BCS has spoiled memorable year

  • Follow Scott Michaux

It was a quiet Sunday night in downtown Athens, Ga., and the East-West Bistro on Broad Street was largely empty until 8 p.m. when the BCS selection show came on the television above the bar.

Suddenly, from the recesses of the restaurant, there appeared dozens of Georgia students looking and cavorting as if they'd just left a Christmas pajama party at the Playboy Mansion. They were a happy and hopeful crowd blissfully unaware of the lump of coal waiting in their fishnet Bulldog stockings.

When the Georgia "G" finally popped up on the screen adjacent to Hawaii's "H" signifying the Sugar Bowl pairing, the news was anything but sweet. It sounded as if a shot rang out when one of the students slammed his hand on the bar and uttered a profanity unfit for publication in a family newspaper.

Just as suddenly as they arrived, the sullen and besotted throng retreated back to Hef's grotto or wherever it was they came from and the bar was quiet once again.

"I guess they didn't get what they wanted," said the bemused bartender.

No, they didn't. In fact, nobody did. Outside of Columbus, Ohio, or Baton Rogue, La., or Lawrence, Kans., or Honolulu, who could possibly have been happy with the way the BCS system marred one of the most entertaining college football seasons in memory?

Georgia got a trip to New Orleans, but not the one it wanted. Not the one with national championship stakes. Not the one many Bulldogs fans wrongly assumed would be their program's reward for finishing the 2007 season stronger than anyone else. Georgia didn't even get the presumed consolation prize of a Rose Bowl trip to settle the score with Southern Cal over who truly is the hottest team in college football.

Georgia, however, was not the victim here.

In terms of programs, it doesn't even deserve the loudest gripe (see Missouri, which got stiffed in favor of a lower-ranked Kansas team it manhandled eight days earlier).

Actually, college football fans are the biggest losers once again. The BCS provides the anticlimactic punctuation on a season that deserves so much more. Some of the second-tier bowls tried harder to provide more compelling postseason entertainment.

Not to say that Ohio State and Louisiana State don't warrant their places at the head of the bowl table. About the only thing the flawed process got right -- that term is used loosely in the way you might say the only thing Stalin got right was not razing St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square -- was pitting the two most logical title combatants after an utterly illogical season. If you're going to have a stupid house-of-cards selection system, Ohio State and LSU were the rightful tenants.

Beyond that, the Bowl Championship Series is a disaster. It seems the resident bowls went out of their way to make the worst possible matchups so as not to distract attention from the grand finale beauty contest.

How could the Rose Bowl stubbornly stick to "tradition" by pitting an above-average Illinois team against Southern Cal instead of Georgia? How could the Orange Bowl pass up a regional grudge match (West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech) or the previous week's No. 1 team (Missouri) to take a Kansas team that played a major college schedule matched in weakness by Hawaii's? Is there any sex appeal at all in seeing Oklahoma, which finished with a bang, play a WVU squad that ended with a whimper?

If these were seeded playoff pairings, that's one thing. But is this really the best the BCS can offer?

It's pitiful.

Issue No. 1: The coaches poll. What a self-serving crock this thing is. Frank Beamer was the only coach to vote his Virginia Tech team as high as No. 2. Oklahoma's Bobby Stoops couldn't possibly have been trying to stack the vote by ranking his Sooners No. 1 while being the only voter to rank LSU as low as sixth and Georgia eighth. New Mexico State's Hal Mumme voted Hawaii No. 1 and Georgia No. 9. Florida Atlantic's Howard Schnellenberger only had Ohio State among the consensus favorites in his top five that included Kansas at No. 2 and Missouri at 4.

Issue No. 2: The Harris Poll. They could have come up with an equally educated and representative 114-person sample by polling the patrons at any Denny's. Georgia received 10th-place votes from former 1940s-era Louisiana Tech player Bobby Aillet and long-retired golf writer from Greensboro, N.C., Irwin Smallwood. The Dawgs also got a first-place vote from Bob Socci, the voice of Navy football and Norfolk Tides baseball. Socci also voted Florida sixth, ahead of Virginia Tech (7) and Oklahoma (8). Former Cal, Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos quarterback Craig Morton voted Georgia second, Florida seventh and LSU 11th.

Issue No. 3: Slotting theory. Bulldogs fans believed that because their team was ranked fourth going into the final week and two teams in front of it lost, that they would naturally move up. This is inane rationale.

Did they really think that while the Dawgs sat idle, those other marquee conference championship games would be irrelevant? LSU and Oklahoma impressed the human voters enough to move them up, while the re-calibrated computers adjusted the strength of schedule that proved to be the reason Georgia slipped a spot in the final BCS average. It's supposed to be about a season-long body of work and not just what happened last week, so get over it.

These three subjective issues (and the fact that they can be manipulated by morons) is what makes even the idea of a plus-one system deeply flawed. That proposal would establish a semi-playoff among the top four ranked BCS teams, a system that would have left Georgia seething even more after falling out without losing.

That might have changed the tone in downtown Athens from relatively quiet indignation to a full-scale riot.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.

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