NEW ORLEANS – The words directly under the crystal football read "The Coaches' Trophy," as if even the BCS is a bit ashamed at the entire spectacle.
They brought it out Sunday morning, stood Alabama's Nick Saban and LSU's Les Miles (and a bunch of corporate folks) around it and let a throng of photographers snap a million pictures of the scene. It was a promotional sign of what's at stake Monday when the two teams face off for the official national championship of college football.
Well, sort of. And that's part of the issue here.
The NCAA crowns champions in 88 sports, but not its most popular one – the top level of football. Instead, the trophy represents that Tuesday the coaches who vote in their poll are obligated to place the winner in the No. 1 spot.
It's like a North Korean election – presenting the winner before the ballots are cast.
As such, the old controversy over a split national title has emerged again this season. A number of voters in The Associated Press poll, which has a great deal of tradition but no official stature, are claiming that Alabama isn't assured anything with a victory Monday.
[Forde: Q&A with SEC commissioner Mike Slive]
Some say they'll vote for LSU (currently 13-0) regardless of Monday's results. The Tigers' "body of work," which includes a victory in Tuscaloosa and decisive wins over Oregon and West Virginia, would be more impressive than Alabama's. Others are saying they'll consider the case of 13-1 Oklahoma State if it's between the Cowboys and the one-loss Crimson Tide.
It's a bunch of nonsense.
AP voters are obligated to no one and should do as they please. The rest of the country should ask the following question, though: Why would anyone put any value on a media poll? Who cares what the AP poll says?
And while Oklahoma State players, coaches and fans are understandably frustrated with the BCS system that chose one-loss Alabama over them, that also is irrelevant.
The BCS is the system of determining a champion that college football has agreed to follow. At the beginning of the season, everyone knew the rules. Everyone knew how it worked. Everyone agreed that this is what would rule the sport.
You can't change it now. Yes, the system is atrocious, but the system is the system is the system. You don't get to rewrite the rules at the end because now you have a complaint with it.
Whoever wins Monday night's game is the champion of college football. That's it. The records don't matter. The body of work doesn't matter. The circumstances don't matter.
This is the championship game. The winner is the champion.
Nearly four years ago, a number of other championship options were on the table, and the power brokers of college football – including Oklahoma State's conference commissioner – chose to stick with the BCS.
If they don't like it now, well, tough break; make sure it dies this spring when a new system is voted upon.
Now, the BCS probably deserves all the whining, not merely because it's a system based more on protecting crony multimillionaire bowl directors than actually crowning a champion but also because the system operates with a decided lack of courage or conviction.
The reason the AP poll still holds merit is because the BCS continues to validate opinion polls as a way of legitimately determining not just a title game matchup but the actual champion.
The BCS should long ago have formed a selection committee to choose its title game matchup rather than rely on a combination of flawed polling and mathematically unsound computer formulas.
Further, why should the BCS trophy represent the forced results of a day-after poll? Is it even really a poll when the votes are forced? It should just cut out the middle man and give the trophy to the winner of the game.
The tradition of top 25 polls – or top 10 or 20, back in the day – dates to the 1930s, when it seemed like a nice promotional move for a fledgling sport.
There simply is no statistical or competitive basis for a poll being used in a legitimate fashion. And then consider that in the 1930s, before the spread of television, there was absolutely no way sportswriters could've known who was good or bad unless they saw them live. As bad as polls are now, back then they simply were absurd, basically picking straws.
Polls should've remained entertainment-based. College basketball polls have no official bearing on anything. Neither do various "power rankings" in the NFL, NBA or any other sport. Even boxing rankings are worthless.
Yet the BCS clings to this insanity. Perhaps it's so humiliated at its own self that it believes an opinion poll adds credibility.
As such, the AP poll maintains some strange relevance, offering a counter to the BCS.
And in part as a protest toward the current system, some writers are willing to over-think everything and potentially vote for someone other than the official winner of the official title game of the sport.
Power to the people, we guess. But it doesn't mean it should be acknowledged.
Monday night, either Saban or Miles is going to lift that crystal football. They're the champions of college football. No matter how loathsome the system, you can't change on the fly.
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