In the bizarre world of college football political theater, the latest act is about how Texas defeated Oklahoma and Big 12 North champ Missouri, yet OU is representing the South Division in the conference title game.
By now you know the Big 12 rule, thanks to identical records by Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech: A three-way tie goes to the team with the highest BCS ranking. The current glitch wouldn't exist if the Big 12 had the same rule as the SEC: If there is a three-way tie and if the top two teams that are tied are within five spots of one another in the BCS standings, then head-to-head comes into play. Under that additional tiebreaker, Texas would have gone to the title game.
|If school presidents would get a playoff done, we wouldn't have to fight over Texas vs. Oklahoma. (Getty Images)|
They're running billion-dollar institutions with the main purpose of promoting the common good. The record shows that a huge portion of all U.S. economic growth over the past 50 years is from investments in university basic and applied research. Much closer to college football, my hat goes off to college presidents for pushing player safety. Giant leaps with research and development of protective gear and advances in medicine, including treatment, are possible in part because of university support.
Take the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. It was started in 1985 when Marc Buoniconti, son of former NFL linebacker Nick Buoniconti, suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury in a college football game. Today, the Miami Project is the world's largest, most comprehensive spinal cord injury research center, housed in the Lois Pope LIFE Center, at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.
This marvelous record of supporting change is out of kilter with the university presidents' narrow-minded approach to college football's future.
College football is a gold mine. Television contracts are producing millions of dollars and the publicity helps bring in students and support academic programs. So, why wouldn't they consider a new system to crown a national champion that also would bring in more money? A playoff or something similar would put March Madness to shame. Fans would love it. The media would crow approvingly.
Still, no dice. The BCS keepers get uppity at the mere suggestion of change, practicing what might be called "inside the box" thinking.
Another sign of attitudinal dysfunction is the clandestine way head football coaches are chosen. Let's keep our eyes and ears open to monitor how transparent the search for Tommy Tuberville's replacement goes at Auburn. When a university presidency is open, the candidates are out in the sunshine and vetted by the faculty. New football coaches, such as the Vols' Lane Kiffin, suddenly appear out of thin air to meet the press. Is it any wonder that assistant coaches, including minorities, are shut out?
Get a grip: The systemic controversy isn't about the BCS. It's about protecting turf. University presidents make up their own rules and answer to nobody. The NCAA can do only what the presidents allow it to do. The universities make the rules by which they are governed. When outsiders push for change, for whatever reason it threatens their power. It's clear that a new organizational structure is needed -- perhaps something similar to the NFL commissioner or czar, if you will.
Generally, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's charge is to protect the integrity and strength of the game, and he has decision-making authority to make some changes unilaterally. The BCS structure would logically fall under the authority of a college football commissioner. An independent arbiter could end the controversy, in the process taking the heat off the university presidents.
Is such a sea change even thinkable? Let me put it this way: The Tipping Point, an eye-opening best seller by Malcolm Gladwell, presents a new way of understanding why change so often happens as quickly and as unexpectedly as it does. Why does a book become a best seller? Why do today's kids dress in what I call Nuevo Army Surplus? How did that ball get rolling? Who, saving those most responsible, in their wildest dreams could have imagined the economic catastrophe that's consumed this country in just a couple of months? When a perfect storm hits, anything is possible.
When President-elect Obama came out in favor of a college football playoff, the conference commissioners laughed it off. One of them even lectured Obama about national priorities. They don't know their history.
After the 1905 season, when 18 deaths and 149 injuries were reported nationally, there was a general crackdown on the brutality of power football. As fate would have it, a photographer took the picture of bloody player as he dragged himself off the field. It caught the eye of Teddy Roosevelt.
He issued an ultimatum that if the roughness was not taken out of football he would ban the game by presidential edict. A year later, after a lot of wrangling, what we know as the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Football Rules Committee was formed.
Again, I don't know where the BCS issue will end up. I do know that there are millions of dedicated fans who care about the future of football. Keep in mind, when big things are done, the power of change comes from the ground up, not the other way around.