Quantcast

Dick Harmon: BCS a tad nervous as Congress watches

Published: Saturday, Oct. 31 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Remember that political action group that hatched the same weekend the first BCS standings came out? You know, the one seeking a true playoff system for college football? The Playoff PAC?

Well, it appears it got the guys atop the status quo to blink.

The resulting publicity, carried by every major media outlet — including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ESPN, USA Today, and CBS sports — highlighted an issue the majority of Americans care about, a championship earned on the field instead of on the bytes of computers and whims of human voters directed by the BCS.

Like the Playoff PAC folks pointed out, the BCS does not respond to pressure from college football fans, nor the public as a whole, whom they should serve. But when politicians and Congress get involved, they flinch. They do not like it.

In the days that followed the announcement of the Playoff PAC — an organization created to mobilize voices of fans through elected officials in Washington — it appears BCS bigwigs reacted by calling in their own chips.

The BCS announced it is looking into hiring its own full-time help to counter the Playoff PAC after Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) wrote a letter to President Obama asking to launch an anti-trust investigation.

Is it any coincidence ESPN, a major partner of the BCS, had on-air talent, one after another, come out with commentary poking fun at the Playoff PAC that read like talking points straight from BCS headquarters? ESPN2's Rece Davis slammed Hatch and other politicians that support the Playoff PAC and called it the "biggest hot air hoax since we thought little Falcon was floating on that balloon."

Similar criticism came from SportsCenter talent, including the famous counter-point debate by Lou Holtz and Mark May, who agreed government had no business worrying about sports entertainment.

Talking points to counter the Playoff PAC insurgency? I asked one of the founders of the Playoff PAC if he thought ESPN had been asked to create a counter media blitz and chirp out criticism as a lockstep partner of the BCS.

Said Matthew Sanderson: "I hesitate to speculate on the exact reasoning behind these on-air diatribes by ESPN personalities in the days since the Playoff PAC's launch. But we've obviously touched a nerve.

"We don't mind the criticism. We just hope that ESPN will recognize its obligation to present a balanced perspective to its viewers, and that they will want to prevent any appearance that they're pushing someone else's agenda."

Sanderson said the Playoff PAC sent a letter to ESPN and USA Today this week, asking for balance in coverage of the issue, citing absolutely no contact to get an opposing view from the Playoff PAC.

In the meantime, criticism of the BCS continues this season. You had to look no further than BCS poster boy Pete Carroll, head coach at USC, after the first BCS poll came out two weeks ago. USC was ranked 11th by the computers and No. 4 in the human polls.

"My take is there is a big discrepancy with the computer polls (and the human polls). It's a huge discrepancy. I would think that gives you reason to question the end result. Why would there be a big discrepancy?" That's the same issue LSU has. The Tigers beat Washington while USC lost to the unranked Huskies. LSU did lose to top-ranked Florida, yet No. 5 USC is ranked in front of this SEC mainstay. LSU is No. 9 in the latest BCS standings.

Granted, the computers and humans will make adjustments in weeks to come.

But really, the thing that bugs the majority of college football aficionados are "discrepancies" in the BCS system. It falls short of providing a true national champion if conference champions do not meet face to face in some type of playoff at the end of the season.

This week's picks:

AIR FORCE 21, COLORADO STATE 14: This Troy Calhoun defense appears to be the real deal, evidenced by the on-field results at Utah. Look for the Falcons to get back on the winning runway with a solid win in Fort Collins, Colo.

TCU 42, UNLV 7: The Frogs, fresh off an exhilarating victory over BYU in the Cougars' den, should get little resistance at home from Mike Sanford's band of kids.

SAN DIEGO STATE 38, NEW MEXICO 10: Brady Hoke has it rolling in Navytown and the lowly Lobos are in the middle of that dense fog that losing brings. Hoke will decide the margin of victory.

UTAH 24, WYOMING 17: The Cowboys have earned a lot of respect, but nobody in Laramie has said anything to be held accountable for at Utah. So, we'll go with a standard-type Utah score if the Utes can hold onto the ball and not give up any cheap touchdowns.

Last week: 3-1. Overall: 43-9 (.826).

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company