- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

The plus-one proposal could be the panacea for college football’s current BCS blues.

In the aftermath of the latest and greatest BCS breakdown, the title-game snubbing of unbeaten SEC champion Auburn (12-0), the pleading for change has grown into a universal wail from the game’s disgruntled fan base.

Incredibly, the solution seems as simple as the failure to implement it is mystifying; by adding one game to the season (the plus-one proposal), the BCS could preclude future controversies, generate more revenue and guarantee the game a legitimate national champion.

In four of the last five seasons, the BCS has failed by either producing a championship game that did not include the nation’s top-ranked teams (2000, 2001 and 2003) or by excluding an undefeated team from a major conference (2004). Each time, a plus-one format would have rectified those failures.

Exactly what would implementing a plus-one system entail?

Well, the top-four finishers in the BCS standings (using the current system) would, in effect, be seeded for the BCS bowl games. This season, for instance, USC (12-0) would meet Texas (10-1) in the Rose Bowl, and Oklahoma (12-0) would face Auburn in the Fiesta Bowl. The winners would then meet a week later, thus the “plus-one” title, to determine the national champion.

“I just don’t understand how it would hurt anybody to play one more game,’ said Auburn senior Shannon Bundrum, one of the plus-one system’s legion of supporters in the Plains. “Why does anyone have to get shut out when the solution seems so simple? Aren’t the BCS people interested in doing what’s fair, what’s right?”

Apparently not. Exactly such a proposal was presented to the BCS suits last April, but it was voted down by university presidents and chancellors. And, no doubt, such a plan will be discussed again when BCS committees meet to discuss changes in the coming months.

“I think it will be interesting, in light of this year’s situation, to see if there is any movement on that front,” BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg said on a teleconference Sunday night. “Clearly presidents and chancellors are the ultimate decision-makers in this process. And if they were open to exploring other models, those models could be explored. We’re just going to have to see whether the results of a single season make a difference in that way.”

The major argument against the plus-one format seems to be a concern that the added week of competition would force the football season into the second academic semester (the title game would be Jan.11 this season) and negatively impact the sport’s academic integrity.

“It’s not hypocritical to try to preserve the integrity of the academic calendar to resist any further incursions on the second semester,” said Oregon president David Frohnmayer, the chairman of the BCS board of presidents, when the question was raised last year.

Frohnmayer’s argument against the plus-one format appears to be just that: hypocritical.

First, the BCS already has adopted a proposal implementing a fifth game for the 2006-07 season. The game was added primarily because smaller conferences were being excluded. With 10 teams earning BCS bids starting in 2006-07, teams from mid-major leagues without automatic BCS ties have a far better chance of earning a cut of the BCS pie.

The hypocrisy here is that the university presidents and chancellors agreed to a rotating title game that will be played a week later than the other four BCS games in this format. Though this system only requires one postseason appearance, it still would encroach on the second academic semester.

Second, to claim the plus-one system would affect academics adversely implies students are negatively impacted by athletics in the first place, which can be taken as an admission that the football season constitutes a lost academic semester for Division I-A football players.

Third, the extra game involved in the plus-one format would impact only two out of 117 Division I-A football schools each season.

Fourth, most schools and universities observe a holiday break that extends into the second week of January, making the argument moot.

Fifth, one extra week of postseason play, which in few cases would encroach on the first week of the second semester, doesn’t compare to the length of the NCAA basketball tournament, which costs at least four teams three weeks of the school calendar during a more crucial segment of the academic year.

Finally, presidents and chancellors like Frohnmayer have no gripe about an extra game considering Division I-AA has been conducting a full-bracket playoff successfully for years without suffering any academic catastrophe. According to the latest NCAA statistics, a comparison between the graduation rates of Division I-A (57 percent) and Division I-AA (54 percent) football players is negligible.

“It’s such an obvious and simple solution that it’s staggering it hasn’t already been adopted,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said last week. “There’s not a single substantive argument against it. University adminisrators need to get together and work this thing out, so we don’t have to go through this BCS mess season after season after season.”

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