Insider | Notebook
The BCS fathers can tweak but they cannot cure.
Within a month, the BCS commissioners are expected to adjust the formula for the umpteenth time. They will reportedly go with only a combined average of the coaches poll, Associated Press media poll and the seven computer indexes to select the teams that play in the national championship game.
Gone will be such factors as strength of schedule, losses and quality wins. The commissioners are seeking to eliminate last year's unsavory scenario when the No. 1 team in both human polls, Southern California, was not able to play in the BCS title game.
"It's different but that doesn't mean it's better," said BCS guru Jerry Palm. "What this new system does is put more weight on the polls. The problem and the controversy over the BCS title games in 2000 (Florida State-Oklahoma), 2001 (Miami-Nebraska) and last year (LSU-Oklahoma) have come up because the BCS standings don't match the polls."
Which is more than odd. The reason the BCS evolved is that the human polls were judged untrustworthy. There were split national champions in 1990 and 1997. Penn State had been jobbed out of multiple national championship opportunities.
The original idea was for the human polls to determine which teams would play in the BCS title game. When the Associated Press refused to permit that format, the computers were brought in and, well, you know the rest.
That created the fatal flaw of the BCS that no amount of tweaking can solve. If there are three or more deserving teams at the end of the regular season, there is no satisfactory way to determine which two will play in the national championship game.
"Of course, it doesn't solve anything," Palm said.
USC missed out on the Sugar Bowl last season by .16 of a point. Even worse, the Trojans' fortunes were damaged on the last day of the regular season because of the performances of two teams they had played earlier in the season -- Hawaii and Notre Dame.
The Trojans literally sat at home and watched the numbers go against them like a falling stock price.
The new formula would heighten the impact of the human polls on the system. Each will have one-third of a voice in the final number. The seven computer indices, meanwhile, will be taken as one component.
The new formula might be more palatable to fans because of its reliance on the human polls. If the polls agree, then argument becomes quieter, if not muted. But it does raise another "unseen consequence," as BCS chairman Mike Tranghese likes to say.
With only three components, the possibility of a tie becomes more likely. In 2002, commissioners stuck a tiebreaking procedure into the system. It most likely will have to be adjusted for the 2004 season:
- Head-to-head meeting.
- Record against Top 25 teams.
- Strength of schedule.
Some commissioners preferred that the human polls not even be released until the season started. They believed that would give teams a more accurate ranking. That never flew with AP and USA Today, which enjoy tremendous publicity from their preseason polls.
The commissioners apparently are ready to ignore an American Football Coaches Association referendum passed in January. I-A coaches voted that the No. 1 team in the final regular-season coaches poll be given a berth in the BCS title game. That seemed odd from an organization whose members were prohibited from voting on the team (USC) they had ranked No. 1 at the end of last regular season. LSU won the coaches poll while USC was the AP pick, marking the first split national championship in BCS history.
Applying the proposed changes to past BCS finishes, here's how the championship matchups would have changed in the three most controversial years:
2000 season: Oklahoma vs. Florida State. Adjusted for 2004 proposal: Oklahoma vs. Miami.
2001 season: Miami vs. Nebraska. Adjusted for 2004 proposal: Miami vs. Oregon.
2003 season: Oklahoma vs. LSU. Adjusted for 2004 proposal: LSU vs. USC.
Five goes into four how many times?
The so-called "four-and-one" model for the BCS seems to be the only logical conclusion to the drawn-out 2006 contract negotiations.
Five games being played in the four existing BCS bowls has the stated or off-the-record support of just about everyone that matters. The No. 1- and No. 2-rated BCS teams in the regular season would advance to a championship game during the second week of January.
It is not a true playoff because the four BCS bowls (Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Rose) would play their games on the New Year's weekend. One of the four would then play host to the championship game a week later.
The model has value ($70 million for the championship game by one estimate) and support. The spot created by inclusion of the non-BCS schools would create a scenario where a Tulane, Marshall, BYU or Boise State could one day play in the Rose Bowl.
ABC senior vice president of programming Loren Matthews added his endorsement last week: "That would be a format that we would have extreme interest in," he said during a conference call.
Commissioners first want to hear proposals from the 12 second-tier bowls that have applied to become the fifth BCS bowl. The commissioners want to make sure they aren't leaving money on the table by excluding a stand-alone fifth bowl.
- Talk about knowing where all the bones are buried. Archaeologists will spend the summer removing graves from underneath The Citadel's football field. The bones of 19th century sailors, soldiers, marines, orphans and widows were discovered when the school prepared to make renovations to Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Charleston, S.C., City Council apparently gave permission to move the graves when construction on the stadium began in 1948. But only the headstones from the Seaman's Burial Ground were removed. There is speculation that the remains of at least six Confederate soldiers are below the stadium.
- Fresno State assistant athletic director Steve Weakland took issue with our offseason top 25 calling TCU "the best non-BCS program going." He passed along information that Fresno State is tied with USC for the seventh-most victories since 2001 (28). WAC rival Boise State is tied for fourth with Ohio State with 31 victories. He reminded that Boise State beat TCU on its home field (Fort Worth Bowl) to end the season. Since 2001, Fresno State has played 12 games against BCS teams. TCU has played five. Duly noted, dude. Thanks.
- The Big Ten will conduct what it is calling a "mini-clinic" on its unique instant replay system during the conference football kickoff media days Aug. 4-5 in Chicago. The system approved earlier this year will allow an official to review certain plays with a monitor in the press box. The system is only in place for conference games and whatever non-conference opponents agree to use it.