NEW YORK -- Kansas State athletic director John Currie understands how the conference champions' tie-in with the BCS bowls work. Unless a conference champion plays in the BCS title game, the Pac-12 and Big 10 champions meet in the Rose, the SEC champion goes to the Sugar, the Big 12 champion to the Fiesta and the ACC champion to the Orange Bowl.
"We can't go to the Rose Bowl and a school from a [non-Big 12] league can't go [as the league champion] to the Fiesta Bowl, because that's our relationship with the Fiesta," Currie said. "I can explain that to my student athletes."
What Currie can't explain to his student athletes is, well, everything else about the BCS bowl system. More specifically, how Boise State and Kansas State, ranked Nos. 7 and 8 in the final BCS poll, were bypassed by the Sugar Bowl for No. 11 Virginia Tech and No. 13 Michigan.
The BCS continually reminds folks that its only job is to pair the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in a game for the BCS national title and the rest of the bowl matchups are up to what's best for the bowls. But, then again, the BCS also claims that "Every Game Counts."
"If we want to have five [BCS bowl] games which we determine -- because of the tag we put on them as being the best five, then we might be at the point where we need to take more objective criteria into account," Currie told CBSSports.com.
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"If we're going to have a label like that [BCS bowl game] and have a formula and have a selection order, I'm not sure at the end of the day if we're accomplishing the goals we have in intercollegiate athletics in being more transparent to our public."
Oh, it's pretty transparent: it's not who you've beat, it's who you know. That's Good Ol' Boy Network 101.
Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan said among the reasons his bowl selected Virginia Tech was because of his long-time relationship with coach Frank Beamer -- "a very good friend throughout the years," Hoolahan said -- and the bowl's familiarity with the Hokies.
Speaking of relationships and familiarity: did it also matter that Hoolahan and ACC commissioner John Swofford are both North Carolina alumni?
Hoolahan also banked on better television ratings with Virginia Tech and the Hokies selling more tickets. Yet on Monday, Virginia Tech said it has sold only 9,337 of its 17,500 tickets and is "asking Hokie fans ... to consider purchasing proxy tickets" and donating to charity or military organizations.
Michigan has sold 15,000 tickets while Virginia Tech is struggling to sell its official allotment -- which the school ultimately will have to pay for the unsold tickets, resulting in the school losing money on its bowl trip (but Virginia Tech isn't the only school in that predicament). Kansas State sold out its allotment of 12,500 Cotton Bowl tickets.
Actually, K-State didn't sell 12,500 tickets to the Cotton Bowl. The Wildcats sold 12,500 bowl tickets through pre-orders before they knew if they were headed to the Sugar, Cotton or Toilet Bowl.
Since they received the Cotton Bowl berth, they've sold nearly an additional 2,000 tickets, including 1,000 standing room-only passes to students, and have sold every single ticket the Cotton Bowl provided the school.
Last week, Currie took the blame for the Wildcats not landing in a BCS bowl.
"I let us down," said Currie, speaking as part of a roundtable group at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum at the Marriott Marquis. "Because I didn't know the people well enough to do whatever we were supposed to do. But if that's what we're going to be about, who had a relationship 40 years ago, I don't think that's the thing to stand up and tell student-athletes. 'Hey, you get to do this or this because of somebody else's relationship.'"
To try and understand why the Wildcats weren't selected, Currie called the Big 12 office on the day the BCS bowls were announced.
"I wanted to understand the parameters, what we do, we always try to learn from things and do things better, I was interested to see how parameters of the decision came down," Currie said. "I didn't know if it was because TCU had reached automatic qualifier status or something else had happened or what. Baylor is 12th and has an unbelievably dynamic player [that won the Heisman]. I thought are they going?"
"I was just curious to see how all the rest of things had broken down that resulted in it landing where we landed."
The Wildcats landed in the Cotton Bowl. Most years, Kansas State would be thrilled with an invite to the Cotton Bowl. Most years, however, Kansas State doesn't rank No. 8 in the BCS standings.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen also is perplexed by the BCS bowl selection process.
"Everybody is just very tired of the BCS," Petersen told reporters last week. "I think that's the bottom line. Everybody is frustrated. Everybody doesn't really know what to do anymore. It doesn't make sense to anybody. I don't think anybody is happy anywhere.
"It doesn't make any sense. I don't know who it makes sense to; I haven't heard anyone say 'hey this is pretty good.' Everyone goes 'this is really bad.'"
Currie, though, stresses K-State is ecstatic about playing in the Cotton Bowl.
"We got a great deal," Currie said. "Nobody should feel sorry for us."