A friend once told me that on his first day of French class, one of his classmates was not participating in the lesson. Rather, this particular classmate was drawing. What the classmate was drawing is not relevant, but it was a solid example of someone being there, but not being there. This phenomenon is referred to in business as presenteeism, generally used when someone is sick but at work anyway; expanded to cover anyone present in a situation physically but not mentally. In that, and after I sent out a slew of party invites through Evite (since the USPS is a bit antiquated in that regard), did anyone actually show up to my watching party for the BCS National Championship? No, but had anyone appeared at my door chances are they wouldn’t be watching the game anyway, because none of us can stand Florida State. At least, I had some Cape Cod chips.
Disclaimer: Ignite Agency compensated me to talk about Cape Cod Chips and unknowingly rant about the BCS.
The BCS National Championship game between Florida State and Auburn is the end of an era. The BCS as we know it, the flawed computer system that appears to reward greatness by wins/losses in direct proportion to recruiting and financial power, is going away. The FBS division (made more sense when it was just division 1A) will be instituting a new system next year which will be just as arbitrary. While there will be a playoff element, the question as to whom gets into those playoffs will remain a debatable element. For instance, with the same record, why wasn’t UCF given a shot at a national title rather than Auburn? UCF was 8-0 in conference, Auburn 7-1. Yet, the argument is that UCF “doesn’t play anyone”, which is sort of true in a sense. Could UCF beat a team that plays at such a high level as Florida State? Not a chance. FSU has depth and recruiting power that UCF could only dream of. Plus, advertisers, sponsors and boosters would never support such a game. There are a dozen teams, all with lower win/loss records, that would be offered a shot at a national championship before a team such as UCF. Replacing the BCS isn’t going to change this, or is it?
While all the details of the upcoming playoff system aren’t exactly clear at this moment, this much is true — no longer will the national champion be decided between the top two ranked teams. At least, not incidentally. Though, as I sat down to watch the game with my awesome sandwich and Cape Cod Cheddar & Sour Cream chips, my 13yr old (an avid football fan) pondered once again why Ohio State wasn’t in the national championship. Well, they lost. But so did Auburn he replied. But Auburn won the SEC. So what? Good point. A loss is a loss right, in the way the BCS is calculated at least. There are six factors that go into calculating the BCS, and I don’t think that winning the division is one of them. Yet, for all the troubles of the BCS, at least the computer didn’t care. Humans care and are influenced, and if you don’t think the upcoming slate of humans — lacking anyone with a background in quantitative analysis — will be easily influenced by outside factors you are out of your mind.
Scroll down to the bottom of this article and you will see that the BCS championship is a pretty exclusive club that is not likely to change. The BCS is a wrapping that college football never needed. With constant problems with graduation rates of athletes (something we rarely hear about) and controversy over booster money and paying players, college football has become almost as complex a business as the NFL. This is a problem, because these are kids playing a sport. But, as I munch on these Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper Cape Cod chips, I realize I don’t really care as long as I get good football games out of it, you know, from an entertainment perspective.
One of the things I seriously geek out about is football and statistics. The BCS, when introduced back in the late 1990s, was a stat geek dream sequence. Mixing sport and complex algorithms just made sense. But then they got rid of the impact of strength of schedule and factored in the human factor and coaches and media polls. This muddied the system, and like Pete Rose not getting into the baseball hall of fame, created a system that was once again forced to bend to the will of a few powerful people. People who care less about the game and more about the money involved. For several years Boise State ran undefeated, yet didn’t get a shot at the national title. They played against TCU in 2010 in the Fiesta Bowl, and won. Could they have beaten Alabama that year? That year, Texas, Alabama, TCU, Boise State and Cincinnati all ran undefeated. With their speedy high powered offense, I think they would have had a shot at Alabama. Regardless, there is no system that would allow this type of match-up even if Boise State and Alabama were the sole undefeated teams that year.
This is where I’m hopeful that a playoff system will give a team like Boise State a chance to play for the national title. A team like Houston (who generally dominates their division) or UCF. These smaller conference teams in the FBS that would otherwise never get a shot. Yet, I have this feeling that no matter what (and assuming a 16 team playoff selection) these schools will still be left out in favor of larger programs with one or two losses. It is possible, because of the human factor in deciding strength of schedule, that we’ll easily see eight of those 16 teams be from the SEC, perceived as having the toughest conference. That’s like saying a 10th grader saying 9th grade is harder than 8th grade. 8th grade is hard for the 8th graders. The Big Ten is just as competitive in conference as the SEC. Same goes for every other conference. Sure, there are questions of depth when you get to Conference USA or WAC teams, but so what? Yet, all these factors roll into the human decision when it comes to picking playoff teams. While I’m not defending the BCS and the controversy it tended to create, rather I implore those minds behind creating a college football playoff system to be careful in how they are selecting teams. Stats are important here, and I fear they will ignored in favor of popularity and perception.
Which brings me back to presenteeism. Sure, we’ll have a playoff system, but will we really have a playoff system or just some skeletal structure filled by the whims of easily influenced humans? So as I watched Florida State battle Auburn Monday night at my lame party, ate my awesome sandwiches and drank Mountain Dew I wondered if any team would have stood a chance against either of these teams. Certainly not my Buckeyes, certainly not Boise State in 2010, not UCF this year and not Alabama. Then again, just like the NFL, the phrase “any given Sunday” holds true in college football. I mean, save for cupcake games and lopsided match-ups. In the end, I’m not going to miss the BCS nor am I going to be quick to embrace a new playoff system. We took the BCS as gospel too quickly and regretted it; let’s not make that mistake with a new system. They have promised transparency; let’s see if they deliver. What do you think? Are you going to miss the BCS?