Blog Entry

BCS fumbles final standings

Posted on: December 6, 2010 8:51 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2010 9:23 pm

If you read Jerry Palm's scoop Monday, then you know we came close to the end of the Bowl Championship Series.

Palm discovered, by simply checking the math, that Wes Colley's computer rankings -- one of six computer indexes used to determine BCS standings -- were wrong in the final BCS standings. It was a minor glitch -- Colley missed the Appalachian State-Western Illinois score. Minor -- this time. It caused a switch in the standings between No. 11 Boise State and No. 10 LSU.

But what if the mistake had changed the order of the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked teams? In other words, changed which team was playing in the national championship game. The outcry would have burned the BCS to the ground. Trust me, I know these people. You thought the commissioners were upset with the Cam Newton NCAA decision last week? They have actual control over what occurred on Monday. Imagine BCS director Bill Hancock telling No. 2 Oregon, "Woops, sorry. Our bad. TCU is really supposed to play for the national championship."

Court battles would have been the beginning of the controversy. Picture Oregon having to get a court injunction to play for the national championship. In the end the BCS would have ended. It would have lost total credibility. I know, I know, it doesn't have much credibility with the public now. But at least most of us accept Oregon-Auburn as the "right" national championship game.  After this kind of screw-up, I imagine the bowls would have advocated a switch back to the old system.

At least in the arranged bowl marriages of the past, schools had somewhat of a say in things. This is potential death by arithmetic. Boise's elevation did enhance, in some small way, the Mountain West's quest for automatic qualifier status in 2012 and 2013. Boise's recent success will be applied to the Mountain West during a four-year evaluation of the BCS worth of all conferences.

Suddenly we're all thinking the same thing: How many BCS errors haven't been caught? Are the right teams even playing?

The only reason Palm caught Colley's error is that Colley makes his formula available. None of the other five masters of BCS computer indexes release theirs, not even to the BCS. That's right, the BCS assumes their numbers are right. Colley was wrong because he relied on a database assembled by fellow BCS computer honcho Peter Wolfe. Wolfe told me that Colley had picked up his scores before they were updated with the App State-Western Illinois game.

Kind of adds new meaning to the BCS motto: Every Game Counts.

This is a database, Wolfe said, that he meticulously maintains and is cross-checked by Jeff Sagarin, probably the most well known of the BCS computer guys.

"This is my 10th year, every year there are 4,000 games. That's 40,000 games," said Wolfe from Los Angeles where he is an associate clinical professor at the UCLA medical school. "I do my best. I'm sorry this happened. In general this is unfortunate, we're all human. I do this because I'm interested in it. If my name is on something, I want it to be right."

Hancock was in touch with Wolfe Monday asking what had happened. There was a subsequent BCS release Monday night that quoted Hancock: "I was deeply disturbed when I learned about this today. This error should not have happened and is unacceptable." Hancock added that the issue will be "near the top of the agenda" during the spring BCS meetings.

Is the potential there to infect the whole system with bad math? Not in this case. Wolfe's scores are accessible to anyone on his website. Colley just happened to use the numbers before they had been updated. The core issue here remains that aside from Colley, the computer guys do not reveal their formulas.

"It is something we have developed," Wolfe said. "It does have some [proprietary] value."

Like me, you're probably wondering why the BCS can't find six guys who will make their formulas public.

"You're right," Wolfe said. "It is trust."

With a national championship now potentially at stake, the BCS, then, is asking us for what dwindling trust is left.

"We don't know if any of these guys are right ...," Palm said. "Could you imagine if we had to change who played in the BCS title game today?"

Already have. It would have been a disaster, leading to a real death to the BCS.


Since: Sep 21, 2009
Posted on: December 7, 2010 10:14 am

BCS fumbles final standings


Since: Sep 3, 2006
Posted on: December 7, 2010 10:01 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: December 7, 2010 9:07 am

BCS fumbles final standings

There is a pretty easy way to make sure this never happens again.  Quit counting these 1AA games in the BCS standings.  Actually, they should not even count as wins.  If you want to  make money off of these teams, so be it, but your record will now be 6-5 instead of 7-5.  I would count the losses though, but leave the wins over the lower division out. 

Since: Apr 28, 2010
Posted on: December 7, 2010 7:36 am

BCS fumbles final standings

Dennis Dodd is a complet and utter douche bag

Since: Mar 7, 2007
Posted on: December 7, 2010 2:46 am

BCS fumbles final standings

What a joke. A mistake was caught and corrected. The biggest issue is not Colley's, but the other computer rankings whose methods are hidden.

Since: Oct 12, 2010
Posted on: December 7, 2010 12:35 am

BCS fumbles final standings

More proof that the fix is in and it is skewed in favor of the SEC and Big East.  Sadly, the holier than thou purists who lecture the west coast and mountain teams are just corrupt wiseguys running a scam.

Since: Jan 5, 2007
Posted on: December 6, 2010 11:53 pm

What's the difference?

The BCS bowl selection show was so lame. I mean, there was this nuance about the bowls. Tell me, what is the difference between a BCS bowl and a Non-BCS bowl, besides the money? There isn't one. You're either in the title game or your not.

Oklahoma vs. UConn? What a flipping joke THAT is!

My interest in college football is waning every year. And I'm an SEC fan.

Since: Sep 3, 2006
Posted on: December 6, 2010 11:44 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Sep 14, 2010
Posted on: December 6, 2010 10:20 pm

BCS shafts Boise State again

The polls have been shafting Boise State all year so whats new. Everytime a number 1 would lose then another one would leap frop Boise. Yes Boise State lost a game this year. But what teams didn't. But the BCS was after Boise from the start and they got them. Even tho Boise started the year number 2 behind Bama. If Boise had run the  table they would have still been left out of the dance. We need a playoff.

Since: Jan 3, 2007
Posted on: December 6, 2010 9:27 pm

BCS fumbles final standings

I think the point of this story is that it is completely ludicrous that the outcome of a Western Illinois - Appalachian State game tells us who is the better team between Boise St. and LSU.

The possibility does exist that had TCU and Oregon been closer in the rankings that some meaningless game like W. Ill. vs. App. St. could have been the deciding factor at the end of the year. 

What a joke, I've barely paid attention to the BCS title game for the past 5 years, sure if I'm free or I like one of the teams that are playing I'll tune in, but other than my alma mater, I don't watch any of the bowl games at all.

The system is a joke and it decides where millions of dollars go to the budgets of (mostly) public universities.  I'm glad my tax dollars and tuition are affected by computer rankings compiled by the clinical director at UCLA and a few other guys who spend too much time with databases and ranking formulas.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or