Posted on: December 9, 2010 1:52 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2010 1:55 pm

A response to Bill Hancock

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Former director of the NCAA Final Four and current executive director of the BCS, Bill Hancock, wrote a column in today's USA Today defending the BCS and everything it stands for.  After reading it, I couldn't help but react, so I figured why not have show my reaction here?

Below is Hancock's column, word for word, with my response to everything he says.  Hancock's words are italicized, while mine are just dripping with sarcasm and disgust.  

We've been called communists, a cartel, crooks — and worse — but that's malarkey. And I'm proud to stand up and point out why college football is so popular and why our system works so well.

I can't wait to hear this you commie pinko bastard.

College football was one weekend away from Boise State participating in the BCS National Championship Game because of what happened on the playing field — not in a chatroom, a boardroom or a newsroom. The BCS rankings are based on how a team plays between the white lines, and the results speak for themselves. If the BCS were corrupt, how could a missed field goal in the Boise State-Nevada game and a 24-point comeback by Auburn over Alabama have made such a difference?

I'm no genius, but I'm pretty sure that even before the BCS, Boise State losing to Nevada would have killed its chances to win the national championship in both human polls.  I'm not sure that the BCS can claim that it invented losses.  Also, should there be one of those crazy playoff things, that loss would have affected Boise's seeding in the tournament.

As USA TODAY reported shortly after Boise State lost its first game and TCU decided to join the Big East, "It's been a bad 72 hours for BCS bashers."

You know who the day was worse for?  The conferences that the BCS has effectively killed due to exclusion.  The Mountain West and WAC are dying because the teams that have the best chance to get to a BCS bowl game have to leave the conference so they can have a better shot at the billion dollar pie.

The purpose of the BCS is to match the nation's top two teams in a championship bowl game while creating a series of other exciting matchups. It's nothing more than that. This season, that means the No. 1 Auburn Tigers vs. the No. 2 Oregon Ducks.

Our other purpose?  Make money money, make money money.  

The problem people have with the BCS isn't what it's trying to do.  It's what the BCS keeps from happening.  You know, that playoff system that would allow more teams a chance to play for a national title, and actually settle it on the field rather than in the opinions the media and coaches, and the calculations of some computers.

If this were the shady system that some people claim, how could Boise State have been only inches away? And if the system were designed to shut out schools from the so-called non-power conferences, how could TCU — undefeated and No. 3 in the BCS rankings — play in the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl?

Because the Rose Bowl was forced to take TCU, and because the BCS won't allow TCU to play for a national title.

The abuse from the critics is balderdash. The fact is the BCS accomplishes its mission with a stunningly popular national championship game. It regularly draws more viewers than the NCAA Final Four, the World Series, the NBA Championships and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Other things that draw more viewers than those events: Dancing With The Stars and American Idol.  You know what the difference is between those shows and the BCS?  They actually force all the contestants to compete against each other and listen to the opinions of those who watch the show.

And it does this while maintaining college football's wonderful regular season and also by preserving America's unique multiday bowl tradition that rewards student-athletes with a celebratory bowl-game week.

Congratulations!  Have fun in Mobile!

As this season proves, outstanding teams can play in BCS bowls, including the national championship game, no matter what conference they're in. For much of this season, Boise State and TCU earned the ranking of No. 3 and No. 4. That can't happen in a rigged system.

You know what can happen in a rigged system?  Never allowing Boise State and TCU to get higher than No. 3 or No. 4.  

Also, nobody is complaining that TCU or Boise don't get a chance to play in BCS bowls.  The complaint is that a TCU team that is undefeated just like Auburn and Oregon can't get a chance to play for a title.  Don't lie to me, Hancock.  We all know that had Auburn lost to Alabama and then beaten South Carolina, they'd still be playing Oregon.

Commies? A cartel? Give me a break. The BCS is a voluntary arrangement that benefits every university in the NCAA's Bowl Subdivision.

You and I have different definitions of "voluntary," sir.  

