Gordon Gee should have kept quiet. By defending the BCS and current bowl system, the Ohio State president exposed all that’s wrong with college football and why it needs a playoff to determine a national champion.
The controversy began Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press when Gee explained the reason schools like Boise State and TCU have no right to sniff a national title game, even if those teams go undefeated.
“We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor,” he said, referring to the schedules of major conference programs.
“Well, I don’t know enough about the Xs and Os of college football,” continued Gee, who used to be the president at West Virginia, Colorado, Brown and Vanderbilt. “I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like murderer’s row every week for these schools. … I think until a university runs through that gantlet that there’s some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to (be) in the big ballgame.”
When was the last time Ohio State scheduled an away game against a team like Boise State or TCU on its schedule?
When was the last time any big-time college football program from Tuscaloosa or Norman or Baton Rouge scheduled a legitimate test on its nonconference schedule?
Auburn, the No. 2 team in country, played a home game against Louisiana-Monroe (a Sun Belt Conference school) on Oct. 2 and won 52-3. On Nov. 6, the Tigers welcomed Chattanooga (Southern) to town and won 62-24. No disrespect to Chattanooga or Louisiana-Monroe, but the Mocs and Warhawks, respectively, aren’t exactly the 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers and 1972 USC Trojans.
According to the AP, the University of Florida hasn’t played a regular-season game against a nonconference opponent from outside the Sunshine State since 1991.
And Ohio State? Three of the Buckeyes’ four nonconference opponents this season — Marshall, Ohio and Eastern Michigan — were beaten by a combined score of 161-34. Sounds like a regular climb up Kilimanjaro.
But at this point, there’s no incentive for major college programs to schedule tough nonconference opponents. Teams from the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC have everything to lose, and nothing to gain. One loss could take them out of contention for a BCS bowl. So they don’t risk putting a Boise State or TCU on their schedule. The Ohio States, Alabamas and Oklahomas of the world can get to the national title game without having to play Boise State or TCU.
The opposite isn’t true for Boise State or TCU.
That’s why college football has an unfair system, and that’s why having a college playoff would level the playing field. It also would take all the guesswork out of who the national champion is.
Sports Illustrated had a great idea for how to format the postseason tournament. Have 16 teams (11 conference champions, five at-large teams) play 15 games over four weeks. The last team standing is NCAA king.
Boise State gets a chance to face Oregon. TCU has an opportunity to square off with Auburn. And the best team wins the national championship on the field. Not as the result of some coaches’ votes or a computer.
True sports fans want a college football playoff. Yet every January, we are left to wonder if the team that wins the BCS championship game is really No. 1. Mystery is good for Sherlock Holmes. It’s terrible for college football.
Unfortunately, as SI pointed out, we are unlikely to see a playoff in college football unless the U.S. Justice Department steps in and files an antitrust suit. The power brokers like the bowl system just the way it is because they profit from it, while most of the 120 I-A football schools lose money. Austin Murphy and Dan Wetzel break down exactly how much.
A college football playoff would lead to more money for schools and less money in the pockets of power brokers. It also would crown a true national champion and give the people what they want.
It makes perfect sense.
So for Gee — or anyone else — to say the current bowl system in college works and a postseason tournament would be bad for the game is an insult to the intelligence to anyone who has been paying attention to college football since 1998, the year the BCS system was put in place.
The whole debate is like the famous Abraham Lincoln quote: “Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Until Gee and other I-A school presidents wise up, it will be big business as usual in college football for a select few. And every mid-tier school will be forced to suffer the consequences.