King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

BCS Whack-a-Mole: A system so grand it has to be changed every year to solve the problems that pop up. Plus: The Red Sox are so great they've altered the calendar.

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The Bowl Championship Series is such a brilliant system it has to be overhauled every year. Each offseason, the BCS honchos get together to solve the problem that popped up during the year, which anyone with a little foresight would have foreseen. It’s boardroom Whack-a-Mole, and it is the single most entertaining thing about the BCS.

The BCS is run by the commissioners of the six major conferences — Pac-10, Big Ten, Big 12, Southeast, Atlantic Coast and Big East — plus the Notre Dame athletic director.

Between the end of the bowl season and next August watch that gang get their heads together and try to push through a requirement that the automatic bid for the champion of each of the six big conferences carries a minimum-quality requirement.

That’s because whoever qualifies as the Big East champ will be ridiculous. The Big East was a major conference when the BCS was formed in the late ’90s, mostly because it had Miami, Virginia Tech and Syracuse. Now Miami and Virginia Tech are gone to the ACC, and Boston College, which has been pretty good, but not great, in recent years, is leaving too. Syracuse tried and failed to escape, but it hasn’t fielded very good teams the last three years anyway.

So this year Pittsburgh almost certainly will be the champ, thanks to just so-so Boston College getting smoked by Syracuse over the weekend in what would have been a title-clinching game had the Golden Eagles won it. The Panthers can still get the BCS bid even if they lose to South Florida Saturday and drop to 7-4, though if that happens Syracuse, at 6-5, has an outside shot.

There actually is such a minimum-quality requirement in the BCS, and it’s known as the Big East rule, although it’s so weak it was obviously created with no intention of ever being used. The rule says that if the average BCS ranking of a conference’s champion isn’t higher than 12th over a four-year period, the conferences’ automatic bid is subject to review.

As usual, the rule was created as a reaction to something, in this case Syracuse earning a BCS bid while being ranked 15th.



Even with Miami having been No. 1 in 2002, the rule could kick in as soon as next year. The Hurricanes were No. 9 last year, and Pitt is at the moment unranked in the BCS, though the Panthers are 19th in the Associated Press poll. Assuming Pitt can sneak into the top 25 with a win over South Florida — bet the house on that, regardless of what kind of tweaking might be necessary — the Big East champ would still have to finish in the top 14 or 15 next year to keep the four-year average higher than 12th.

Of course, all that would happen then would be a review. The rule doesn’t say the offending conference would lose its automatic bid, only that the bid would be reviewed and possibly withheld.

Watch the honchos put some teeth into that before next season. With a little foresight, the BCS could have envisioned one of the conferences going downhill quickly as a real possibility and added the ability to kick out its champ. If that were in place this year, Louisville, the Conference USA champ ranked 10th in the BCS, would have been a pretty attractive substitute candidate.

Don’t think that won’t come up in the meetings. Louisville becomes a BCS team when it joins the Big East next season.

Cal, Texas, Boise State and Georgia are all teams in the top eight that might not get a BCS bid, and any of them would be good choices over Pittsburgh or Syracuse, not that anyone’s going to be making the case for Boise State, a non-BCS team, at those Whack-a-Mole meetings.

The reason the honchos keep having to change the BCS system is that it was created to do two mutually exclusive things: determine an uncontroversial national champion and protect the lucrative bowl structure — a structure that prevents the crowning of an uncontroversial champion. It’s kind of like building a car that’s meant to go forward and backward at the same time. You spend a lot of time heading back to the ol’ drawing board.

I’m already looking forward to the 2006 Whack-a-Mole meetings, when the honchos put their heads together to solve whatever foreseeable problem pops up in 2005.

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December heroes stiffed by S.I. [PERMALINK]

Sports Illustrated announced Sunday that the Boston Red Sox are the magazine’s Sportsmen of the Year. Evidently, year is defined as “not quite the first 11 months of the year,” rendering any December heroes irrelevant.

SI.com lets fans vote online for the Sportsman of the Year, even though the vote, which is still going on, clearly has nothing to do with the selection. It’s just that you have to let people vote online for everything. I had oatmeal for breakfast this morning because that’s what readers decided in an online vote.

Actually the vote went: arsenic, cyanide, barbed wire, oatmeal, something I’d rather not mention. But fortunately I don’t really listen to readers either.

What’s really surprising is that the Red Sox aren’t leading the online voting. SI.com doesn’t list the results as most online polls do, but as of Monday morning, the leader was swimmer Michael Phelps, followed by cyclist Lance Armstrong and the late Pat Tillman.

I wouldn’t have thought the Red Sox could lose an online poll. They’d win a Web election for Horse of the Year.

No offense to Phelps, but I suspect the poll results have more to do with poor Web-page design than anything else. I inadvertently voted for hockey player Jarome Iginla because the interface was so unclear.

And you know who wasn’t even one of the 13 candidates for the S.I. award? Barry Bonds, who only had one of the best offensive seasons in baseball history. Emeka Okafor was a nominee, but not Bonds.

This column names a Sports Person of the Year. The third annual winner, following Serena Williams in 2002 and LeBron James in ’03, will be announced — I know this is crazy — at the end of the year.

Previous column: NFL Week 12

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