It has provided all schools with more revenue and more access to the major bowl games than ever before.

It just happens to provide certain conferences with more revenue and more access.

Why not a playoff?

This should be good.

Sure, I understand that many football fans want an NFL-style playoff instead. I know that they want to fill out a bracket, and that they want to watch more college football in December. They want their favorite team to have a slot in that bracket. But the desire for a different postseason format doesn't justify the false attacks against the BCS event. And as the person who used to manage the NCAA Final Four, I know that what works for one sport doesn't work so easily for a different sport.

Good point, Mr. Hancock.  It's not like the FCS has a playoff system or anything.  I mean, that's college football, where as the FBS is college football.  It's totally different.

College football has the best regular season of any sport, and the lack of a playoff is one big reason why. Millions of football fans this year tuned in to watch the season-opening game between Boise State and Virginia Tech because there was so much on the line —starting early in September. If there were a playoff, the Alabama-Auburn game wouldn't have been as important nationally, or as dramatic.

Yes, we've all seen what playoffs have done to the NFL regular season.  Those incredibly high ratings, packed football stadiums and all that money coming in has destroyed the sport.

I mean, nobody would ever tune into a football game if the only thing that was on the line was the top seed and homefield advantage in the playoffs.

A playoff also would mean the end of America's bowl tradition as we know it. As Rick Baker, president of the Cotton Bowl, said, "A playoff system would ruin the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic."

Yes, the Cotton Bowl Classic which recently left the actual Cotton Bowl for Cowboys Stadium.  We certainly don't want to threaten that tradition.  Surely with a playoff system we'd never again have a chance to see the third-best team in the SEC face off against the third-best team in the Big 12.

Under the current system, 70 schools and hordes of fans arrive days before the big game and immediately become the toast of the town.


Fans and families plan vacations around bowl week. Student-athletes are celebrated as the players get to see places and do things they otherwise never could do. No wonder a poll of student-athletes taken by ESPN the Magazine earlier this year showed that 77% of players would prefer a career with three bowl games to a career with one playoff game.

Well, with a playoff system, if that player stayed in school all four years and only made the playoffs once, he'd end up playing in one playoff game and go to three bowl games.  I wonder how he'd feel about that option.

A playoff, on the other hand, would be limited to a small number of schools, 

Unlike the BCS, which welcomes 10.

and it would turn their celebratory week into a series of one-day business trips because the teams would arrive the day before the game and leave right afterward. If they won, they'd need to get ready for next week's game. That's not a bowl party — that's another game on the schedule. 

While bowl games are another game on the schedule.  There's a difference!

For the schools that don't make a playoff, their bowl games would fade away. Sadly, so too would a great American tradition.

Ah, yes, America.  Baseball, apple pie and the DVDA Compass Bowl.  I tear up just thinking about it.

If ever a season showed that the BCS is fair and that it works, it's this season. And it happened while maintaining the thrilling regular season in which every game counts.

Yes, that's right.  This season, the one in which a team that has not lost a game this year and will be denied a chance to be champion, is the fairest of them all!  Every game in the regular season counted, just not TCU's!

Thanks for helping me see the light, Mr. Hancock.

Posted on: December 9, 2010 2:15 am
Edited on: December 9, 2010 2:20 am

Utah player guarantees win over Boise State

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Are you excited about the Las Vegas Bowl? You should be! Boise State and Utah are squaring off, and even though Boise's heavily favored and Utah got blasted 47-7 by TCU in Week 10, we should see plenty of offensive fireworks. Oh, and Utah's going to pull the upset.

What? Don't believe that we're seriously calling this one for the Utes right now? Well!  We happen to be working with inside information -- namely, the testimony of Utah DE Christian Cox. Here's what he told Utah basketball fans Tuesday night, according to the Deseret News:

Head coach Kyle Whittingham , center Zane Taylor and defensive end Christian Cox spoke to the crowd, thanked them for their support and encouraged them to make it to MAACO Bowl Las Vegas [sic].

