Media scrutiny, public opinion killed BCS

Seeing them all lined up like the BCS Club of Villains having to confess their sins as they pulled the plug on the most ridiculous postseason in sports was satisfying.

But it was these words from chief villain Jim Delany, of the Big Ten, that were most delicious.

“The drumbeat of criticism was so significant over time that it forced the change,” Delany admitted.

That was certainly a vindication for everyone involved in what one sportswriting colleague called “an effective guerrilla media campaign” that ultimately toppled the BCS. For much of the past 14 years, newspaper columnists, talk radio hosts and TV commentators have worked overwhelming public sentiment into such a froth that the Delanys of the world could no longer ignore the wishes of the majority.

On Wednesday, after months of meetings and deliberations, the BCS conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s director of athletics unanimously endorsed a four-team playoff model for college football that is about 140 years past due. The consensus structure must still be approved by the BCS presidential oversight committee next week, but it’s very likely they will rubber-stamp the death warrant to a flawed system that has left fans dissatisfied since 1998.

The first legitimate college football national champion should be recognized after the 2014 season.

“I’m sure it won’t satisfy everyone,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. “Until you have an eight-team or 16-team seeded playoff, there will be folks out there that aren’t completely satisfied. We get that. But we’re trying to balance other important parties, like the value of the regular season, the bowls, the academic calendar.”

Those of us who have pounded the drumbeat appreciate that. The four-team format isn’t perfect and will almost certainly be expanded eventually to account for more worthy conference champions once everyone involved gets a whiff of the money a playoff will generate well beyond the revenues of the current bowl system.

But this is a great first step, and it’s thanks to the media and fans for pounding it through the thick skulls of the BCS cartel leaders.

Thanks should ring out for Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan, the three Yahoo reporters who collaborated on the brilliant book Death to the BCS that prominently exposed all the dirty little secrets of the bowls. The list of drummers is a long one, including regional percussionists Jeff Schultz, Dennis Dodd, Tony Barnhart and Mark Schlabach. The Associated Press refusing to let its poll be part of the charade was a big blow to the legitimacy of the rankings-based system.

But a personal bit a gratitude goes to the editors here in Augusta, who have indulged my own obsession with this cause for more than 11 years.

A cursory archive search of my name and the word BCS came up with 183 stories dating back to 2001. In fact, it goes all the way back to my first column.

Seriously, the very first opinion – right after the words “I hold these sporting truths to be self-evident” – in my introductory column at the Chronicle on Feb. 11, 2001, was this:

“That the President of the United States and the NCAA football national champion should not be decided by computers and the state of Florida.”

That was just one line. In the years since, thousands of words and hundreds of column inches have been devoted to the subject. The frequent headlines on the repetitive pounding of the theme certainly sounded like a drum roll:

Playoff system would end criticism once and for all ... A bowl system with integrity? Not as long as money talks ... Spoilers make BCS look worse ... Close your eyes, think of playoffs ... Even the old way was better than BCS ... BCS should stop and ask for directions ... BCS continues to drop crystal ball ... BCS has spoiled memorable year ... Boring bowls proving system’s lost relevance ... Who will stand up to bullies in BCS? ... Not even Obama can change BCS ... Fans should ignore flawed bowl system ... ‘Death to the BCS’ exposes bad system ... Let’s all root for BCS chaos.

That’s just a small sample of the on-going “guerilla campaign” in this little corner of the college football world.

The BCS tried to wage its own propaganda campaign with disingenuous talking points and a limited cabal of like-minded journalists who somehow fell for the ridiculous pitch that crowning a true champion via a playoff would ruin everything. Whenever in need of a good laugh, you could always click on the “What They’re Saying” tab on the official BCS Web site and listen to the one-note chorus that had no backbeat of drums.

Despite many times when it seemed like the rest of us were all just tilting at windmills, in the end ration and reason had to prevail. It usually does.

And so we saw that sinister BCS brain trust gathered behind the podium (we’ll excuse the Southeastern Conference’s Mike Slive from the criticism, and to a lesser degree the Atlantic Coast Conference’s John Swofford, for trying to push this domino for years) telling us how well they collaborated for the good of the game.

I’m sure once all their conferences are rolling in the absurd money that a four-team playoff will make, they’ll be crowing about what a great idea they had. But we’ll all know it was the rest of us who drummed that crowd-pleasing money-maker into their heads.

Consensus reached on four-team playoff plan
BCS changes: Why now? Who wins and who loses?
Finally, the people in charge agree with the people in the stands
Changes in BCS are long overdue

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