1. Archive

BCS pays no mind to perfection

You would have to say, they looked perfect.

The way they played. The way they celebrated. The way they began a season with a grand ambition and finished with a flawless result.

They went unbeaten in the regular season, and then completed their run with a final victory in the Orange Bowl Tuesday night.

Nope, you can't beat perfection.

Unless you're talking about college football.

In which case perfection comes with no guarantee.

By now, you know the sideline at Pro Player Stadium was not the only place where a perfect season could be found. In Auburn, there's a group of players feeling pretty immaculate too. Ditto for some guys in Utah.

So welcome to college football, the place where perfection is not necessarily good enough.

There are some who might say this is not the time to nit-pick. That Oklahoma and USC provided us with entertaining theater at the Orange Bowl Tuesday night, and this should be a time reserved for the winners.

Okay, so what of the winners at Auburn?

Or Utah, for that matter?

You cannot congratulate one perfect team without feeling badly about the two other perfect teams.

You build suspense for an entire season. Your fans spend millions. Your players give their hearts and souls. Your programs wager their reputations.

All for this moment. All for this honor. When you get together and guess a champion.

Because, folks, that's all it is. An educated guess. Is the Orange Bowl champion better than the Sugar Bowl champion? Is the Sugar Bowl champion better than the Fiesta Bowl champion? Who knows?

You can argue it any way you like. Say one team came from a tougher conference. Say one team was more impressive in its victories. Say one team began the season on top and never stumbled.

It's a great debate, but debates are for before or after a game. They shouldn't be in place of the game.

It shouldn't matter what I think. It shouldn't matter what you think. No matter how many good points you or I can make for either side, we cannot swear which team is better. Not with any degree of certainty.

"This is going to happen again, most likely," USC coach Pete Carroll said before the Orange Bowl. "That's just the way it is. You can't do anything about it."

That's not altogether true. The NCAA could come up with a reasonable postseason plan if it was motivated enough.

But, frankly, it's hard to imagine that happening in the near future. If college officials weren't ashamed by the debacle of three unbeaten teams, they aren't likely to be embarrassed by anything else.

Think most fans aren't interested in a better system?

Consider the scene on the field before Tuesday night's game. Players, coaches and officials were being introduced as members of the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame. When the host got to former Southeastern Conference commissioner Roy Kramer, he introduced him as the architect of the BCS.

Nothing else was heard over the booing.

And these were fans whose teams were in the national championship game. Fans who had more reason than anyone to applaud the Bowl Championship Series.

Just imagine the fans in Auburn. Imagine coach Tommy Tuberville, who was forced to hit the campaign trail and lobby for votes in the AP poll.

"Maybe in Tommy's perspective, the system didn't work right for them," Carroll said. "They deserve to feel that."

There are other sports also decided by judges, but at least the athletes are competing with each other. At least they're in the same building.

Even if a judge decides a boxing match, you get to see them in the same ring. Even if a judge decides a gymnastics competition, you saw one routine followed by the other.

Only in college football do you play on different days, in different time zones and against different competition, and still try to figure out which team is better.

You can say they do it this way for the athletes. That's the latest excuse. The trendy, hey-we're-thinking-of-the-kids argument.

"A playoff would simplify things for everybody else," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "But it would complicate things for the athlete."

It's hard to buy the logic that student-athletes have too many demands on their time. Too much pressure in their lives. Too many worries to ask a handful of teams to play a handful of extra games.

Yeah? Then who decided to add conference championship games? And who decided to add preseason kickoff classics? And who is debating whether to expand the regular season from 11 games to 12?

University officials have no problem adding demands on the players when it comes to growing the athletic department's budget.

And these same officials are happy to continue with a bowl system that shuns smaller conferences and pumps cash into the larger leagues. A system that has multiple teams going to bowls to create the illusion of success.

Yes, the honchos are happy with the system the way it is.

It's not perfect, they say, but then what is?

Um, maybe Utah. And Auburn, too.