Cox, however, delivered the biggest statement.

"I promise a victory against Boise State in Las Vegas," he said. "You better be there."

Now, here's the thing: Utah probably will not beat Boise State. It probably won't even be close. Crazy things do happen in bowl games all the time, though. Boise State has a fantastic track record of showing up big in big bowl games, but it's also a team that dropped a bowl game to an 8-3 Boston College in 2005 and a 7-5 East Carolina (the Chris Johnson coming-out party, if you'll recall) in 2007. If the Broncos are still bummed about getting bounced from the BCS on two horrifying missed chip shots and don't take this game seriously, Utah is still good enough to give them fits.

And should Cox's guarantee come to pass, the one team that will be howling with dismay is TCU, whose national standing suffered after a "lackluster" 40-35 win over San Diego State that was never really that close. Sure, Wisconsin will probably beat TCU, but if the Horned Frogs can go 12-0 in the regular season with a 40-point win against a Utah team that can beat Boise State and still have no shot at the national title (to the point where many wondered aloud if Auburn losing the SEC Championship to South Carolina would actually be enough to drop the Tigers to No. 3 if TCU's waiting there), then there's really no reason for the non-AQ conference teams to participate in the BCS bowl system, is there?

So yes, there could be some wide-ranging ramifications to the Boise State-Utah matchup in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl. And they'll all come to pass, because Utah's definitely going to win! Christian Cox even said so, you guys!

Posted on: December 6, 2010 3:36 pm

Former Buckeyes want a college football playoff

Posted by Adam Jacobi

It's no surprise that Ohio State has been one of the NCAA's largest benefactors of the BCS system. The Buckeyes have made three title games in the BCS's short history, and considering the shellacking two of those teams received, it's not unfair to think those teams wouldn't have reached the championship game in a playoff system. The same could even be argued (fairly or not) of OSU's 2002-03 title-winning squad, who did take the BCS Championship but was a massive underdog to Miami and likely would have been so against other contenders that year.

Meanwhile, Ohio State has made several BCS bowls (Rose and otherwise) without qualifying for the title game, but not between the BCS' first iteration in 1998 until this year, when the No. 6 Buckeyes were invited to the Sugar Bowl at 11-1, did Ohio State ever make a BCS bowl with only one loss on its record; in all of the other seasons, the Buckeyes had two regular-season losses but were granted a BCS bowl bid anyway because, c'mon, it's Ohio State. In other words, never in the last 12 years have the Buckeyes been eligible for an and-one playoff bid but haven't made the title game.

It would make sense, then, that the OSU players from those teams wouldn't exactly be clamoring for a move to a playoff system, when such a playoff would have never benefited the Buckeyes and their title hopes. And yet, ask several former Buckeyes about what the best postseason system would be, and their answer is the same: playoffs.

[Former Ohio State fullback Tyler Whaley ] and former Ohio State quarterbacks Todd Boeckman and Craig Krenzel , who are fairly certain they speak for their teammates, said the choice between determining a national champion through the BCS or by playoff is no contest. Bring on the playoffs.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't like getting the bowl gifts, the Xbox and shirts and watches and DVD players," Whaley said. "If you put in a playoff system, unless you get a corporate sponsor, you're not going to get that. Plus, you're out at the bowl site for a week. With a playoff, you probably wouldn't be."

Still, the goodie bags and steak dinners provided by bowls were not enough to change Whaley's mind.

"A playoff means more," he said. "Plus, let's take a player from Boise State. You're telling me he's not going to pick the playoffs?"

Krenzel cut even closer to the chase.

"If you're telling me a player would rather get an iPad than take a run at a national title (via a playoff), my answer to that is 'Get the heck off my team,'" he said.

The entire article is full of solid arguments from the players and, curiously, a particularly weak one by the author, Rob Oller. Oller argues that the former Buckeyes' statements and the 62% of polled players who support a playoff carry extra weight, because the players' opinions are "the most important" in the sport. This is only true if one ignores basically the entire history of the NCAA and its guidelines, which are almost uniformly crafted without expressly consulting its student-athletes.

