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HARRIS: BCS got it right more often than not
If the Bowl Championship Series has to go, it sure picked a fine way to say so long.
A playoff at college football’s highest level is finally coming, starting next season. So Monday’s thriller between Florida State and Auburn was the end of the BCS era and what an ending it turned out to be.
Florida State recovered from a bad start to win its second BCS title, 14 years after it defeated Virginia Tech for its first. In a season when Auburn has had a few miracle finishes of its own, it fell to a team that scored the winning touchdown with 13 seconds to play.
So maybe it is the lingering buzz over that gem of a game that is clouding the thinking, but here’s a question that needs to be asked: Are we expecting things to be better in the brave new world of a playoff or just different? Because different we’re going to get and, while that’s not a bad thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean better.
It will be different because more teams will be involved with an “expanded” field of four. More fan bases fired up and dreaming of a title. Another round, so another chance for an upset of the sort that makes these playoffs fun.
But one of the myriad complaints about the current system is it is flawed and convoluted, though in spite of that the right teams seem to have been chosen for the one-game playoff almost every year.
Here’s a flash: Controversy over the chosen field, be it two teams, four, eight, 16 or any multiple, isn’t going to go away. The fifth-best team next year is going to feel like it got a bum deal. Team No. 9 in an eight-team field complains. And so on. That’s how it has worked every time the ultra-successful NCAA men’s basketball tournament has expanded has expanded. That’s how it will work here.
Any system that uses a committee of humans to select its participants has a chance to be flawed because we’ve seen time and time again that people can look at the same thing and see two different things. Who is to say a committee is going to get it any more right than a bunch of computers?
And this committee is gigantic. It is made up of 13 people, including such football notables as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. That’s more people than pick the men’s basketball tournament that includes 68 teams. They’ll meet several times during the season, release rankings so teams know where they stand and ultimately decide which four teams will get to play for the national title.
This year, using the final BCS standings, the four best teams were Florida State, Auburn, Alabama and Michigan State. Stanford was fifth. Florida State and Michigan State would have played one semifinal. Auburn and Alabama would have played in the other. The winners would have then met for the championship.
It seems simple enough, but here’s where human tinkering has a chance to make a mess of things. The committee wants to avoid rematches when it can, though not if it means messing with the integrity of the seedings. Well, Auburn and Alabama met in a regular-season game this season that matched the FSU-Auburn finale for drama. Play it again, Sam, or have Michigan State take on Auburn while pitting FSU against Alabama?
Either way, someone is going to scream. Why should Auburn have to beat a powerhouse like Alabama twice? Why should FSU have to first play a team that won three of previous four championships?
There is no perfect answer, under the new system or under the old one. Which is just another reason to wonder if this is a change that is really necessary or just a change for the sake of making a change.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Washington Times sports editor Mike Harris has more than 30 years experience in the business as a reporter, columnist and manager. He’s covered a wide variety of events including two Olympics, horse racing, auto racing, professional and college sports. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow the section on Twitter @WashTimesSports.
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