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Dick Harmon: New book points out BCS flaws in big way

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 4 2015 1:49 a.m. MDT

Public opinion polls reveal the BCS is about as popular as pimples and warts.

A new book, "Death to the BCS," provides plenty of ammo as to why the way college football crowns its national champion needs to change.

This is relevant in these parts because of the assault non-BCS schools Utah, Boise State and TCU are making on the national scene these days — all three are ranked in the Top 10 and each is capable of pulling off a national championship run — if given the chance.

But will they be given that opportunity? The system says yes; many experts say no, and others believe the BCS, by design, will keep these non-BCS schools from reaching the top rung.

Of course, Utah won't have to worry about this caste system next season with a lofty jump to the BCS elite Pac-12. But this year, the Utes are on the watch list and it's getting serious. Once again, issues beyond the control of Kyle Whittingham lurk in the background.

Utah or TCU will kill the other off, but what of the survivor? What of Boise State, which has an easier schedule but will be chewed apart by the computers used in the ranking system come December? Elite BCS teams have been jumping Boise State, TCU and Utah in the rankings ever since the first BCS poll came out two weeks ago. Is the fix on? If not really a "fix," there is evidence presented in the new book to suggest incompetence, publicity, popular opinion and politics could keep Utah, TCU or Boise State out once more because the ranking system is flawed.

Before the first BCS poll came out on Oct. 17, ESPN analyst Brad Edwards crunched all the available numbers and postulated the No. 1 team in America was Boise State. A few days later, the BCS poll (that uses computer formulas and human polls) had Oklahoma No. 1, Oregon No. 2, and Boise State third.

The next week, after Oklahoma lost to Missouri, Auburn of the SEC jumped from No. 4 to No. 1. Oh, but that's the computer numbers just kicking in.

R-i-i-i-i-i-i-ght.

Before BCS computers entered the picture, the Associated Press poll (sportswriters and sports broadcasters) had Oregon No. 1.

The book, written by sports writers Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan, is the best collection of data, facts, figures and arguments against the BCS ever assembled.

If you like gathering information to debate the BCS, this should be in your library.

The book hurls credit to Utah (a two-time BCS bowl winner) and Boise State for debunking the notion that the unwashed cannot unseat the elite who have perched their conferences atop everyone else.

It includes exhaustive research into tax records, bowl budgets and expenditures, as well as the fallibility of the computer and human polls. The book illustrates the naivety of many college presidents who consistently stand behind the "cartel" that robs schools, communities and fans of a more equitable distribution of money and the establishment of a true champion.

The book makes the supposition that in Utah's undefeated 2008 season, the Utes failed to rise to No. 2 and play for a title because nearly every Harris Poll voter ranked Utah between sixth and 10th.

Giving numerous examples of voter ineptitude and politicking by coaches in the USA Today Poll, the book describes how the SEC and Big Ten use broadcast partners to elevate their voter interest.

With Utah stuck without a major broadcast partner to highlight its regular season, the book asserts, "Utah's gaudy record provided no traction. Perception overwhelmed reality. Had Utah gone undefeated in the Pac-10, it probably would have played for the title.

"Instead it ran the table in a league that had gone 6-1 against the Pac-10.

"By winning a better conference without the cachet, Utah was punished by voters who weren't paying attention," according to the authors.

After Utah "manhandled" Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to cap a 13-0 season, the book says the college football world "buzzed" about how Utah would have presented a far greater challenge to Florida than Oklahoma in the title game.

Wetzel, Peter and Passan sought out Harris Poll voters and asked whether they'd watched the Utes before dismissing them as "unworthy of competing" for a national title.

"I did not see them play," said Bobby Aillet.

"I didn't see any live games," said Lance McIlhenny. "I just saw highlights."

Said voter David Housel; "I don't recall if I saw them play specifically during the regular season. I don't remember a specific game."

It took the authors only three phone calls to find those "three blind voters."

This poll issue is one of many critical looks the book examines in its 195 pages.

The subtitle is "The Definitive Case Against The Bowl Championship Series," and it hits it on the head.

At times, it is riveting and over the top on some other aspects of the controversy. But one thing is certain, the book remains a must-read for college football fans who care where their favorite sport is headed, and it even suggests how a college playoff can actually succeed.

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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