That fact isn't necessarily as nefarious as it sounds, mainly because it's logistically impossible to gather the opinions of so many hundreds of thousands of constituents and cull a meaningful consensus on a consistent basis. And even if the NCAA were to start balloting its athletes on major issues, there's no guarantee that the entire exercise doesn't devolve into mere majoritarianism.

If only there were some way, then, to organize these athletes into a body that represents them and only them and speaks on their behalf with a unified voice. Something like a ... yes, a union. The NCAA's athletes should form a union, so we can avoid disparities in athlete opinion and NCAA rule like this in the future. $urely, there'$ no rea$on why any of the NCAA'$ $chool$ would oppo$e $uch organization effort$.

Posted on: December 6, 2010 12:43 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2010 12:43 pm

Stanford offers Harbaugh raise; will he accept?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

That Stanford finished fourth in the final BCS standings, grabbing a lucrative automatic berth to the big-money bowls, is already a tremendous accomplishment. It's all the more tremendous, however, when you remember where the Cardinal were when Jim Harbaugh was hired: coming off of a 1-11, last-place season under Walt Harris, his two year reign of error coming on the heels of the equally disastrous three-year, 10-23  Buddy Teevens era. Stanford had gone five years without a winning record or bowl berth, and after years of poor recruiting, had become simply overmatched against Pac-10 competition.

It's taken Harbaugh only four seasons -- each better than the last -- to position the Cardinal as perennial Pac-10 contenders, becoming the hottest name in college coaching in the process. There's never been any doubt that Stanford would have to offer him a substantial raise to keep him in the fold. So, yep, it didn't take long for Stanford to offer him a substantial raise :
"We have a proposal in front of Jim and he's indicated he plans to accept it," [Stanford athletic director] Bowlsby said Sunday. "He's got this year and four more on his contract. I expect that he will be our coach in the foreseeable future."
Whether anyone else expects the same will depend on whether or not an NFL team makes an overture to Harbaugh, or, even more importantly, Michigan decides to dismiss Rich Rodriguez. With Wolverine athletic director Dave Brandon having stated he would not make a decision on Rodriguez until after the bowl, his alma mater may be placing Harbaugh in an awkward position; the 28 days between now and the Orange Bowl would be a long time for Bowlsby's new contract to sit on the table.

There wouldn't really be anything other than money -- money Michigan even might pay for him -- to keep Harbaugh from signing his new extension and departing for Ann Arbor anyway. But Harbaugh's reputation as a straight-shooter would seem to preclude him from that kind of bait-and-switch; if he signs the extension, he'll almost certainly be in Palo Alto next season. If he balks, it's going to be the clearest sign possible that he's going to want to hear what Brandon (or NFL Team X) has to say.

The ball, as the saying goes, is entirely in his court.

Posted on: December 4, 2010 8:30 pm

Auburn dominates second half, off to Glendale

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We asked at halftime if the Hail Mary from Cam Newton to Darvin Adams had done enough to erase the cavalcade of mistakes from Auburn in the second quarter, mistakes that had seemed to hand momentum back to South Carolina and undone a dominant first quarter from the Tigers.

The answer over the second 30 minutes appeared to be a resounding "Oh goodness yes," as Auburn cruised to an overwhelming 56-17 victory in the SEC Championship Game. Spencer Lanning missed a 42-yard field goal on Carolina's first drive of the half, wasting a 10-play, 50-yard march, and from there it was nothing but Auburn. Newton scored on a one-yard plunge to cap a 75-yard drive on Auburn's ensuing possession, and the rout was on, starting with this T'Sharvan Bell pick-six of Stephen Garcia:

That put Auburn up 42-14, and from there the only question was what kind of stats Newton might finish with to put the finishing touches on his Heisman campaign, which by every indication will result in his becoming the third Auburn Tiger to win the award. The answer: 17-of-28, 335 yards, and 4 touchdowns in the air, 14 carries for 73 yards and 2 scores on the ground. In the process, he became the No. 1 quarterback in the country in pass efficiency and just the second player ever to both run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. (Tim Tebow , of course, was the first; just a little while later, Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick becaee the third.) While the discussions about Newton's now NCAA-approved eligibility and his father's transgressions will no doubt continue apace, the discussion of who has been college football's most dominant player this season is over.

