The BCS: Breaking Down the Facts

Jeremy@jeremymaussSenior Writer IJuly 9, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 02:  (L-R) Quarterback Brian Johnson #3 and wide receiver Brent Casteel #5 of the Utah Utes celebrate after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 31-17 during the 75th Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

This is similar to the write up with Harve Perlman, but this time it is with Atlanta Journal Constitution writer Tony Barnhart.  Now before we get into Barnhart's credentials—which will be exposed—let's get into my credentials and show where I am coming from.

First off, this is a blog about the Mountain West, so the articles are biased toward the league. But I try to be balanced.  I did graduate from the University of Utah; plus, I am a member of the Mormon Church, so I grew up following BYU.

However, I grew up in Houston, and up until high school, I followed the Texas Longhorns. In addition, I spent two-plus years in college just outside of New York.

So, while I am pro-MWC, I have been around the country, and I did follow one of the biggest football programs for about 10 years.

Now on to Barnhart's roots. He has lived in the Atlanta area his whole life with the exception of being in Greensboro, North Carolina, for seven years.  He also went to school at the University of Georgia.  So, for his whole journalistic career, he has been in the South, and he has been around BCS leagues.

Now on to the fun part where we rip into his facts about the BCS, and here is his article in full.


Barnhart's  First Fact

"Utah was not denied a chance to play for the BCS National Championship. Utah had as much a chance to play for the BCS title as any other school.

But 175 people voted in the Harris Interactive and coaches polls, two of the three components in the BCS formula. The 114 people in the Harris poll voted Utah seventh. The 61 coaches in the USA Today poll also voted Utah seventh and no coach—none—voted Utah higher than No. 5. Of the 114 people who voted in the Harris Poll, only five voted Utah No. 5 or better."


My Response

In my opinion, Utah did not deserve to be in the BCS Championship Game, but after their BCS game, there is an argument that Utah could have beaten any team. 

Barnhart's fact is half-true, but the part that is completely false is that he says, "Utah had as much a chance to play for the BCS title as any other school."

What he forgot to mention is the rest of the sentence, which should read "any other school that is in a BCS league."  The fact is that Utah and every other school not part of the six BCS leagues does not have an equal chance to make it to the BCS title.

Due to conference perception, many non-BCS Conference teams do not get a fair shake in the polls.

More specifically, the preseason polls carry so much weight, and if a team is not perceived to be good in the preseason, they will not be ranked, which hurts their ability to climb to No. 1.

Just look at the Big East when, in 2007, West Virgina was one game away from the title game before they lost to a bad Pitt team.

Or, look at South Florida, who was ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2007 because they were in the Big East despite having victories over Florida Atlantic, Elon, and Central Florida. 

So, if Utah were in the lowly Big East in 2008, they would have been in the title game.

The voting part is mostly fact; Harris voters have admitted to not watching any of Utah games or having their secretary or SID vote for who should play in the BCS Championship Game.


Barnhart's Second Fact

"Even the coaches in Utah’s league, the Mountain West, did not step up for the Utes when it counted. Joe Glenn of Wyoming had Utah at No. 5. Rocky Long of New Mexico and Gary Patterson of TCU had them at No. 7. Kyle Whittingham, Utah’s own coach, had his team at No. 5.

So, where was all the love for Utah before they played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl? The fact is that while Utah deserved to win because the Utes outplayed the Crimson Tide (who didn’t want to be there), it wasn’t until after the Sugar Bowl that Utah became this incredible juggernaut, which should have been given the chance to play for it all."


My Response

This I reluctantly agree with because even I admit that Utah was not one of the top two teams in college football when the regular season ended. 

However, there is the tossed-around disclaimer that Alabama did not want to be there, even though they have not been to a major bowl since their 2000 Orange Bowl appearance. I'm not going to dwell on it but that excuse is lame.  Once they strap it up, players are ready. Plus, go back to the coin toss when Alabama captains said something along the lines of "I'm gonna kill ya."


Barnhart's Third Fact

"For all of the BCS' flaws, the fact is that it has provided bowl opportunities to a new array of schools, who had, supposedly, been aggrieved in the past.

How many times had Utah played in the Sugar Bowl before the BCS? How many times had Hawaii played in the Sugar Bowl before the BCS? How many times had Boise State played in a New Year’s Day bowl before the BCS?

If you answered zero to all three questions, you’d be right. 'The fact of the matter is that the BCS has given access to those conferences that they never had before,' said former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, considered to be the godfather of the BCS. 'Look at the history of the major bowls. They had almost never invited one of those teams before the BCS.'"


My Response

Yes, the BCS has given more opportunities but that still does not mean the system is the best.  This past year, Boise State, who was undefeated, and a one-loss TCU was bypassed for a lower-ranked Ohio State because they will put more eyeballs on the screen.

That is what makes the anti-trust violations of the BCS plausible, with better teams being passed over due to a business decision.  Also, money distribution within the BCS is not fair because if a team from a non-BCS league gets in, they must share with the other five non-BCS leagues making their share much, much smaller.

Just look at 0-12 Washington, who made more money than almost every non-BCS team this year—Utah being the exception.


Barnhart's Fourth Fact

"The original BCS agreement that was put together back in 1998 never would have happened unless the champions of those six “equity” conferences (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10) had been promised automatic slots.

'Those conferences already had automatic bowl bids. We (in the SEC) had a long-standing agreement with the Sugar Bowl,' said Kramer. 'There is no way that those conferences were going to give that up without a guaranteed slot. And remember that we were working with four bowls, and those were the conferences they were used to dealing with.'

The fact is that the free marketplace determined that those six conferences would get automatic bids, and there were at-large spots made available to qualified teams. Maybe you believe that market forces have no place in college athletics, but that is how it happened. It wasn’t a conspiracy to keep the other teams out. It was the only way to get the deal done."


My Response

Ha, saying that free marketplace determined who would be in what bowls completely contradicts the earlier part of the statement that said,

"There is no way those conferences were going to give that up without a guaranteed slot."

That sounds nothing like a free enterprise system to me.  The only quasi-free market portion of the BCS is the four at-large sports because these spots go to deserving teams unless your non-BCS team gets bypassed for a school with a larger fan base in order to get a larger television audience.


Barnhart's Fifth Fact

"While the six equity conferences do get an automatic bid and the $18 million payday that comes with it, the five Coalition conferences (Conference USA, MAC, WAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt) have placed a team in the BCS in four of the past five seasons. Those five conferences get an automatic $9.5 million for participating and another $9.5 million when they place a team in a BCS game. So, over the past five seasons, the BCS has pumped about $80 million into those five Coalition conferences.

That’s a lot of money that did not even exist before the advent of the BCS. Should the Coalition conferences get more? Yes, and I believe they will. I also believe that in the future the conferences will be able to get more than one team in the BCS if they have two teams in the Top 10."


My Reponse

Again, it is true that the non-BCS teams are getting access to more money, but when a non-BCS team makes it to a lucrative bowl game, the money is not shared just within their own league.

The money is spread to all five of the non-BCS leagues, making their cut very small in comparison to any BCS conference.  Now, if the money was given to just the conference that make a BCS game, that would be more fair.

While the putrid amount of money that is being handed out to non-BCS conferences is larger than before, the difference in money is a lot more then it used to be before the BCS was formed.  The BCS leagues keep increasing revenue while the non-BCS get a spike only when they get a team in the big-money bowls.

My rebuttals do make sense, and they are not just stuff flung against the wall in hopes that they stick.  The MWC had no choice but to sign Goliath's contract because, in the end, money is what talks, and if the MWC and the WAC bailed, they would be left to dry.


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