'Death to the BCS' exposes bad system

While it hardly registers with Catch-22 , A Prayer for Owen Meany or anything Bill Bryson writes, Death to the BCS instantly found a place among my favorite books.


Written by three Yahoo! Sports college football writers, Death to the BCS is to rational people who crave a sane and logical playoff to determine a national champion what Fox News is to conservatives or a Michael Moore movie is to liberals. And the choir-preaching is must-reading for anyone eager to arm themselves with information should you happen upon one of the rare dinosaurs who tries to defend the indefensible BCS.

Subtitled "The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," this book is as subtle as a sledgehammer. And it does grave damage to all the myths the BCS pushers spread like fertilizer, using a blend of facts, figures, interviews, anecdotes and alternatives that confirm everything you ever presumed was wrong with college football's postseason.

This book made me wish I'd written it instead of the piecemeal rants on the subject that have probably consumed as much newsprint over the past 10 years. But who has the time?

The authors -- Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan -- spent two years filing Freedom of Information Act requests and reviewing tax records and contracts and Congressional testimony. This was not a half-hearted effort to fill a few column inches.

"We sought the truth because tens of millions of fans deserve it," they wrote in the introduction.

And the truth that they have reported is a dagger right through the heart of the BCS "cartel." It splays open all of the mistruths, misdirection, and mismanagement the misguided cartel leaders espouse in defense of their contrivance of a postseason system. They've defended it so hard they even perjured themselves in front of Congress.

The cartel likes to toss about ridiculous platitudes such as "a playoff would kill the bowls" or "college football is more popular than ever" and "preserving the best regular season in sports." D2BCS crushes those silly myths one by one and illustrates why exactly the opposite is true in most cases.

Lesser bowls would thrive and provide consolation and entertainment alongside a playoff just as they do in the shadow of the BCS bowls.

College football's popularity is because of expanded television coverage and the Internet broadening its reach and appeal and not because people enjoy arguing about how stupid the system is for determining a champion.

The regular season has been diluted by teams eschewing desirable regional matchups and would be enhanced by the stakes created by a playoff.

Along the way this book debunks the malarkey that the bowls are charitable and looking out for the best interests of the communities they are in. You know how much of the $34.1 million in revenues the Sugar Bowl cleared in 2007 was contributed to Hurricane Katrina relief or any other charitable need? Zero. Nada. Zilch. Even after paying its executive director and his associate nearly $1 million, the Sugar Bowl hoarded an $11.7 million tax-free profit.

This is just one example of the maddening facts revealed beyond the facade of the bowls. It illustrates the greed that filters all the way to coaches and athletic directors who get bonuses for reaching meaningless bowls that end up costing the programs most if not more than the inflated payouts they receive (i.e. Florida's net gain for winning the 2009 BCS championship in its home state was $47,000 after expenses and conference revenue sharing).

A real honest-to-goodness playoff system -- even by the foremost obstructionist's (Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany) estimate -- would generate at least three to four times the revenue as the current bowl system. TV execs and college officials estimate that a 16-team playoff would be worth at least $750 million annually -- dwarfing the current $220 million that the BCS and the rest of the bowls currently generate.

Beyond all the other logical reasons for why a playoff is a better alternative, this money matter is the most vital element of all. This is the reason that Congress holding hearings on the BCS is not the frivolous matter we have made it out to be.

The vast majority of college athletic programs lose money. Lots of money. The way they make up the deficit is by dipping into the general university funds and piling on larger and larger student activity fees.

We will argue until we're polarized about tax cuts or hikes that more than likely won't affect most Americans' bottom lines, yet we'll let every single college student get "taxed" exorbitant activity fees because the powers that be refuse to implement a system that would fill the coffers and balance the budget of every Division I-A athletic program. That's a bipartisan issue that Congress should be tackling.

Space prevents a complete breakdown of the book, though I must add that the proposed 16-game playoff that invites all 11 conference champs and plays all games but the final one on home fields of higher seeds is brilliant in its simplicity and appeal. Why hasn't this been implemented already?

D2BCS is a terrific and well-reported book that should be required reading for every college president, every congressman and every fan to be armed with the arguments essential to mandating change in college football. It gives hope that common sense will finally reign.

If the BCS can survive this lethal literary assault, it truly is evil.



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