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Gold Nuggets
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
By Adam Gold
Adam Gold is program director of the Triangle's "850 the Buzz" and host of "The G-spot with Adam Gold" on weekdays from 3-7 p.m.


Reality at the heart of BCS merits

By Adam Gold
All rights reserved.

Is there a better time of the year for sports fans than the four weeks surrounding the beginning of spring?

The major conference championships in basketball, Selection Sunday, the NCAA Tournament, Opening Day in Major League Baseball and, finally, the Masters. From the start of the ACC Tournament in Tampa to Zach Johnson donning his green jacket, it was an amazing month with the highlight, of course, the greatest single sporting event we’ve got: the NCAA Tournament.

The Big Dance has it all. Starting when the committee unveils the 65-team field, the country is transfixed by the brackets. Everywhere you turn there’s an office pool about to be won by your secretary’s niece’s hamster, and when it all gets underway on that Thursday afternoon American productivity grinds to a halt.

During those first two days, when underdogs reign, there’s simply nothing else to talk about. Angelina Jolie could adopt a fleet of Ethiopian children and no one would notice. And why would they — “North Texas has Memphis down 8 with 6 minutes to play!” Then the tournament gets serious as we pare the field to 16, then eight, and then head to the mother of all parties, the Final Four.

It’s the ideal event, combining the excitement of the games with the ever-popular Cinderella element and hardcore gambling. It’s so perfect that even golf has tried to copy the formula, and I insist that if the Westminster Kennel Club did likewise, we’d have raging debates over whether the Labrador Retriever should have gotten the final number one seed over the Poodle.

So why not college football? I get this all the time. Why can’t we take the excitement and thrill of the college basketball tournament and combine it with the spectacle that is college football? Come on, ANYTHING is better than the BCS, right?

Not so fast.

The merits of the Bowl Championship Series depend entirely on the neighborhood in which you live. If you’re Vanderbilt, the BCS is fine and dandy. Same if you’re North Carolina, or Syracuse, or Penn State, or Arizona, or any other school from one of the BCS leagues (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East and Pac-10), because just by living in those neighborhoods you know that you have a chance to play in a BCS Bowl — and if the planets align you might even play for the national championship.

If you don’t run with that crowd, if you’re in Conference USA, like East Carolina, or in the Mountain West, like Utah, then the BCS is not your friend. It’s a mortal enemy because the BCS uses you throughout the regular season and then excludes all but one of you (if you’re lucky) when the New Year’s Day bids get handed out. The BCS conferences use the non-BCS leagues to fill out their non-conference schedules, with the only benefit being the paycheck that comes with visiting places like Death Valley in Baton Rouge and the Big House in Ann Arbor.

As a recent example, Boise State went undefeated and outscored its opponents by a zillion points yet only barely qualified for a BCS bid. There were four teams with one loss and a pair with two that were all ahead of the Broncos in their quest to reach the title game, so no matter how good Boise State might have been, they didn’t stand a chance of creating football’s version of George Mason.

And that, in a nutshell, is the basic problem with the BCS. For far too many, the BCS is the anti-NCAA Tournament. The BCS excludes all but TWO teams while the NCAA Tournament includes 65 schools, about two dozen of which have ZERO chance of winning the national championship.

Oh, but if that were truly the debate. The popular notion is that the BCS is keeping us from a season-ending tournament that once and for all settles it “on the field.”


It’s already being settled “on the field” — in September in Columbus, Ohio, and in October at the Texas State Fair, and in November at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Unless I’m mistaken, those games are played on actual fields by actual players and score is kept on an actual scoreboard and we keep track of such matters. Throughout the season, college football has devised a system that makes every single Saturday afternoon — and Thursday night — critical in the process of elimination.

The longer you remain unbeaten, the longer you stay in serious contention. But even with a loss you’re not necessarily eliminated, as in five of the nine seasons under the BCS system, a team with one loss still found its way to the championship game.

Keep in mind that the ONLY mission of the BCS is to match up the two most-deserving teams to play in the BCS Title Game. It’s not a guarantee and it will never be absolutely fool proof — even when it’s 12-0 USC vs. 12-0 Texas and the pair are the undisputed No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country.

All of the other BCS games, and there are now four others, are merely exhibitions like every other postseason bowl. Sure, they carry the BCS moniker and the payout is enormous, ranging from $14 to $17 million per school. But, they have no more impact on the championship than the Pirates’ game against South Florida in the inaugural Bowl in Birmingham. They’re simply playing in a big game in front of a big crowd while their universities and conferences cash a big check printed on a giant tortilla chip.

I know this is an unpopular position to take but, for about half of Division 1-A, the BCS is great. It creates a huge amount of revenue, most of which is kept within the BCS leagues as opposed to revenue created by any other format that would have to be shared with nearly twice the number of schools.

The current system places all the emphasis on the regular season — every stinkin’ weekend, in fact — as opposed to college basketball, in which the only time period that really matters is the last four weeks.

The controversy and talk radio harangue is exactly what the commissioners are looking for.

If you’re asking me if the BCS is good for college football, I’d say yes. If you’re asking me if the BCS is good for East Carolina’s interests, then the answer is no. That’s why it should be Terry Holland’s chief goal to have ECU positioned for the next wave of conference expansion.

Look, the Big East isn’t going to stay at eight football-playing schools forever, and the sooner the Pirates can gain entrance to a BCS conference the sooner they can start reaping the benefits of a rebuilt program and the greater the likelihood of hanging on to Skip Holtz. Otherwise, one of those BCS schools is going to steal him away with dreams of winning a national championship. Right now, that doesn’t exist in Greenville.


06/19/2007 07:59:39 PM

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