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Doug Robinson: I'm tired of the BCS holding us hostage

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 11 2011 8:20 p.m. MST

Oregon head football coach Chip Kelly.

Don Ryan, File, Associated Press

Well, that's a wrap. The college football season, which began when Joe Paterno was still a septuagenarian, is finally finished.

It's time for a State of the Disunion Address for college football.

Football fans, the college game is a mess, but you already know that. Nothing has changed. It's an old story here in Year 13 of the BCS occupation of college football.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany says BCS supporters are tired of defending the system. BCS executive director Bill Hancock told Associated Press it has not been easy to fend off all the attacks from playoff supporters.

"I think we all get a little tired of the invective," he said.

Change the system or get used to it, Bill.

Let's begin with the end. Remember all those arguments from administrators and bowl types that a playoff system would make the season too long? This year's season ended on Jan. 10 — 10 days longer than the length of the traditional season, and we still don't have a playoff. Meanwhile, Auburn and Oregon had to sit idle for five weeks before they met in the championship. No wonder the game was so poorly played.

The BCS did manage to arrange a championship game that matched the top two ranked teams, a feat that was once considered slightly more difficult than landing men on the moon. But who's to say who the top two teams are without a playoff? What if you're TCU and you just played 13 games and won every one of them including a solid performance against a strong Wisconsin team in the Rose Bowl?

Name another sport in which a team can win every game and not win a championship. It's almost an annual occurrence in college football (ask Utah and Boise State). What if you're Nevada or Stanford and you have one loss and you are on fire.

Consider it a good sign that there are still rebels out there — one coach who gave TCU a first-place vote in the final BCS coaches poll, and three voters in the AP poll.

Hancock likes to say he isn't motivated by the money that playoffs could generate to help off-set expenses for all schools and ease tax burdens (he says all he cares about are the student-athletes!). Actually, it's all about the money. It's money that drives the whole system.

Bowls and bowl committees are making money, even when schools aren't. The Sugar Bowl, according to Sports Illustrated, turned an $11.6 million profit in 2007 and had assets worth $37 million. Bowl committee members draw salaries in the range of $300,000 to $600,000. According to the Arizona Republic, the Fiesta Bowl has spent more than $4 million since 2000 to woo BCS and elected officials, including a $400,000 golf outing. Who are these guys, the IOC?

Meanwhile, according to an NCAA report, 106 of the 120 schools that play Division 1 football lost money in 2009. Most schools lose money to participate in bowl games; some schools even lose money to play in a BCS bowl. The problem is simple: The bowls force participating schools to buy a certain number of tickets —at least 10,000 tickets at most bowls, at full price — and if schools can't sell those tickets they eat them. Most schools have to eat thousands of tickets.

Yet schools are eager to accept any bowl berth perhaps because, as SI suggests, coaches and athletic directors receive bonuses for bowl game appearances.

Talk about a great business venture. The bowls sell thousands of tickets guaranteed even before they pick the teams, and here's the bonus: Bowls also take about half of the profits from the game's revenue, according to SI. It doesn't even matter if the participating schools make money because they know teams will always accept bids since the people making those decisions make extra money in the arrangement.

If all this weren't enough, guess who is footing part of the bill for all these losing football programs? Students, already faced with rising tuition costs and strapped by a bad economy, are subsidizing the programs through university fees.

No wonder there is a proliferation of bowls — 35 of them this season, stretching from Dec. 18 to Jan. 10. That means more than half of college football's Division 1 schools play in bowl games, many with .500 records.

The whole thing stinks, but it's what we're stuck with for a while. The BCS has a contract with ESPN that runs to the end of the 2013 season and 2014 bowls. That's three more years that college football will be held hostage by the BCS.

e-mail: drob@desnews.com

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