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"Bowl controversy" can't be spelled without BCS
Seattle Times colleges reporter
When the great high priests of the Bowl Championship Series tabulated their results Sunday, and the telltale smoke rose from within their walls, it came up orange and blue.
But then, you've known for years the BCS has been blowing smoke.
Florida caught Michigan at the wire and joined Ohio State in the BCS national title game Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz. For those pining for a playoff in college football, here's your consolation bracket: Michigan and USC in the Rose Bowl, Louisiana State and Notre Dame in the Sugar, Wake Forest and Louisville in the Orange and Oklahoma and Boise State in the Fiesta.
The resolution was actually secondary to all the subplots raging around it. But then, that's par for the course for the BCS, in business for the ninth year.
Entering the weekend, we knew we were going to have controversy. We ended up with something right out of Vince McMahon.
USC lost to UCLA. Until a better word than "unthinkable" comes along, that one will have to do. You want wacky? That game actually caused LSU fans to abandon their fervor for Florida in the SEC title game to reversing field and screaming "Whoo Pig Sooie." More on that later.
Sunday, there was this news flash: Coach Jim Tressel of Ohio State, the 2006 season's dreadnought, had recused himself from making his final vote in the coaches poll, thinking he was damned if he did and damned if he didn't.
Bowl Championship Series
BCS National Championship, Ohio State vs. Florida, Jan. 8, 5 p.m., Ch. 13
Sugar Bowl, LSU vs. Notre Dame, Jan. 3, 5 p.m., Ch. 13
Orange Bowl, Wake Forest vs. Louisville, Jan. 2, 5 p.m., Ch. 13
Rose Bowl, USC vs. Michigan, Jan. 1, 2 p.m., Ch. 4
Fiesta Bowl, Boise State vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 1, 5:30 p.m., Ch. 13
If he went with Michigan as No. 2 and Florida ended up as his opponent, the Gators could use it against him in Glendale. If he opted for Florida over Michigan, they'd forever want to fricassee him in Flint and Kalamazoo.
So Tressel co-opted his usual public stance. The guy who says nothing did nothing. He indicated he discussed it with his athletic director and decided not to weigh in.
"Real slick," was the description used by Michigan coach Lloyd Carr on a national conference call. Pressed about it later, Carr said he couldn't see himself taking the fifth in that situation, adding, "You'd have to ask Coach Tressel. It's really something he can answer a lot better than I could."
This isn't the first time the issue of coaches' votes has clouded the BCS system. Until a year ago, they hid behind a cloak of anonymity, beginning to end of the season. Now their final votes are made public.
If Tressel's action didn't make it obvious, we'll repeat it in crayon for the BCS honchos: Take the coaches' vote out of the tabulation. It's rife with conflict of interest and most coaches don't have time to do it justice, anyway.
"I'm never going to vote in the USA Today [coaches] poll," vowed Florida coach Urban Meyer. "Can you imagine if Coach Tressel had voted for us, or can you imagine if he'd voted the other way?"
Actually, I can imagine it, and I imagine if you're making $2 million a year, and you agree to be a part of the poll, you cast a vote.
But that's only a smidge of the BCS controversy, 2006-style. You wonder how many of the voting coaches or those in the Harris Interactive Poll might have chosen Florida over Michigan because they (a) didn't want to see a rematch, or (b) thought the American public didn't want it.
That's not a good enough reason, nor is Michigan not winning its conference. I voted Florida No. 2 in the AP poll over Michigan simply on a stronger perceived strength of schedule.
For his part, Carr said the right things about the Rose Bowl, but it was clear he felt jobbed.
"I don't know what the voters were thinking," he said. "But I don't think there's any question that had USC won the game against UCLA, we would have remained No. 3. I don't think there's any way there would have been a change in that vote."
The Rose Bowl thus becomes the Arroyo Seco Bridesmaid Classic. While Carr was peppered with questions about the BCS process, USC coach Pete Carroll tried his best to sound like he hadn't just swallowed an anchovy and said, "We've had a really fun year with this football team. We're excited to be in this situation."
Not as excited as they could have been were LSU fans, who had pre-purchased some 42,000 tickets for the Rose Bowl. They figured their first-time ticket to Pasadena would be punched if USC beat UCLA and Florida got Arkansas out of the way in the SEC title game, sending the Gators automatically to the Sugar.
Then USC lost. Suddenly, for its Rose Bowl chances, LSU needed an Arkansas win to ensure against exactly what happened — Florida nosing past Michigan to the title game, bumping the Bayou Bengals from the Rose in favor of the Wolverines.
So LSU goes to New Orleans. For most of us, a big deal, but LSU knows New Orleans like Joe Paterno knows the football offices at Penn State.
Ohio State, it's going to Arizona — undefeated, untied, its coach uncommitted.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company