Posted by Adam Jacobi
Here's the Inside College Football crew discussing which of the BCS components is least credible. It's a little too constrained by brevity for my tastes, but I'm glad there's a discussion being framed around the demerits of the system. That said, I'm generally of the opinion that since all three components have grave issues of integrity, arguing about what might be the worst of the three is sort of missing the point.
The Harris poll is not conducted openly like the AP poll, even at its most basic levels, and that's a major problem. The coaches poll, as I'm sure you're all tired of hearing from me by now, is a joke until the last week, and even then the coaches don't appreciate the scrutiny and would love to opt out of making their ballots public. But for as ill-informed as the polling is, at least the one poll that has the consequential heft to it is open, so at least we can see what makes up that component of the BCS rankings when it matters. That is the best thing I can say about any aspect of the BCS.
And as for the computers, the formulas should be made public and verifiable, period (currently, only the Colley algorithm is public). We shouldn't have to wait until a televised Sunday night BCS reveal to see what the computer rankings are; we ought to be able to figure them out for ourselves and ensure their accuracy. Otherwise, who's to say that a certain computer ranker wouldn't just game the stats and nudge a team a place or two -- just a little bit -- at some friendly AD's request? I'm sure they would all thunder that such a thing has never happened, but computer poll operator Kenneth Massey openly admits that it could for the right price. That's a pretty enormous red flag, no?
Now, the point Randy Cross makes at the end of the clip above, that the BCS usually gets the right two teams into the title game at the end of the year, is correct. That was the job it was created to perform -- to select the two best candidates to play in a national title game -- and by and large there aren't many complaints about its ability to do that. OK, forget what I said above, that's the best thing I can say about any aspect of the BCS.
The problem, however, lies in A: that it's still not a playoff, and B: the rankings are used for purposes other than selecting a national championship matchup. Specifically, they're used for the purposes of assigning at-large BCS bowl invites, which means they play a role in the allotment of BCS bowl prize money. So we've got a system that controls the disbursement of over $100 million dollars in total, every year, and the computers specifically are being run by processes operating under no official supervision. If that game hasn't been rigged, nobody in the NCAA is even trying. Is this not college football? Are we not ever operating in the gray areas when it comes to money and ethics? Heck, is this not America?
Seriously, we take minutes out of games to look at instant replay just to spot a ball, or to stare at whether a receiver's toe stayed in or out of bounds. We argue over minutiae on the field, and regulate the food given to recruits and athletes off it. And don't you dare give one of the kids money, because the NCAA can audit their bank accounts. But where millions of dollars and the highest-profile postseason bowls are concerned, the selection process is purportedly mathematical, but really just runs on a few people's word. That is utter insanity and a mockery of this great sport.