Thursday, January 06, 2005

Football fiasco

With the end of the college football season this week, we have all heard a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of the current Bowl Championship Series system. While I agree completely that the current BCS, by guaranteeing a matchup between the "top" two teams, is better than what we have had in the past, it remains an abosolute travesty of a championship selection system.

Are there any other sports in which championships are chosen by voters, rather than through competition on the field (or in the arena, the ring, etc.)?

Make no mistake, although the BCS champion is the whoever wins the game, voters play a majority role in the selection of the two teams (out of more than one hundred) who will compete for this championship. Although it seems absurd, voters with a perverse streak could match two of the worst teams (I will not pick on any schools by naming names but among major conferences my alma mater would be a good contender) in this so-called championship game.

Above and beyond the prima facie absurdity of electing a national champion is the unfair nature which has become apparent over the last several years. The BCS tells students at Utah, Boise State, and other schools in conferences like the Western Athletic, the Mountain West, and the Mid-American that regardless of how well they play, they will not even be given an opportunity to compete for a national championship. It is completely out of their reach because they didn't go to a school like Southern California, Michigan, Oklahoma, or Florida State, which has won
in the past and is expected to continue to do well. In what other sport or league could you point to a team at the beginning of a season and know with 100% certainty that they will not win the national championship that year? This only serves to continue the disparities. Teams which have a history of football success are rewarded by the voters, and because of this (and the potential for a championship) they attract better recruits. The rich get richer.

The only solution is some sort of playoff. In the end the exact format doesn't matter. Current bowls could be subsumed into a new playoff system, but the crucial thing is that no undefeated team be excluded. With multiple undefeated teams "best" becomes a subjective decision and that is not how national champions are made.

PS Before I get flamed by fans of one school or another, let me say that I don't have much of a vested interest since it has been years since my alma mater went to a bowl, and decades since we won in the postseason. Every school named above has a better football program than ours and most could probably beat us with their starters on the bench!

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