Good article from The Weekly Standard

Submitted by Section 1 on February 8th, 2010 at 1:33 PM

This is some good writing, on the state of College Football, the BCS and current Congressional efforts to screw it all up.

The Weekly Standard is a bedrock conservative political magazine. But in this article, the author make no bones about going after Orrin Hatch.

Well-written, and a point of view that doesn't always get air-time; that this is "the/a Golden Age for college football..."


Section 1

February 8th, 2010 at 1:48 PM ^

on the subject of college football, I tried to find the article, I think it was from the Wall Street Journal, positing the theory that for all of its commercialism, the NFL is one of the purest socialist organizations in the world, and that college football is more 'free market' than the NFL could ever imagine.

There is this one (one of many on a similar theme) but it wasn't the college football comparison that I was looking for:…

The NFL -- franchises, salary caps, revenue sharing, draft of incoming players, strict league control over all merchandising, overarching rules as to even things like which coaches to interview per 'the Rooney Rule,' etc.

College football -- unrestricted budgets, individual merchandising deals, competitive leagues with competing tv contracts, no "draft" of incoming players, etc.


February 8th, 2010 at 4:21 PM ^

I don't think the NFL is socialist. But you shouldn't think of the NFL as 32 separate businesses in competition, either. There's a reason they're called "franchises." That's what their business model is: one corporation with 32 franchises. Individual NFL franchises can't expand; you can't have two Indianapolis Colts teams (unless human cloning is legalized). But the league can add new franchises. The corporation as a whole is plenty capitalist, with its many licensing agreements.


February 8th, 2010 at 2:04 PM ^

...Mr. Anderson is going to think that the BCS is awesome; he has a vested interest in it's success (as he created a ranking used in the formula). That said, I agree that politicians should not be involved in this, particularly with all the other issues facing our nation. I think a playoff would be amazing, and that puts me with about half of all college football fans. The other half prefer the BCS. As long as ratings are good and there is not an overwhelming majority either way, change is unlikely. I think the "ratings are good" element is the most important one.


February 8th, 2010 at 2:58 PM ^

Really? I don't understand this viewpoint at all. I don't have strong feelings on the BCS either way. I don't think it is terrible and it often creates good games. I think a playoff could be good if implemented well (e.g. Brian's proposal).

So I can see people's points on both sides of the BCS vs playoff argument. At the same time, I don't see what there is to like in the old system over the BCS?


February 8th, 2010 at 3:10 PM ^

I actually think that there's some merit there for numerous reasons.

1. There's much less reason for coaches to become lobbyists (screw you Urban Meyer, screw you).
2. Teams have more incentive to schedule big non-conference games because it doesn't affect bowl placement that much and it does provide additional revenue.
3. Rivalry games are never considered less important than bowl games for most teams.
4. We can go back to ignoring the coaches' poll.
5. There was less money in collegiate sports. Some people think this is good on the basis that the persistent money grabbing by the NCAA has been destroying everything good about collegiate athletics. I'm more sympathetic towards this view than I used to be now that it appears that we may expand to a 96-team tournament.
6. People like traditions like the Rose Bowl matching the Big Ten and Pac 10 champions every year.

That said, I don't really want to go back to the old system, as fighting for national championships is worthwhile in my opinion.

MI Expat NY

February 8th, 2010 at 4:10 PM ^

The simple argument is that the BCS grants a shroud of legitimacy to what is not a legitimate way of determining a champion.

Many would like to maintain the historical importance of the regular season while at the same time embracing the fact that it is impossible to name the one or two best teams on a yearly basis after only 13 games. Thus national championships remain mythical.

I'm not sure there are a ton of people that would prefer this to a playoff, but there's a fair number, including myself, that would prefer a return to the old system until a real playoff is instituted.


February 8th, 2010 at 2:22 PM ^

Orrin Hatch is just whoring for votes, I can't see Congress messing with college football. They blustered about baseball a bit and did nothing, despite the fact that baseball was so obviously fucked up on the steroids issue. Even if he was serious all the major conference senators would put him back in his place soon enough.


February 8th, 2010 at 2:39 PM ^

1. Orrin Hatch has one of the (if not the) safest Senate seats in the country. He doesn't have to worry about getting a few more votes.

2. Orrin Hatch has virtually no shot at becoming president, due to his age and lack of support among the broader base of the Republican party. Therefore, he's likely to remain a Senator until he retires.

