College Football: Dear BCS: Everyone hates you
By Jim Litke
Say you’re a college football fan who still can’t make up your mind. Then one day you discover your hair is on fire. When you pick up the phone, do you call:
a.) The nearest fire department; or
b.) your hairdresser?
If you chose b.), congratulations! The folks who run the Bowl Championship Series are dying to meet you.
Ever since hijacking college football’s postseason in 1992 by forming the Bowl Coalition, they’ve had a tough time making friends and influencing people. They’ve thrown money around, tweaked the rules a dozen times and twisted themselves into a stadium’s worth of pretzels trying to explain why the sport doesn’t need a playoff.
Yet almost two decades later, only one out of every 10 fans agrees ó and the number of coaches and players is only slightly higher.
The fact is there’s no good way to sell a bad idea. But that hasn’t stopped the BCS from trying. And trying. Even so, this latest scheme might be the most hare-brained ever.
First, they hired Ari Fleischer, the PR veteran who established his bona fides in damage control while trying to make George W. Bush look good. Next, armed with a Twitter account and Facebook page, the conference commissioners who run the cartel and the college presidents who enable them launched a charm offensive.
Early reports from the front were not encouraging. The Twitterati virtually carpet-bombed (at)insidethebcs. Even if you discard the over-the-top comments, there were so many stinging rebukes left that it was difficult to compile a list of the best. But here are excerpts from five personal favorites, collected on huffingtonpost.com:
“We hate you. Signed, Everyone.”
“We especially hate you. Signed: Utah.”
” … not getting enough venom via the traditional media?”
“Do they also send themselves hate mail?”
“You are like a black, ichorous boil on the sporting world that should be lanced with rusty nails.”
The Facebook page hasn’t fared much better. For starters, it threatened to undo the smartest decision the BCS had made since its inception: convincing Bill Hancock, one of the most-respected and best-liked administrators in college sports, to sign on last week as the first executive director and new face of the organization.
Instead of generating goodwill, as Hancock’s appointment did among the BCS’ legion of critics in the media, his foray into the social-networking world was greeted with catcalls of “stooge” and worse.
Fortunately, Hancock was his usual calm, collected self during a telephone conversation Tuesday. The personal attacks haven’t made a dent, because he never takes himself too seriously. On top of that, the conversations have become more civil with each passing day.
“We just thought it was time to take our place on the field, so the critics don’t have it all to themselves. We have a story to tell,” Hancock said, finally, “and we’re going to tell it.”
Good luck with that, since the narrative still has more holes than Notre Dame’s defense.
Fewer and fewer people buy the line about the regular season being a playoff, now that unbeatens from conferences both large (Auburn) and small (Utah) have been denied a chance to play for the increasingly mythical national championship. Almost no one believes, either, that a playoff would spell the end of the existing bowls, their pageants and traditions, let alone the junkets that players, coaches, their families and boosters demand as their due.
And even some BCS coaches (see: Paterno, Joe; and several others) refuse to mouth the party line about how a playoff would rob their kids of much-needed classroom time. They know that dozens of schools participating in the lower divisions that do stage playoffs would clobber their programs if the game was College Bowl instead of a college bowl game.
None of this is new, of course, and the people in charge of the BCS have tabled discussion of a playoff until the current TV contract runs out in 2014. In the meantime, they’ll continue praying that the TCUs and Boise States lose and fade away, along with the congressmen who keep threatening them with antitrust hearings every time they don’t.
Oh, and they’ll be regularly updating their Facebook page and Twitter account.
“People should not be afraid of their critics,” Fleischer said during a telephone interview later Tuesday. “Playoff advocates have had it easy up to now. They’re dealing in a hypothetical world.”
True enough ó if by “hypothetical” he means a world in which the national champion is determined on the playing field, as opposed to being anointed by a cartel that exists to control who doles out all those Benjamins every postseason generates, and to whom.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org.