Although we continue to receive feedback concerning the Ron Artest/Pistons fans event, I think most of America is sick of that topic. So let's all agree to disagree and move on to peaceful, non-controversial subjects such as the BCS.
The firing of Tyrone Willingham and whether LeBron James really is an MVP candidate at age 19 also drew mail.
As always, thanks for all the feedback. My responses are in italics. Now on to the People's Voice…
THE BCS ("Breaking the BCS" November 22, 2004)
You just don't get it.
A major source of the fun of college football is, in fact, the multifaceted controversies year after year. Going to a playoff means there will be only one end-of-season winner instead of many. Conference identities and competitions play off of the unique history of college football and make the sport much, much more than a minor league for the NFL.
Yeah, a tournament that determines a single champion hasn't worked well for college basketball at all.
Why would you possibly want a 16-team playoff system? It would totally invalidate and cheapen the regular season. Have you ever in your life followed the Division II regular season? I guarantee you have not.
What is glorious and unique about Division I college football is that every game counts. If Texas wants to guarantee [itself] the opportunity to play for the national title, it absolutely must beat OU. If a playoff system were in place, no divisional rivalry would mean anything.
I've never watched the Division II playoffs either. Bad example. Just qualifying for a playoff spot (let alone the battle for seeding) would make for a meaningful and dramatic regular season.
As I recall, there once was a "strength of schedule" element to the BCS formula. That's what kept USC out of the title game last year. Do you suppose that Boise State would be No. 7 if we still had "strength of schedule"?
Anyway, the Pac-10 fans whined, and the BCS took that out of the formula. Now they may get Boise State in the Rose Bowl. Just desserts, I'd say.
Little Rock, Ark.
Watching BCS honchos try to fix their broken system each year only to have it come back to haunt them is entertaining. It would have been part of the fun had Boise State made it.
I couldn't agree more with your "Breaking the BCS" column. The BCS is all about funneling TV money to the football factory schools. I'm hoping that this year all the BCS busters come through and throw a wrench in the gears of the money machine.
You might also want to take aim at a bowl process which, instead of matching up the best teams, simply throws things together. We all know that matching Auburn vs. Virginia Tech and Utah with [Pittsburgh] will do nothing to show what these teams can do. Find a way to match up the BEST teams. Auburn should be playing Utah.
The BCS could bend its rules to force Auburn and Utah to play in the Sugar Bowl (as everyone wants). But the conference commissioners do not want to risk the Utes winning big and adding credence to the argument that there are good teams outside of their leagues. Having Utah stuck playing a weak Big East team is about as good as their BCS nightmare gets.
TYRONE WILLINGHAM ("The bottom line" November 30, 2004 )
It is one thing to not be as good as your opponent, but you also have to show improvement. Ty's teams showed NO marked improvement in three years. When you lose seven games by a spread of greater than 31 … that is no good, regardless of what school you root for.
I also think Ty is a good man, but he had an average record at Stanford, and an even worse record at ND. He would be in a similar situation at any other high-profile school (Fla. State, Miami, Ohio State, Michigan). His teams were highly volatile, playing great one week and poor the following.
ND and its fans are proud of our history, and we saw that history being flushed. The day of resurrection is coming and ND will be back on top.
I know that Iowa and ND are two very different schools and different football programs, but I can't help but wonder where my Hawks would be today if we had fired Kirk Ferentz after three years with an 11-24 record.
Des Moines, Iowa
This wasn't Willingham's fault. He is a fine coach and has proved it in places that are difficult. Notre Dame needs to get used to this. They simply cannot offer the premium athlete the environment they want and they won't pamper them either.
OK, you're the best receiver prospect in America. Where do you go? A nice recruiting trip to a Southern school where the weather is good and the women are beautiful, OR Notre Dame, where the weather is awful, the academic requirements are stiff and the women … this a no-brainer for most top athletes.
They need to get used to it and quit firing good coaches.
Notre Dame still has a number of recruiting advantages, although not as many as it used to have. I still think it can field a consistent top-20 program (better some years), which it wasn't under Willingham.
On Ty Willingham's firing, you say, "We can complain about what's fair, what's reasonable, what really is being valued in college sports. But it's a philosophical discussion that bears no weight in the real world."
You're right to lament Willingham's firing. But because you're a good writer and have a wide audience, in those sentences you suggest to an awful lot of readers that it's reasonable for them to give up the fight and expect nothing better.
Discussion and criticism, even if you call it "philosophical" (I call it "important"), is a critical first step for change. The fact is, if we don't like what's going on in college sports, and if we don't watch, don't buy merchandise, and funnel our donations to our schools' academic programs instead of their athletic programs, and if we tell them why they've lost our support, things will change. We supply the money that pays the coaches, AD's and corporations that profit from college sports.
Change is easily within reach if people with your level of influence lead by example, and if we have the heart to follow.
LEBRON JAMES ("On the rise" November 30, 2004 )
Define league MVP. It's not who has the biggest positive impact on his team (that would be Team MVP). It's not who makes the most players around him better.
It's who has the biggest positive impact on the league as a whole; who best embodies what the NBA would like to be known as.
(LeBron still gets my vote, if I had one.)
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Your article on LeBron was great but I think you are forgetting about Dwyane Wade.
This kid is a stud on offense and defense. He is leading the guards in field goal percentage and is on top in assists, blocks, and rebounds for guards. His numbers compare favorably to LeBron's.
Wade has Shaq to open things up and make people say, "It's because of Shaq he puts those numbers" [while] LeBron has the media hype to help him get articles like yours.
I love Wade, but if you don't think having Shaq helps, you're crazy. You think he puts up those numbers with Ilgauskas?
I must admit that LeBron is having a good year. But we must also note the competition that he's played against thus far … Ray Allen is finally healthy and no one has benefited more than Seattle.
This is the MVP thus far in the season hands down.
St. Louis, Mo.