For the past few years, just as the nation finished digesting its Thanksgiving meal, the bigwigs who decide the participants of the Bowl Championship Series have served up an enormity of controversy to go along with the “stuffing” it has given to several teams who belonged in their high-priced bowls. Two years ago, Miami was left out of the national championship game in the Orange Bowl, in favor of a Florida State team that they defeated earlier in the season. Last season, Nebraska was chosen over a Colorado team that embarrassed them by over 40 points in the final week of the season and a high-powered Oregon squad that dominated the PAC 10, the nation’s toughest conference. This year the BCS finally got it right.
Miami and Ohio State will likely face off in the Fiesta Bowl for the national title, but besides determining a national champion, the BCS is supposed to reward other superior teams with a prime-time New Year’s Day game and a multi-million dollar pay-day. Football programs have parlayed the success of their regular season into future gains in recruiting and overall improvements to their athletic departments, with the publicity and high payouts granted by a BCS appearance. No wonder Kansas State flew its president out to Miami to promise Orange Bowl organizers 25,000 fans. The Orange Bowl, a BCS bowl, pays out 13.6 million dollars to its participants, while the Alamo Bowl, the bowl that the Wildcats would drop to if not selected by the BCS only dishes out a mere 1.35 million.
As much as conference commissioners try to deny it, the BCS was designed as a cash cow for the hosting bowls and the participating schools. If this weren’t the case then college football would have a playoff system right now. Thus, when the Orange Bowl selects a team should they choose the best team or the one that draws the most fans and the best television ratings?
Fans around the nation knew another BCS headache was developing in the second half of USC’s 44-13 rout of Notre Dame on Saturday night. After getting outgained by a near six to one margin, and scoring its only touchdown on a punt block, the Orange Bowl’s only claim to choosing the Irish over the Trojans would be motivated by financial gains. Some of the Notre Dame players after the USC game even conceded that they don’t belong in the BCS. “After the way we played, we don’t deserve to play in the Orange Bowl,” Irish offensive tackle Jordan Black said. “This wasn’t this year’s team, it was last year’s team that showed up tonight. I just want to go home and throw up.”
USC guaranteed itself a spot in the BCS by leapfrogging Iowa in this week’s standings and moving up into fourth position. BCS rules state that if the first three teams are conference champions, then the fourth ranked team is assured one of the two at large positions.
Essentially the second at large spot will be a fight between Iowa and Notre Dame. If the Orange Bowl chooses Notre Dame, Iowa, the third ranked team nationally, will be out of the BCS. If that situation transpired, either the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl would be bound to choose USC as it is guaranteed an at large position.
“Having somebody like ourselves, ranked in the top five in both polls, left out would be something less than collegial on the part of the BCS,” Iowa athletics director Bob Bowlsby said.
The struggle between the Irish and the Hawkeyes would be moot if Washington State, who is currently leading the PAC 10 loses to UCLA this weekend. USC would then claim the automatic bid by winning the PAC 10, thereby giving another team its at-large spot. In that situation, USC, Notre Dame, and Iowa would all qualify for the BCS.
The Big Ten on Tuesday announced that Iowa will be guaranteed a spot in the BCS, regardless of the Washington State result this weekend. This seems to indicate that Notre Dame’s only shot of making one of the four coveted bowls is if Washington State loses. The BCS, on the other hand claims that any decision on the fate of the Hawkeyes is premature.
However, since lower ranked Big Ten teams like Michigan and Penn State have already been penciled into the Outback and Capital One bowls respectively, the only bowls available for Iowa are in the BCS.
If that is the case the BCS finally made the right decision. Although Notre Dame would have brought tradition, intrigue, and millions of more viewers to a BCS game, Iowa is the better team. The BCS avoided another PR nightmare by skipping over the popular choice. If Washington State is victorious on Saturday, Notre Dame will lose nearly $12.5 million and will have to save their vaunted green jerseys for the lowly Gator Bowl.