


  4. wheaton4prez

    “the schools an enormous number of fans want to see”

    “acknowledge the economic reality”

    How about “merit on the field”? If “weaker” conferences and teams don’t have a good record against BCS foes, then there should be no problem with letting one of their outliers have a shot on the field. It should be a compelling game for the “enormous number of fans” to see if their little darling of a program in their beloved conference really still is the top dog. What is there to fear in that? Since when has David vs. Goliath not been a bout that people want to see?

    The arguments being made by the “pro BCS crowd” remind me of the sentiments that must have been behind the change in boxing. The one that changed it from tough guys insisting that they fight the other tough guys to ticket peddlers who plan their fights around profitability, integrity of the sport be damned.


    • It should be a compelling game for the “enormous number of fans” to see if their little darling of a program in their beloved conference really still is the top dog.

      Too bad the bowls and the TV networks disagree with you about that.


      • wheaton4prez

        Exactly. It is too bad that NCAA football is held hostage by robber barons. And that is why Hatch was justified in comparing the current system to communism. Because match-ups (and consequently resources) are being determined by central powers, flawed by motives alterior to the integrity of the game.

        Too bad for them that most fans recognize that they are wrong. If it’s not fixed this year, we will continue to hear about this issue year after year until it is.


      • wheaton4prez

        Correction: Barton referred to the system as communism, rather than Hatch.