Gee’s bluster blows holes in BCS

Somewhere deep inside the confused ramblings of Ohio State president Gordon Gee is a reasonable debate about the Bowl Championship Series. It’s fair to argue whether an unbeaten team such as Boise State or TCU is more deserving of a bid to the BCS title game than a one-loss team from a stronger conference.

Gordon Gee's argument against Boise State and TCU actually highlights the major flaws of the BCS.
(Terry Gilliam / AP)

I’m personally a believer that you have to look at a team’s full resume, not just the shiny win-loss record. It’s no fairer to automatically put Boise State in the title game than it is anyone else. A one-loss team may, indeed, be the better choice. We’ll see at the end of the season.

“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,” Gee, formerly of Vanderbilt, said. “We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day.

“So I think until a university runs through that gauntlet that there’s some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to [be] in the big ballgame.”

Here’s the problem: Gee clearly has no idea what he is arguing about, or for, let alone how the BCS formula works, why it exists or how a playoff could actually operate.

His comments don’t contain the logic of reality (Boise State would accept a Big Ten membership in 0.001 seconds and TCU is now begging for a game with the Buckeyes) and are ignorant of Ohio State’s actual strength of schedule (closer to the Little Sisters of the Poor than Gee realizes).

His militant opposition to settling the sports championship on the field of play isn’t based on any obvious knowledge of anything. It just exists. Since Gordon Gee loves being in the media and couldn’t resist causing a fire storm nationally, he spoke out anyway.

The funny thing is that his blind swings at defending the maligned system actually tear it down.

Gee may think he’s arguing for the BCS, but he’s actually arguing against it.

Then there is this, Gee couldn’t have given a better Thanksgiving gift to the lawyers at Arent Fox, the Washington law firm that is trying to spur a Justice Department investigation into the BCS on anti-trust grounds.

If you’re trying to prove the six major conferences systematically exclude the others then getting the Ohio State president to essentially admit they should be systematically excluded is no small development.

“The BCS has finally found someone to stand up and defend the indefensible and Gordon Gee proved it – he not just proved that it’s indefensible but he did so with facts that are simply wrong,” Boise State president Bob Kustra shot back through the Idaho Statesman.

“If anything, ridiculous and inaccurate presentations like this from a major university president will go further to make our case.”

So if there is a case brought and the BCS public relations people start complaining about how it’s a waste of taxpayer money, just remember it’s their own bow-tied hero who helped advance it.

More telling though were the scope of Gee’s comments and his supporting arguments for why he loves the BCS.

Boise State president Bob Kustra wasted little time firing back at Gee.
(Michael S. Green / AP)

They actually argue against the BCS.

If Gee thinks it’s ridiculous for a 12-0 WAC team to get into the title game then he ought to be opposed to the BCS and its convoluted formula, not in favor of it. It’s Gee’s own beloved BCS (“a mixed-up mystery,” he calls it) that is one upset of Oregon (and perhaps Auburn) from doing exactly what Gee finds so horrible.

So why would he support such a formula?

What he’s arguing is that an arbitrary system based on mass opinion and computer formulas that are not mathematically sound (per actual mathematicians) isn’t a good way to select the two teams that should play for the title. There needs to be better perspective and, if he carries the thought out, access so that teams that are forced to play more difficult schedules aren’t adversely punished for losing a single game (like a night game at Camp Randall for instance).

What he’s arguing is that the BCS is bunk.

This isn’t really surprising. His comments were poorly thought out, ill-timed and unnecessary, but Gee isn’t stupid. He’s a learned, intelligent man. His base sense of logic tells him what almost everyone long ago realized – the BCS is an absurd system. He just wasn’t clever or prepared enough to avoid tacitly admitting it.

In truth, the BCS isn’t about crowning a champion in college football, it was just a tool created so private bowl games could continue to operate (and profit handsomely from) college football’s postseason.

By further entrenching themselves as the postseason operators, bowls continue to take hundreds of millions annually from the pockets of actual colleges. This is why no other sport would allow such a set up. What business outsources its most important and profitable product?

The BCS is about protecting the profits of bowl games and nothing else. It’s about money, money and only money. It’s why the BCS employs PR people, Washington lobbyists and multiple law firms to maintain the status quo and create water muddying arguments.

If you think otherwise, then stop reading. You’re too naive to save.

In truth, the Big Ten should be firmly in favor of a playoff, this year more than any other. It may finish the season with three 11-1 teams, all ranked in the top 10, yet on the outside of the national title chase.

About the authors

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Dan Wetzel and Jeff Passan write for Yahoo! Sports, the most-read sports site on the Web. Josh Peter, a former Yahoo! Sports reporter, is a freelance writer. Wetzel has coauthored four books, including the New York Times bestseller “Resilience: Faith, Focus, Triumph” with Alonzo Mourning, and lives in Michigan. Peter is an award-winning investigative journalist who has earned national attention for his reporting on the Bowl Championship Series. In 2005, he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for a series on race and high school football in the South. He lives in Los Angeles. Passan has won multiple Associated Press Sports Editors awards and lives in Kansas.

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It’s not because an 11-1 Big Ten record isn’t good enough. Most years it is. It is because there are unbeaten teams that played a schedule that most people in the Big Ten believe is inferior to ones Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State played.

The BCS isn’t doing the Big Ten any favors. This may be a reason why Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel this month predicted on the “Dan Patrick Show” that there’d be a playoff within five years. Ohio State’s BCS road gets only tougher next year with the creation of the Big Ten title game.

Consider this year’s Buckeyes. Their only loss was in a night game at Wisconsin – taking on an environment and level of opponent that Oregon, Boise and TCU didn’t.

If there was a playoff, Ohio State would still be battling for a berth, making its game against Michigan actually mean even more than normal. That’s why, television people insist, the broadcast ratings and overall interest in the regular season would soar with a playoff.

Depending on the playoff structure, the Buckeyes could be on the verge of securing a first-round home game – does Alabama in the Horseshoe interest anyone? That would deliver more money not just for Ohio State (far more than a BCS bowl game) but the overall Columbus economy. It would expand the opportunities for not just Buckeye players, but all of the Big Ten. It would level the playing field by holding games in the North.

Instead Gordon Gee argues against the base interests of his university and community. Not with any actual facts, mind you, but with general feelings, shallow reasoning and a strange preference for mixed up mysteries.

When your argument is based on such things, it’s little surprise it unravels. So he wound up shredding the logic the BCS formula claims to be built on and all but inviting a federal inquiry.

He’s a smart man speaking foolishly. Bizarre? Yes. Defending the indefensible tends to cause such behavior.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Nov 24, 2010