- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2008

So Texas has a compelling argument against Oklahoma after the Sooners qualified to play in the BCS championship game.

The Longhorns defeated the Sooners 45-35 on a neutral field in October.

There is nothing to quibble there.

Yet because of the convoluted BCS formula, which Albert Einstein would not understand if he were still around, the Sooners edged the Longhorns by 0.0181 in the computer rankings.

That comes out to 1.81 percent. Or a whisker on Mack Brown’s face.

College football’s disciples, excluding those who wear the school colors of either Florida or Oklahoma, have every right to be in a funk.

The notion that a champion should be decided on the field instead of in a laboratory is inarguable.

No other sports entity allows a computer to decide which teams are permitted to play in the championship game.

That is a privilege that should be earned.

Worse, no computer is infallible, as most of us know only too well.

A computer system that is down is as much a catchphrase in America today as press 1 for Spanish.

Alas, a computer ranking is only as worthy as the information being fed into it.

And the information can be skewed or misleading, the product of a series of late touchdowns against a badly beaten opponent.

The Sooners were especially efficient in establishing the run-up-the-score game.

Running up the score at the end of a one-sided game might impress only a computer.

This is not to forget the inability of a computer to evaluate the intangibles of a team.

At least television analysts are quick to tell viewers the importance of a team’s intangibles each week.

As Samuel Clemens once put it: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

The BCS is in its 11th season of a lie.

The illogic of it all reaches a crescendo each December, when various commentators rail against the BCS and call for either a playoff numbering 16, eight or four teams.

They point out that the major college football conferences are the only subgroup of the NCAA that eschews a playoff system.

That is because of the importance of the student-athlete education. Or so it is sometimes said with a straight face, difficult as that undoubtedly is.

No such concerns are expressed every March, when college basketball captivates the nation with its signal-elimination tournament over three weekends.

This is not to suggest the Florida-Oklahoma matchup is a bad one. It is just that leaving Texas out of the championship equation raises the specter of the dreaded asterisk. Or even a season that produces two national champions in the final polls.

College football is not about to end its reliance on the BCS in the seasons ahead, not with so much money at stake and the presidents of the major conference schools unwilling to turn the money spigot over to the NCAA.

Their position is understandable, although you are unlikely ever to hear a president say that preserving the status quo is about money.

That just would seem too crass. College presidents like to come across as high-minded, even if the education business needs money like any other business.

As it is, the venerable Joe Paterno would like to see a playoff system, and to be fair, he voiced that opinion yet again last spring - long before the Nittany Lions forged an 11-1 record this season and wound up with a Rose Bowl meeting against USC on New Year’s Day.

The Penn State coach called the customary reasons cited against having a playoff system “bogus.”

He also said that “you can talk about missing class and all that kind of stuff,” but “you see basketball go on forever.”

Hard as it may be for Paterno to accept, a college football playoff will not happen anytime soon, no matter who complains and no matter which program gets hosed in the end.

It just happened to be Texas’ turn.

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