Up next for the Tigers: the BCS National Championship Game against Oregon, where they will seek to become the fifth consecutive SEC team to lift the crystal football. The game promises to become the highest-scoring national title game -- by a wide margin-- in the BCS's history, as even in victory (one that featured another stout second-half performance defensively), Auburn's 20 first downs and 5.2 yards-per-carry allowed likely didn't do that much to convince viewers they'll be able to slow down the Ducks.

But after today -- and the 56 points and 589 total yards -- it's also worth wondering at this point if anyone, much less Oregon, can stop Newton and the Gus Malzahn machine now that the NCAA has not. When even your Hail Mary's are working, it's safe to say every last cylinder is hitting. When the BCS title game kicks off Jan. 10, we strongly suggest we all buckle up.

Posted on: November 29, 2010 4:53 pm

Thanks TCU: Mountain West BCS bid may not be dead

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The idea of an athletics program from deep in the football-obsessed heart of Texas playing in a basketball-driven conference centered in the Northeast megalopolis seems weird enough. But what might be even weirder about TCU 's move to the Big East is that their current undefeated season will help both their new league hold onto their BCS automatic bid ... and their former conference home in the Mountain West in their effort to do the same. The New York Times ' Pete Thamel explains :
The Big East is locked into the B.C.S. through the 2013 season, as it is included in the television and bowl contracts. The automatic qualification criteria for the B.C.S. after 2014 have not been determined. If the Big East were subject to a review of its part performance, T.C.U.’s 2010 season would count for the Big East in that review.

Here is where things get bizarre. T.C.U.’s 2010 regular season will also go toward the Mountain West’s bid toward gaining automatic qualification status for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, which will be evaluated in December 2011 ...

The cycles overlap because the conferences created a new evaluation period to coincide with the television contract. To do that, they overlap for two years, according to the B.C.S. executive director, Bill Hancock.
With the Horned Frogs safely in the fold, barring a total collapse on their part and a total failure on the part of the rest of the league to improve on their dreadful 2010 (remember that Cincinnati went undefeated as recently as last season) it seems unlikely the Big East will be in any real danger of losing their automatic bid.

The bigger question is what happens with the Mountain West, who has been derided in many corners today as a glorified WAC 2.0 after gaining Boise State , Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii but losing bellwethers Utah , TCU, and BYU . Thanks to the overlap in evaluation periods, however, the league appears to have a fighting chance at getting their long-awaited auto-bid after all. The combination of TCU's (as well as Utah's) excellent 2010 seasons combined with Boise's three-year 36-2 run back to 2008 (which Thamel explains will also count in the MWC's calculations) should give them a solid foundation. The new-look MWC middle class of rapidly-improving San Diego State , Air Force , and the three other WAC refugees will, at the least, be a substantial upgrade on the middle class of the old WAC and maybe even the current MWC if the Aztecs, Wolf Pack, and Warriors can build on their current success.

Will that be enough? It's probably still too early to say. But it's also too early to say, as many have in the wake of TCU's decision, that the MWC's dream of ascending to the ranks of the automatic qualifying conferences is dead just yet.

Posted on: November 24, 2010 5:37 pm

Boise president, TCU AD blast Gee in response

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Quite honestly, after Gordon Gee 's comments this morning , you knew it was coming. TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte , speaking on radio about his remarks:

Mmmm, that's some tasty sarcasm. (Conte also added a "they must be jealous " comment for good measure.) But compared to what Boise State president Bob Kustra had to say, Conte was positively genial. Kustra (emphasis added):
"The BCS has finally found someone to stand up and defend the indefensible … Everyone in intercollegiate football knows that athletic directors of those large power conferences are scheduling more and more teams who are I-AA, who are teams at the weaker end of the non-AQ conferences, and for Gee to stand up and talk about murderer’s row every week is just the height of folly. It’s ridiculous ...