I'm pretty sure that Hatch is doing this for two reasons. The first is that he is annoyed that nobody from the Mountain West has been able to make the national championship game even by going undefeated with a tough schedule. The second is that he wants to feel important and good about himself. But whoring for votes he is not.


February 8th, 2010 at 2:30 PM ^

I'm just going to list my problems with this article:

1. Anderson says that any playoff will be structured in a manner that will still have problems including every deserving team. This is the same thing as saying that since a playoff is only less unfair than the BCS, we should stick with the BCS.

2. Anderson argues that Utah has no reasonable expectation to have had a shot at the title game in '08 because their coach voted them #5 in the country. Two things: a) in an eight team playoff (the most likely format of a playoff) Utah would have a shot; b) why shouldn't Utah be mad after going undefeated and beating two teams in the final top 10 and still not getting a shot at the national championship.

3. Anderson argues that the BCS has afforded more small schools a chance at a big bowl game. There are two huge problems with this. The first is that until quite recently, the main goal of any team was to win their conference; bowl games were rewards and national championships were secondary concerns to the regular season. The second is that the argument states that since the BCS was an improvement over the previous system, we shouldn't try to come up with a better one.

4. Anderson argues that bowl games are reminiscent of Toqueville's "civil associations". This may be a valid description of some smaller bowl games and even the Rose Bowl, but there's no way that you could call the Capital One Bowl or the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl a civil association run by the community. The BCS is a national organization that makes a ton of money. It is not a community organization debating local issues. To suggest the latter is idiotic in the extreme.

5. Anderson cites Stewart Mandel and Lou Holtz as supporters of his view. Mandel's anti-playoff views are idiotic if you actually read them (he says that allowing a playoff could lead to a situation similar to the Arizona Cardinals making the Super Bowl, because 12th/30 apparently equals 8th/120). I don't think I even need to address why Holtz shouldn't be taken seriously.

6. He assumes that the Bowl system will disappear if a playoff is introduced. This is almost certainly not true.

7. He addresses the Rose Bowl as a golden example of everything that is good about the BCS. He fails to note that the Rose Bowl consistently ignores the wishes of the BCS by picking Big Ten and Pac 10 teams over arguably more deserving teams in other conferences for the sake of tradition. What he admires about the Rose Bowl occurs largely in spite of the BCS, rather than because of it.

I could go on, but I think I've made my point. And the sad thing is, I agree that the federal government should leave this alone because they have more important things to do.


February 8th, 2010 at 4:03 PM ^

one thing that is not sensible, in fact is idiotic and sad, and that there is no legitimate argument for, is having Congress address this issue. It would be a travesty and mockery if they did, in favor of either side. Good points made Seth, I could debate some, but can't debate your last.


February 8th, 2010 at 4:16 PM ^

Your analysis of the article is right on, great job.

There are three additional points where I think the article fails:

- With the exception of the "same shot" argument I'll address in a second, most of his (poorly made) arguments focus on the fact that playoffs aren't better so government shouldn't look at the BCS, without really touching on the legal issues at all--if the BCS is illegal (and I think there's a good argument being made that it is), we should change the law (a la baseball's exemption) or we should force a change in the BCS; either way, this is the government's responsibility.

- Did he really argue that there "has been remarkably little controversy over the national title game selections since the BCS standings were streamlined after the 2003-04 season"? Michigan/Florida obviously was controversial and, although there wasn't a lot of controversy, I think a lot of people felt that Utah, BYU, and TCU/Cinci should have had opportunities at the championship during this period even though we all agreed that they weren't the two teams with the largest claim on that opportunity. And is he trying to argue that the "streamlining" deserves the credit? Nothing would have solved the USC/LSU/Oklahoma issue without controversy except having more than 2 teams in the playoff.

- He argues that small conference (that is, non-BCS conference) teams have "the same shot" that major-conference teams have at making it to the National Championship game. It's technically true that the requirements (being one of the top two teams) don't explicitly put small conferences at a disadvantage but I think it's pretty obvious that the effect of the system, intentional or not, is a significant disadvantage for the small conferences. There's basically no way they make the championship game without every BCS conference team losing to make room for them--if Michigan were to win every game next season, despite the fact that we're not getting much national respect now, we'd probably go to the MNC game, the same can definitely not be said for a non-BCS conference team, even one who is highly regarded. His argument that TCU almost made it this year is almost proving Hatch's point--it really demonstrates how things have to align perfectly for a small-conference team to have a shot (this year was the closest that's ever come and it still didn't happen), almost no matter how good the small conference team is.


