SportsProf

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Thursday, July 15, 2004

The BCS Changes Its Formula

SportsProf couldn't help but think of Gomer Pyle, that goofy misfit of a private first class who used to bug the heck out of Sergeant Carter, and whose trademark line was "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise." Well, golly, Sergeant Carter, after there was so much controversy as to how USC was left out of last year's BCS championship game, the BCS up and changed its formula.

And it's very interesting how they went about it.

One might argue that the BCS had to re-visit its formula when the new-and-improved New York Times had a born-again moment with journalistic ethics and (rightly) determined that it should not have its poll be part of the BCS formula because then how could it cover BCS teams objectively since it was playing a part of the BCS (controversy)? So, the Times yanked its poll from the BCS. Not that the Times doesn't have bigger issues to address, and most haven't considered the Times to be at the forefront of sports journalism, at least since Red Smith passed away in the winter of 1982. But in the age of journalistic self-examination in NYC, the Times did the right thing, perhaps even for the right reason (although another right reason would be to remove itself from the silliness of the BCS formula).

But re-visit the BCS formula the BCS did, and, interestingly enough, ESPN reports (and I hope the link works), that, in essence, the BCS has reduced its reliance on computers in creating its new formula. In addition, it appears that they went back in time to test the new formula, with the result that had it been in play last year, LSU would have played USC for the national title, and not Oklahoma, and there wouldn't have been a split national championship. The BCS Committee did this for the 2000 season as well, where Miami (I think it was Miami) would have played Oregon instead of Nebraska, whom Colorado had pummeled 62-36 late in the season. So, at least the BCS Lords can claim gleefully that the BCS formula works -- at least in retrospect.

Revisionist history? Perhaps. A formula guaranteed to work? Definitely not. SportsProf is certain that some scenario will come up in the next couple of years that will make people dislike this formula too.

It's funny that the people in charge of running the games are playing games with the games themselves, still fiddling with a formula that the Absent-Minded Professor would have put in the compost heap a long time ago. The answer, of course, is quite simple: let's have a post-season tournament. No one complains about the horrors wrought on scholar-athletes because of the College World Series or the NCAA Basketball Tournaments. No one complains about the rigors of the Division I-AA, II and III football post-season tournaments.

It's pretty simple, actually. The solution is right there, right in front of the BCS, plain for everyone to see. The Lords of the BCS should figure out a way to have a short enough season (no more than 11 games) and then a meaningful post-season playoff. Even in an age where computers are doing more and more things, the more all-American thing to do is have a playoff. Imagine the suspense and the audience a national title game would generate. Huge theater. Great drama.

After all, championships are supposed to be won on the field.

And not anywhere else.

4 Comments:

Blogger Ben Fulton said...

I wonder if they went back and tested against, say, every championship in the 90's? It's easy to design a formula that returns the correct results if you're only testing a couple of data sets.

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