"I just hope that when he speaks about his research profile or the quality of his university he’s a little more believable than he is about athletics, because he’s just so wrong on this one … Presidents who stand up and talk about values and trust and fairness and access and equity speak with forked tongue when it comes to athletics — and it makes no sense to me how they can be so absolutely wrong and know it and yet stand up as the pillars of moral rectitude.”
Come on, Dr. Kustra: tell us how you really feel. Unfortunately for Gee, with the majority of college football fans (though not a sizeable one) favoring some sort of playoff and the bow-tied Ohio State president's remarks bearing the unmistakable stench of gridiron elitism, even if few fans outside of Boise and Fort Worth share Kustra's intensity regarding the matter, those feelings seem likely to carry this day in college football's court of public opinion.

Posted on: November 24, 2010 12:24 pm
Edited on: November 24, 2010 12:41 pm

Gee comments off the mark

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Particularly for an academic, Ohio State president Gordon Gee has never been shy about expressing his opinions on athletics, popular or not.

And it's a safe bet that the opinions he expressed today in an interview with the AP are going to be most decidedly unpopular in Boise and Fort Worth. Writing off entire conferences as the "Little Sisters of the Poor" isn't particularly becoming for the president of the nation's largest university, and criticizing TCU and Boise for their schedules is more than a little hypocritical when one advanced rating puts the Buckeyes' schedule strength barely above the Frogs' or Broncos' and both non-AQ teams have played a more challenging nonconference slate than the Buckeyes' lineup with Marshall , Eastern Michigan , and Ohio .

But as infuriating as Gee's viewpoint might be to those who'd agree the non-AQ teams are far more deserving this season than the 10-1 Buckeyes (whose best win until last week's triumph at 7-4 Iowa was a home win over either 7-4 Penn State or 7-4 Miami ), at the end of the day it's just another warmed-over rehashing of the same arguments that have surrounded Boise and TCU all season (and for much of the past two). Where Gee is really, truly wrong is in his comments on expanding the football postseason to ensure that we don't have to have these same tired debates:

Gee, long an admirer of the BCS and the current bowl system, said he was against a playoff in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"If you put a gun to my head and said, 'What are you going to do about a playoff system [if] the BCS system as it now exists goes away?' I would vote immediately to go back to the bowl system," he said.

He said the current system is better for the student-athletes.

"It's not about this incessant drive to have a national championship because I think that's a slippery slope to professionalism," he said. "I'm a fan of the bowl system and I think that by and large it's worked very, very well."

Gee isn't just arguing that Boise and TCU don't deserve a title shot this year; he's arguing that college football should entrench a postseason system that would ensure that they never got that title shot. What his argument (and similar diatribes against "playoffs") misses is that college football already has a playoff; it selects a number of teams, pairs them off, and the winner is automatically declared the champion. Where the BCS playoff differs from every other playoff in existence is that it only includes two teams. To frame the debate in terms of some nebulous future "playoff" against a current BCS system that varies from that bogeyman only in terms of the number of teams involved is to rig the debate permanently in the BCS's favor.

Gee's desire to preserve what amateurism and respect for academics remain in college football is admirable. But there's a point at which even those concerns have to give way to basic fairness. And surely the permanent exclusion of the TCU's and Boise's of the sport from national title consideration represents that point; what Gee proposes is to draw a line between college football's haves and have-nots, one based on conference affiliation, and declare that the latter can never cross it. It's elitism and snobbery of the highest order.

Now, a show of hands: who's in favor of Wisconsin blowing their season finale against Northwestern and setting up a showdown between Gee's Buckeyes and either the Frogs or Broncos in the Rose Bowl ? Is that everyone (Badger fans excluded)? Yes, we think that's everyone.

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