Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ohio State president epitomizes BCS arrogance

If you're looking of a good example of the attitude that embodies the arrogance, elitism and downright corruption of college football's Bowl Championship Series, look no further than Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, who claims that neither TCU nor Boise State are worthy of a BCS championship:
In an interview with the Associated Press, the president at the university with the largest athletic program in the country said that TCU and Boise State do not face a difficult enough schedule to play in the national championship game.

"Well, I don't know enough about the X's and O's of college football," said Gee, formerly the president at West Virginia, Colorado, Brown and Vanderbilt universities. "I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it's like murderer's row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think until a university runs through that gantlet that there's some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to [be] in the big ballgame."
I don't think anybody would argue that, from top to bottom, the Big Ten is a much stronger conference than the WAC (which is why Boise, along with Fresno State, Nevada and now Hawaii, are leaving it, and North Texas would rather stay in the Sun Belt (!) than join). Nevertheless, the "weak sisters of the poor" statement is rather rich coming from a president whose own school's 2010 schedule includes out-of-conference cupcakes Marshall, Ohio and Eastern Michigan, not to mention Big Ten doormats Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue. Gee's comments also ignore the fact that Ohio State's strength of schedule (59th in the nation, as of November 21st) really isn't that much stronger than Boise State's (68th in the nation), if the most recent Sagarin ratings are to be believed. (I can only wonder what the nationally-ranked Nevada Wolfpack, who host Boise State in Reno later this week, might think about being called "the Little Sisters of the Poor.")

But what is perhaps most ridiculous about Gee's comments is that he is blasting the Broncos' strength of schedule even as "big time" schools such as his won't schedule Boise State. Gee's nonsense is no different than that of a fellow BCS shill, University of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman, who early this year claimed that Utah, which was the only team to end the 2008 college football season undefeated, could have played for the national title if the Utes "played the schedule Nebraska did," even though the Huskers would never dare play Utah, much less invite them to their conference.

In other words: we don't think you deserve the title because you didn't play a stronger schedule, but we're not going to help you make your schedule stronger by playing you. A shining example of circular logic.

Of course, Utah will get their chance to prove themselves among the "big boys" of college football next season, when they join the Pac-12. But schools like Boise State and TCU remain among the "have-nots" of college football, even as the "haves" collude to continually increase the gap between the two sets of schools in hopes of one day creating a "superconference" of "big time" teams.

Boise State's president, needless to say, was incensed by Gee's comments:

Speaking to the Idaho Statesman, BSU president Bob Kustra blasted Gee for the “folly” that is the “murderer’s row every week” argument and warned that Gee might be “set[ting] off a firestorm he probably has no interest in creating.” Additionally, Kustra questioned Gee and other presidents for presenting themselves “as the pillars of moral rectitude”, which we believe in the world of academia is the equivalent of calling somebody’s momma a ho.

Regardless, Kustra was far from pleased.

“He claims that in the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 it’s murderer’s row every week and there’s absolutely little substance to that claim. … The BCS has finally found someone to stand up and defend the indefensible and Gordon Gee proved it — he not just proved that it’s indefensible but he did so with facts that are simply wrong. … Everyone in intercollegiate football knows that athletic directors of those large power conferences are scheduling more and more teams who are I-AA, who are teams at the weaker end of the non-AQ conferences, and for Gee to stand up and talk about murderer’s row every week is just the height of folly. It’s ridiculous. I think he’s going to set off a firestorm he probably has no interest in creating. To say that he overstated his case is an understatement.”

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte got in his licks as well:
But Del Conte, who appeared on ESPN Radio 103.3 Dallas, took a slightly different approach. “I sat back and just thought about our football program and our coach and realized that to start throwing stones at your house, they must be jealous,” Del Conte said. “We have a phenomenal football program. … And someone now starts taking shots at TCU? That means we’ve arrived.”
As for Ohio State's supposedly superior strength of schedule, Del Conte had this to say:
When I start to look at their [Ohio State's] nonconference schedule made up of the MAC schools — that’d be Ohio, Eastern Michigan. I had no idea they were going out and testing themselves week in and week out.

Gee also weighed in on the interminable BCS-versus-playoff debate, using some of the same tired and flawed logic that BCS defenders have long used to argue against a playoff:

Gee, long an admirer of the BCS and the current bowl system, said he was against a playoff in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"If you put a gun to my head and said, 'What are you going to do about a playoff system [if] the BCS system as it now exists goes away?' I would vote immediately to go back to the bowl system," he said.

He said the current system is better for the student-athletes.

"It's not about this incessant drive to have a national championship because I think that's a slippery slope to professionalism," he said. "I'm a fan of the bowl system and I think that by and large it's worked very, very well."

Gee is right about one thing: the "old jumbled-up system" of bowls that existed prior to the inception of the BCS would be preferable to the joke of a system that exists right now. But his comments about "professionalism" ring a bit hollow in light of the recent controversy surrounding former USC star Reggie Bush and the current controversy enveloping Auburn standout Cam Newton. Furthermore, the idea that the current BCS system is somehow better for student-athletes, especially those of non-AQ schools that don't get to play for a championship in spite of their hard work, is nothing short of absurd.

Remember that, as non-automatic qualifiers, there's no guarantee that either TCU or Boise State, let alone both of them, will be playing in a BCS bowl at all even if they do go undefeated. Meanwhile, the champion of the Big East conference will go to a BCS bowl even though that team will very likely be unranked at season's end. This is simply indefensible.

I don't have anything against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are truly a good team this year, carrying a 10-1 record into their annual showdown with Michigan. The Buckeyes have traditionally been one of college football's greatest programs. And I'd love to one day see a game at the Horseshoe. But the comments of the school's president are, quite frankly, nothing short of a pathetic attempt to defend the exclusionary and corrupt sham that is the BCS system. As NBC's John Taylor explains:

Look, these asinine statements from Gee don’t exactly plow new ground. It’s patently obvious, based on the discrepancies in BcS payouts to automatic qualifiers as compared to non-automatic qualifiers, the all-powerful presidents aren’t interested in a fair and equitable system to determine a national champion; rather, their sole interest is how to funnel the majority of the funds created by the current system into the coffers of the Big Six conferences.

The only thing that Gee’s comments do is further solidify the fact that it will take action on the part of the Justice Department or other facets of the United States government — or the threat of action — in order to create a playoff system.

Given the multitude of other problems this country is facing right now, I don't think the political will currently exists for the government to get involved in fighting the BCS cartel. However, as Yahoo's Dan Wetzel points out, Gee may have inadvertently given BCS opponents some ammunition:

Then there is this, Gee couldn’t have given a better Thanksgiving gift to the lawyers at Arent Fox, the Washington law firm that is trying to spur a Justice Department investigation into the BCS on anti-trust grounds.

If you’re trying to prove the six major conferences systematically exclude the others then getting the Ohio State president to essentially admit they should be systematically excluded is no small development.

Exactly. Which is why I'm sure Gee will attempt to issue a "retraction" in the coming days aimed at quelling the controversy he has created. This is not the kind of publicity the BCS cartel wants as the regular season nears its end.

CBS's Jerry Hinnen takes his shots at Gee as well.

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