Thursday, March 5, 2009

why the mountain west conference is full of crap

So, I don't always agree with Dennis Dodd over at CBS. In fact, when the Mike Gundy stuff was going on in 2007 and Gundy called out the reporterette at the press conference, Dodd came down on the side of the reporterette and wrote one of the worst columns I've ever seen, and Rob Parker used to write for my hometown newspaper, so I've seen some bad ones.

But the Mountain West Conference is busy grandstanding for a playoff that conveniently is just large enough to include them, and Dodd is calling them out on it, and I agree with a ton of what he says here so I'm going to borrow heavily from the column.

At its heart is this one passage:

The Mountain West? It's trying to make sure that the likes of Utah get a better chance to play for a national championship. Nothing more. If Houston, Tulsa or Cal-Poly go undefeated next year, that's their problem.
Bingo. B-I-N-G-O. The MWC's proposal is here at the official site. I encourage you to read it because it's only four pages and it's worth knowing what's what. The first problem, by the way, is that it's only four pages and conveniently open to the public, and further, that the conference call introducing the proposal was aimed at the media, not the other commissioners. NCAA rules and bylaws are encyclopedic in nature and not designed for Sportscenter sound bites. If this was a proposal to be seriously discussed among the rulemakers, it would not be this short and it would not be disseminated to the public. Rather, the MWC is grandstanding to what it expects is a sympathetic public. Kind of like Congress.

The opening paragraph states:

The MWC Proposal addresses the inequities under the current BCS system and enables the national championship to be decided (1) in the proper location – on the field of play, and (2) by the appropriate parties – the players.
Leaving aside the fact that the national championship was decided on the field of play by the players of Florida and Oklahoma, the clear implication here is that a playoff is the only equitable way to declare a champion. Let's see how MWC member Brigham Young feels about declaring a champion:

-During pregame introductions, the 2008 Mountain West Conference Championship banner was unveiled at the Marriott Center as Cougar fans went wild. ... They have won back-to-back MWC titles.
Congrats, BYU. Your conference must be very proud. In fact, they are: check out this cool Mountain West Conference trophy. "Cougars Repeat as MWC Champions," says the headline.

But wait. The winner of the 2007 and 2008 MWC basketball tournament was UNLV. Never let principles get in the way of a good championship coronation. Granted, this banner-raising and stuff is BYU telling the world how awesome BYU is. But given the trophy, it's clearly conference-sanctioned.

No, the Mountain West doesn't think a playoff/tournament is the only right way to crown a champion. Don't believe for a minute they're crusading righteously for the little guy. They just want a seat at the big kids table.

Oh, they try to cover their tracks:

One or more of the four remaining FBS conferences can become AQ conferences before 2013 if they satisfy the criteria under paragraph 1(a).
No, they can not. I realize what I'm about to say is mathematically improbable, but it is not mathematically impossible. A proposal to shake it up needs to be more airtight than this. The MWC proposes ten BCS teams, but there are eleven conferences. Further, they say that if your conference goes .400 against other qualifying conferences over two years, you're in. The nice thing about choosing .400 is it's conveniently selected to justify the MWC getting into the game under their convenient proposal - see table 2 in the release. It also placates the existing conferences, because .500 would leave out the Big East, Big 12, and SEC. The problem with .400 is that, mathematically speaking, all 11 conferences could theoretically qualify. 11 pegs don't fit into 10 holes. Improbable? Yes. The problem is that when the BCS was created, all sorts of improbable situations (three undefeated teams? Piffle) proceeded to happen.

Then there's the problem of this "Fifth BCS Bowl." For brevity's sake, we'll give this the codename of Cotton. The MWC proposes inviting 10 teams to the BCS table and then telling two of them, "Sorry, Charlie! You're not actually playing for the national championship." They'll go play in the Cotton instead, which is still "Bowl Championship Series", except for there's no championship involved. The wording of the proposal pretty clearly states that the Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta become the first round of the playoffs and the Cotton is not.

So why even have a fifth BCS bowl if the same four are going to always help determine the champion? Why, for the same reason they have a BCS Title Game now and don't simply have the bowl game itself serve double duty: To allow room for another conference in the money maker! Which, under the Mountain West Conference proposal, just so happens to be - wait for it - the Mountain West Conference!

I haven't even begun to address the notion that they're asking fans of two teams to travel to three separate locations to watch their team play in the postseason. Fans will travel once, if at all in this wondrous economy. Once is all you get. People have jobs they have to go to once in a while. They have presents to buy during the Christmas season and they have kids to feed and class to attend and heating bills to pay and Grandma and Grandpa to go visit and they are not going to trek to Pasadena, then to Miami, then to Phoenix, to see their team play. They'll pick one to go to, and good luck filling three 80,000 seat stadiums with anything but corporate clients with courtesy tickets.

Ugh. I am squarely against a playoff til they come up with one that works properly, and this is not it. The BCS may be a self-serving entity of power conferences fiercely protecting their turf from uppity upstarts like the MWC, but the solution is not an equally self-serving pile of tripe that hypocritically leaves the rest of the football world out in the cold on purpose. I'd be much more receptive - probably even in favor - if the MWC used the existing BCS regulations to argue that they should be swapped in for the Big East. Because they probably should. What doesn't earn my sympathy, and shouldn't earn yours, is proposing "reform" consisting of blazing hypocrisy and a system designed specifically to let you and only you in, veiled in populist rhetoric like "equitable" and "decided on the field of play."


Bird said...

good post man, I generally don't care much for the BCS but I also don't care much for whiney non-BCS conferences either

Winfield Featherston said...

Good post. Their argument is further proof that you can take statistics and twist them into your favor.