February 8th, 2010 at 4:50 PM ^

I agree with most of your and Seth's view, but I do agree with the article on the controversy point. I have long felt that if you turned off ESPN and didn't read the teams that were not chosen' blogs, that the idea of "controversy" is way overblown. I have many friends (obviously not scientific, but I've had others agree with me on this point) that are fanatic college football fans, and the amount of time they've ever spent at any gathering, in person or virtual, arguing over the nature of the BCS, is almost non-existent. There is far more anger in the MSM and blogosphere than in bars and living rooms on this issue IMO.


February 8th, 2010 at 3:10 PM ^

No one has yet to show how a multiple game playoff will work for fans. What fan base will be able to travel to multiple locations across the country on multiple weekends until this so called playoff system plays out? I can see the last 2 teams standing playing in front of half empty stadiums because their fan bases can't afford 3 or 4 straight out of town weekend trips, airfare, hotels and tickets.


February 8th, 2010 at 3:13 PM ^

You are saying that the national championship game won't draw fans...

Virtually every fanbase can travel for a national championship game. Furthermore, they can just give the higher seeded team a home game in the early rounds. Problem solved.


February 8th, 2010 at 4:31 PM ^

I understand the thinking that a playoff system makes sense in regards to playing your way to a championship but it just isn't fan friendly. Sounds easy but..... Currently fans have at least a month to make plans to travel to the current bowl games and those that do go make it a vacation. With a playoff you'll have one week between games and if you do make it to the play in games and subsequently the NC game you'll have one week to make arrangements. Anyone with a job knows the problems that this will cause.

Other issues are how do payoffs for each team/conference work? What happens to the current bowls? In the end it comes down to money and no one has shown a viable financial plan that brings in the money that the current bowl games do. With teams hosting games based on the seeding you'll have less positive economic impact on host bowl communities like you do with the current bowl system where both teams fan bases travel.

Maybe it can all be worked out and it's ok if some teams play 15 or 16 games to determine the NC but the devils in the details.


February 8th, 2010 at 6:21 PM ^

Scrounging up fans to travel to the national championship game with a week to plan is doable, as fans will always be willing to travel to see their team play for the national championship. However, since that could easily be a concern, all one has to do is make the championship game two weeks after the semifinals. Furthermore, as far as the student athlete argument works, you aren't really extending the season that much. Assuming that you start the playoffs in mid-December (say two weeks after the conference championship week) you can easily fit two rounds in before January, leaving a two week break so that the championship game would be in the second week of January, a one week extension of the season.

Also, as far as designing the rules for the playoff bracket goes, that would be rather tricky. In fact, I wouldn't want to implement a system until the Big Ten decides on whether to expand or not, because the potential Big Ten expansion could cause a massive conference realignment. However, based on the current conferences, I would award bids thusly:

Autobids: Big Ten Champion, SEC Champion, Big 12 Champion, Pac 10 Champion, ACC champion, and the top ranked team not from one of these conferences provided they are in the top 10 (room for debate here exists). The remaining bids will be awarded to the next highest ranked teams according to a combination of polls consisting of the AP (50%) and a set of computer polls not including Billingsley (50%). The first round games would be home games and the semifinals and final would include the Rose Bowl and two other bowls (Cotton and Sugar?...or Pizza Pizza...or play every game at Lambeau Field for the sole purpose of watching SEC players who are afraid of the snow freeze...). Making the playoffs give a payout to each conference equivalent to whatever the BCS would give for a single bid. Additional teams from a single conference make the same amount as an additional BCS team from a single conference. Finally, some type of monetary amount could be awarded to conferences whose teams advance.

Also, don't get rid of the other bowls. There is no reason to dispose of the Capital One Bowl just because the BCS has been reorganized into a playoff. This way, everyone still gets the regular bowl payouts, plus the revenue generated by a playoff system (which will incorporate three bowls).


February 8th, 2010 at 5:12 PM ^

seems so easy to implement and do, and better than what we have now, that I don't understand an objection. Here goes:

--return to the four major bowls, with one exception--make sure the 8 teams that are in those 4 games are the 6 BCS conference champs, one champ from a non-BCS conference, and one at large team (or no at large if you want another non-BCS conference champ)

--play those four games (Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta) on Jan. 1. All other bowls remain the same.

--the 4 winners play the following week. 2 advance.

--The Championship game is the week before the Super Bowl.

I don't know, seems problem solved to me.