You can’t spell Im(B)e(C)ile(S) Without BCS

Some day, when Roy Kramer has kicked the bucket and they are laying him to rest, someone will stand at a pulpit and praise him for this God-awful mess he invented that we know as the BCS. Roy Kramer’s legacy to college football is a bad joke that just won’t die. Instead of a playoff to determine our champion, something that’s good enough for every other sport in the world has, we have the BCS.

If they asked me to do the eulogy I would have to steal a few lines from that noted college football fan and writer, Billy Bob Shakespeare, who long before there was such a thing as the BCS said, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

I’m sure Roy Kramer meant well — or at least I hope he did — when he came up with this notion that the BCS is good for college football but then again, I’m old enough to remember when there were television ads back in the 1960s that promoted the health benefits of smoking. As my grandmother used to tell me, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I heard Roy Kramer speak once about the glories of the BCS and how it made every Saturday important and how the regular season would be negated if we had a playoff system. He actually said that. I don’t have to make this up. Tell that to the teams that fight it out to get into the NFL playoffs. Tell that to the teams that get into the NCAA basketball tournament because they earned their way into the tournament by winning enough games.

Roy Kramer also talked about how wonderful it is to have a team win a game on the last weekend of the season so it can spend the holidays in Shreveport. Shreveport is where they play the Weedwacker Bowl. Weedwacker doesn’t sponsor the game anymore but because it’s Shreveport and it’s a true catfish among college bowls, a bottom feeder among bottom feeders. They can call it whatever they want but it will always be the Weedwacker.

I’ve been to Shreveport, Roy. You go to that bowl game as punishment for screwing up a promising season not as a reward. The Weedwacker should have a requirement: win and you get to go home after a week; lose and you have to spend another week in Shreveport.

Okay, the Weedwacker is a long way from the BCS that Roy invented, but it’s all part of the same system that can argue its merits till the cows come home but can’t actually prove it’s good for college football. Here are a few of the truly imbecilic arguments that we hear from supporters of the bowls and the BCS.

IMBECILIC ARGUMENT ONE: The bowl system is good because it allows more than 60 teams to participate in the post season.

REALITY: We have 119 teams playing Division I football and you think it’s a good thing that we’re counting 89-0 wins against Western Walla Walla just so teams can have a .500 record to fill the bowls? What are we doing rewarding teams for mediocrity? That’s what we do when we match up a 6-6 team with a 7-5 team in a bowl game.

IMBECILIC ARGUMENT TWO: The bowls have been good for college football for a long time. They’re part of the tradition and we shouldn’t turn our backs on all these years of tradition.

REALITY: The bowls exist to sell hotel rooms, dinner at restaurants and tickets to tourist attractions in the cities where games are played. The payout to college football is miniscule in comparison to the amount of loot that college football fans spend in bowl cities. The economic impact of the bowls is a big deal for the power conferences but there isn’t the shared revenue effect of the NCAA basketball tournament which actually puts far more cold hard cash in the hands of the schools that need it than the bowls ever have or ever will. The revenue potential for a 16-game college football playoff over four weeks is far greater than that of the basketball tournament but as long as the bowls continue to ante up more blackmail money — and let’s face it, that’s what it is — the athletic directors and university presidents feel no need to give the fans that actually pay the freight for college football what they want.

IMBECILIC ARGUMENT THREE: The bowl system rewards teams and gives them incentive to do better next year so they can go someplace other than Shreveport or Boise.

REALITY: The bowl system saves athletic directors and university presidents from having to fire a coach. For the most part, if you’re a coach and you get your team into a bowl game, your job is safe for one more year because athletic directors and presidents really don’t want to do what’s necessary and can mediocre coaches. The only tangible reward that bowls offer — other than money and there would be more money in a playoff — is 15 extra practice days. It’s like having an extra spring practice.

IMBECILIC ARGUMENT FOUR: The season’s too long as it is. If we have a playoff system, it would extend the season way too long. Players would miss too much class. Fans would have to spend too much money traveling. We have to think about the fans and the student-athletes here.

REALITY: We just added a twelfth game. Florida is playing in the SEC championship game and a bowl game, so the Gators will play 14 games. They have a 16-team playoff in Division I-AA which means the season ends after week one for eight teams and four more teams will be eliminated after week two. So we’ll have four teams that have their season extended by three games and only two will have to play 15 games, which is what the Division I-AA champ will play every year. Tell me what difference one more week would make for the Division I teams. Class? Give me a break. When Florida won the NCAA basketball tournament the players on the team basically missed class for the entire month of March and while we’re on the subject of basketball, basketball games are played throughout the week. Football is played for the most part on weekends. In football you could fly out on Friday, see your team play on Saturday and be home on Sunday. The economic impact would be less. Each round of the NCAA Tournament stretches over three days, plus you have to add in two days of travel. Football would cost fans less money in travel expenses.

IMBECILIC ARGUMENT FIVE: Because of the BCS, every game all season long is a playoff game and that creates interest, talk around the water cooler at work, controversy and all kinds of things that promote college football. Lose and you’re out. The pressure’s on every week in the BCS. People are talking. That’s good.

REALITY: College football doesn’t need the BCS or controversy to make it popular. People are going to talk because it’s a great game played in great stadiums where the fans are passionate and the rivalries are indescribable. You want to generate more interest in college football? Have a real playoff where a team from a school like Utah could end up the last team standing after beating a team from one of the power conferences in the final game of a 16-team playoff. Cinderellas always capture our imagination and there are no Cindrellas in the BCS.

IMBECILIC ARGUMENT SIX: The BCS system works. What happened with Auburn a couple of years ago is just a little glitch that won’t happen most of the time.

REALITY: That Auburn got SCREWED out of a chance to play for the national title is unconscionable. You can defend a system that kept an unbeaten Auburn team from playing for a national championship but you’re an absolute moron if you do. And look what we have this year — one undefeated team and a bunch of teams with one loss that can make a case for being in the game. We have the Game Day gauchos pressing hard as they can for a rematch of the Ohio State-Michigan game. They say that a team like Florida couldn’t stay with those two teams. Well, the Fighting Zookers damn near beat the Buckeyes and if they can stay close, the Gators are damn sure worthy of a shot at the national championship. Here’s a novel idea. We could decide it on the field, but NOOOO. We have to have these idiotic concoctions like the Harris Poll and computers to decide who is worthy. That makes just a ton of sense, doesn’t it?

IMBECILIC ARGUMENT SEVEN: The bowl system is better because more teams get a post season game. If you go to a 16-game playoff system, 44 teams stay at home.

REALITY: Most of those 44 teams SHOULD stay at home. But, we do have the NIT in basketball for the almost but not quite good enoughs, so we could have some or even most of the bowl games for the teams that don’t make the playoffs. Keep the big bowls for the quarter-finals, semifinals and finals. Leave the lower tier bowls in existence for the teams that didn’t make the playoffs.

Every other sport in the NCAA and in the world determines its champion on the field. Why that’s not good enough for college football is beyond me. Only college football produces a “mythical” national champion and continues to short-change the fans and boosters that shoulder the cost of adding more seats and sky boxes, indoor practice facilities, high tech weight rooms and million dollar-plus coaches’ salaries. It’s time to end the nonsense. Give the fans what they want and need. It’s time for a playoff.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.