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Nick Holt, the BCS and the Pac-10
BCS: The Bailout Compensation Scheme
Richard Linde, 5 January 2009

Recent rumors about the vacant defensive coordinator's position at the University of Washington have centered around Nick Holt, who is USC's defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.

According to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News, as reported by Molly Yanity of the Seattle P-I, "Holt says nothing's going on since he initially said no three weeks ago."

But according to Yanity today, Holt is still in the running.

Why, on earth, would a guy like Nick Holt want Washington's D/C job, knowing that it could be a dead-end position leading to nowhere? Apparently, Holt would have total control over the defense at UW, unlike his current role at USC, where evidently he's playing second fiddle to Pete Carroll, who is calling the shots on game day.

Holt's and Carroll's defense at USC is the best in the nation, capable of embarrassing any of the nationís highly-touted teams on any field, given the chance to play them.  

That wonít happen, however, because of the bias built into the BCS formula. Call it the Bailout Cash Scheme or the Bailout Compensation Scheme.

BCS football is all about the money, as if you didn't know. Most university athletics programs are starved for cash because of increasing costs involved in fielding athletics teams and the cost of supporting non-revenue athletics programs, such as Title IX. The Bowl Championship Series is one way of compensating for the shortfall in money. There is nothing wrong with that, except for a problem with the semantics of the acronym.

The BCS is not designed to produce a national champion in football; though, in some people's minds, it deigns to do so.

If the system doesn't produce a national champion or even produce a BCS champion that everyone can agree on, does the BCS distribute its proceeds fairly among the six participating power conferences? That's the real question and the whole purpose of the scheme.

Unfortunately, the BCS formula is controlled by a block of voters that we westerners call the eastern mafia. The mafia (i.e., the majority of the voters) seemingly champion the cause of three major conferences: the SEC, Big Ten, and Big 12. The voters know that big-money bowls buy better facilities and, as a consequence, the ultra-modern facilities attract better athletes. More money translating into better facilities means a huge recruiting advantage, kind of like Notre Dameís sweetheart deal with NBC and the BCS.

The system, where won/lost records are paramount, encourages teams to schedule out-of-conference patsies at home and not participate in a true-round-robin conference schedule. For example, the eleven teams in the Big Ten play eight conference games, leaving plenty of room to schedule schlocks and pad one's record. On the other hand, each team in the Pac-10 plays nine conference games. USC, which is annually targeted by the other conference members, has proven that it is impossible play a full conference schedule and go unbeaten with a target on your back.

This season, the eastern mafia posited the canard that USC should not be given credit for playing in a "weak" conference, the Pac-10,  and, thusly, should be voted down in the polls after it lost to Oregon State in its fourth game. USC ended up fifth in the BCS poll, even though it is clearly the nation's best team in most experts' opinions. USC had the lowest computer ranking of the seven top teams.

The money earned from playing in the BCS bowls is shared among the universities belonging to each participating conference.

In the past three years, there have been fifteen BCS bowl games, five bowl games played per year, each of which has been played in the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl and the bowl hosting the national championship game. During that time, the SEC and Big 10 conferences have each placed six teams in the fifteen bowls, two each per year, and Big 12 teams have participated in five of the fifteen possible bowls. Pac-10 teams have been relegated to just three Rose Bowls.

Arguably the Pac-10 is the strongest football conference in the nation; this year the conference won all five of its bowl games. Since the inception of the BCS and as of this date, the Pac-10 has the highest-winning percentage of any of the six BCS conferences participating in BCS bowl games.

College football doesnít need a playoff system; rather it needs someone to clean up the BCS formula, to even the playing field so that teams from the Pac-10 and ACC, for example, have a chance to send two teams to the five BCS bowls, where the payoffs are in the $23 million range. Two thirds of the BCS formula is determined by the human factor, where biases and subjectivity run rampant. The other third is determined by taking four of the six computer polls, where the high and low numbers are tossed out.

Of the ten teams that play in the five BCS bowls, six are chosen from the six BCS conferences (the ACC, the Big East, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the SEC and the Pac-10), along with four at large births.

According to an article in the New York Times, "This season, the first team in each conference to qualify receives $18 million ó win, lose or draw ó and that money is distributed in that teamís conference. If a second team from a conference qualifies, the conference shares an additional $4.5 million."

Notre Dame receives an automatic $1.3 million reward whether if plays in a BCS bowl or not.

Of the 119 teams in FBS football, only 66 are automatically eligible to play for the BCS championship. Is that fair to most of the other teams which are excluded from the competition? Answer: Yes.

Remember the 66 eligible teams are playing for the BCS championship, not the national championship. It is an agreement among six conferences that has nothing to do with picking an NCAA-sanctioned national champion.  Calling the BCS champion a national champion is where all the fuzzy thinking revolves and confusion arises.

I don't have any problem with calling the BCS champion a mythical national champion, as long as the word mythical is used.

Determining a real national champion in college football is altogether another topic and would involve a complex playoff system.

 

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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