Sunday, December 2, 2007
Journalists should not determine national champions
Man, the Sheriff Center is going to be rocking today. More than 10,000 Hawaii fans are going to roll into the arena in Honolulu to listen to the Fox Bowl Championship Series Selection Show. The pep bands will play loudly, cheerleaders will rally fans, the Rainbow Dancers will frolic about, and players and coaches will pump their fists. In all likelihood, Hawaii is going to get a bid for the Sugar Bowl, where they will probably face Georgia. In reality, the Rainbows should get a chance at the national championship. But they won't. Voters (yes, us) do not believe football in the Western Athletic Conference is as rigorous as football in the Southeastern Conference or the Big Ten. Experts say Hawaii did not play as tough a schedule as Louisiana State or Ohio State (who played Akron, Kent State and Youngstown State). But these same experts and sports journalists also believed West Virginia would destroy a mediocre Pitt team Saturday and that Ohio State would have defeated Illinois earlier this season.
Last night, Pitt upset West Virgina 13-9 and Oklahoma routed Missouri 38-17. Meanwhile, Colt Brennan completed 42 of 50 passes and five touchdowns to help Hawaii overcome a 21-point deficit to defeat Washington and remain undefeated.
It's fair to say the SEC, Big Ten and Big East are also stronger in basketball. But that did not stop Webber State from beating North Carolina in 1999, Hampton from knocking off No. 2 Iowa in 2001, or Coppin State from upsetting another No. 2, South Carolina, in 1997. There are many more upsets where those came from. In college basketball, titles are determined on the courts, not by judges. Leave that format to figure skating, not to sports journalists.
The argument against the playoff system: the season itself is a playoff system. Yet, LSU lost twice - and they may be in the title game instead of a one-loss Kansas team or an undefeated Hawaii squad. The system does not work if a team can go undefeated and not get a shot at the national championship -- especially when a two-loss team gets into the title game. Again, blame sports journalists.
John Feinstein calls the BCS the single worst creation in sports. Says Feinstein:: "It is the creation of a group of selfish, money-mongering college presidents who couldn't care less about what is best for the so-called student-athletes, couldn't care less about the fans who go to the games and, most of all, couldn't care less about fairness."
I'm not going to offer the format that is needed most (although I will say an eight or 16-team format will compel more than a few fans to watch.) You'll also have intrigue watching teams on the fringe (Nos. 8-12 or Nos. 14-18) that will be working hard to get into the playoff picture. Hawaii is probably going to be a No. 10-12 this afternoon, meaning they would still be locked out of an eight-game playoff picture. There's no denying they deserve a shot at the title. But we journalists (we experts) have prevented this.
We are taught that games are won and lost on the field, not in the press box or in the newsroom. As sports journalists, we should boycott all polls, refraining from offering a vote or being on any panels that make these decisions. Voting is an inherent conflict of interest. ("Well, I would really like to go to New Orleans, so, yes, let's vote for my team as No. 3 so it can go to the Sugar Bowl.") We should not determine who gets to play for a title. Leave that to a selection committee similar to one used for the other college football divisions and for basketball, baseball and soccer. Polls are fun to follow through a season, but they should not determine championships. Nor should sports journalists anoint champions. So rip up your credentials and give back your votes, if only because it's the right thing to do.