The Devil went down to Geor-
The Devil went down to N'awlins, he was lookin' for a poll to steal...
Apparently some Associated Press voters are taking matters into their own hands. On the surface, the coaches of Alabama and LSU act diplomatic about the situation, but it's evident they—and the BCS system of which they are an integral part—are seething at the possibility that the BCS' self-titled "Championship Game" might not yield an undisputed "national champion."
Those quotation marks are important, folks. You see, the NCAA does not recognize FBS (former I-A) "national champions," for the simple reason that those champions are not decided by an NCAA-sanctioned postseason tournament.
The other three tiers of NCAA college football all have playoffs. Here they are, for your perusal:
Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA)
So, what's the fuss?
Here's the fuss: The Bowl Championship Series is proving to be ineffectual at determining a true "national champion." It has proved to be profitable—at least for its member institutions, and for a select few of those institutions, quite profitable indeed. But it has no validity as a postseason competition—at least no more validity than what came before it. So why does it exist?
Money. Television money, to be precise.
And the corruption that comes with such large sums of money has already been revealed in the internal Fiesta Bowl investigation.
This corruption pervades the Football Bowl Subdivision in general, and the BCS conferences in particular. When the sums of money involved become as large as they have, the incentive to cut corners increases, to the point that otherwise respectable people willingly go along with practices and behaviors that they know violate the rules of both their own institution and the NCAA.
Much as politicians during the heat of primary season will say (and often do) anything to get elected, coaches—and sometimes administrators—of the top FBS and BCS-conference programs will say (and sometimes do) anything to get their team into a prized BCS Bowl and reap the financial windfall that results.
This has become commonplace; the beginning of December witnesses special-interest lobbying on par with anything seen in the halls of Congress when elections are imminent (which is always). ESPN's "College Football Gameday," "College Football Final" and similar shows have become the BCS equivalent to the Sunday political talk shows such as "Meet the Press" or "Face the Nation," which entails talking heads pushing their own agendas or speaking on behalf of their own special interests.
I don't know about you, but if I wanted to watch politicking, I'd watch C-SPAN. If I wanted evaluation of "style points," I'd watch figure skating. And, if I wanted discussion of "passing the eye test," I'd watch the Miss America Pageant. Unfortunately, if I watch how FBS football arranges its postseason, I get an unholy union of all three of those in one neat package.
But now it's to the point where conferences are being torn apart and traditional rivalries snuffed out. This is largely thanks to ESPN: Despite the crocodile tears and sad pronouncements heard on its airwaves and websites, the Worldwide Leader is the prime suspect in the death of college football tradition.
The new tradition? Appear on "College Football Gameday" or "College Football Final," because if you don't, you may as well not exist, which brings us to the topic at hand...
The SEC Western Division Championship, Part II
I'm not arguing the BCS's placement of LSU and Alabama in their (non-NCAA recognized) title game. They've been given free rein to yank the college football postseason around, and the NCAA has stood by and not interfered (which is also why I have little respect for the NCAA. They need to wield their authority via court decision if necessary and put an end to the BCS).
The BCS (along with ESPN, which now has a virtual lock on televising the bowl games) can do whatever its collective greed compels it to do, hence automatic qualification for some conferences but not for others, the creation of a new poll entity (the Harris) once the AP withdrew and the kicking and screaming and pouting from its members when they have to allow a team from "outside the club" into one of their precious games.
I am arguing, as is the fine Cleveland gentleman quoted in the story referenced at the top of this article, that Nick Saban's Giants-Patriots Super Bowl analogy is complete and utter crap. Similar to saying that the Tide are "undefeated in regulation." A team could go to overtime in 12 games, finish 0-12 and still claim it was "undefeated in regulation." Better to just admit you were 11-0-1 in regulation, isn't it? That would be more accurate anyway, except for the fact that the NCAA got rid of ties about 15 years ago.
But Saban (or Les Miles, a few years back) isn't interested in accuracy; he's being a politician, so he's interested in lobbying for his constituents. Why not? He's being well-compensated by them, so "undefeated in regulation" it is.
For all we know, both coaches might actually be in support of an FBS playoff, but they're not going to admit that in public—not when the circumstances dictated to them by the BCS (and by their own administrators) compel them to defend the BCS against all challenges. They've become paid lobbyists for their own programs and for the BCS at-large.
That Saban would offer the Giants-Patriots example (without the mention of the playoff that the NFL holds to determine its title game participants) as justification for the BCS system remaining as it is shows how off the mark he is in implying that the Tide are "this year's Giants."
And on the other side, of course LSU has earned a title shot. Under the BCS rules, that's crystal-football clear. The Tigers have won the SEC Western Division and the SEC Championship. More importantly, in the eyes of the nation (meaning roughly 120 writers and coaches), they're the best FBS team in the nation.
But the BCS "Championship Game" is not an NCAA-organized postseason tournament; therefore, the winner of the game won't be recognized as an NCAA champion. BCS champion, sure. But don't forget that, as the story referenced at the beginning of this article mentions, the AP may well decide upon a different champion. And then there are several smaller polls, which have just as much weight, if teams claim championships awarded by such polls as legitimate (as Mississippi did in 1959-60, 1960-61 and 1962-63. None of those three "championships" were awarded by the AP or the UPI).
And as the article states, the Associated Press voters have no obligation to vote in lockstep with the BCS results. They might do so, but they aren't required to do so. You may remember 2003-04, when the AP also went a different way than the BCS and there was a split national title. Both LSU and USC were unofficial champions, but also, and more importantly for the purposes of my argument here, the BCS claimant was no more official in the eyes of the NCAA than the AP claimant.
So, Why Does the BCS Exist Again?
The BCS was created in large part to avoid the possibility of a split national title. And there might be another split national title this year. Isn't a non-playoff postseason wonderful?
If LSU and Alabama are as good as the pollsters, the ESPN pundits and their own coaches say they are, then they wouldn't have a problem proving that in a playoff. In fact, they should welcome the chance to prove themselves in a postseason tournament where teams "win or go home." If they lose in the playoffs, then they're still good, but they can't be champions. In every other division of NCAA football, the champion is the team that wins every game in a playoff.
That's the difference between being the best and being the champion. That's pretty clear-cut. The New York Giants were the 2007-08 NFL champions because they won all their playoff games, including the last one against the acknowledged "best" team in the country (or, if you prefer, the "regular-season champions").
It's also pretty clear who the champions are in FCS, Division II and Division III.
Well, not in FCS (not until this Saturday, anyway). If you're wondering, it's at 1:00 p.m. EST and pits North Dakota State against Sam Houston. You'll have to give the Devil his due to watch it (as will I), but I'd prefer to honor a true NCAA championship game with my college football attention rather than watch this little gem (also courtesy of the Evil One).