College football has a certain lore around it, a certain pull that makes it one of the greatest sources of entertainment sports has to offer. Every Saturday around the country fans are glued to their television screens to watch the pure unabated excitement that only college sports can bring. Whether it be the school they went to, their hated rival, or simply a great matchup, people always watch, on the edge of their seats, reacting to every play.
But as popular as it may be, there is something missing: That majestic quality that vaults other sports past a simple form of entertainment and into an unforgettable experience.
The ability to imprint a moment of time into the minds of millions all over the world, one that at any point in their lives they can look back and describe exactly where they were and what they were doing. This quality is missing in college football, and as great as it is, it will never be what other sports are until a true playoff is added.
This season marks the final year of the BCS system and good riddance is what all fans should say as it leaves. The BCS computers may make for a great regular season but it leaves one very important thing out of its equation, the factor of life. Fate, heart, teamwork, destiny? The BCS ignores it all and leaves fans forced to watch championship games with teams they are told are the best instead of teams they have seen prove to be the best.
There is no equation that can account for fate.
In the winter of 1948 a young man headed to California to interview for a head-coaching job with a struggling basketball program. He was given a tour of the campus and the team’s practice facilities, which consisted of sharing the gym with the cheerleading squad and, on bad weather days, the track and football teams as well.
The players practiced in the same jerseys they played in and the gym was so small they had to play their home games on the road to accommodate the crowds. He continued with the tour and interview but in his mind he knew the real job he wanted was elsewhere, at a more promising program back in the Midwest. In fact, this trip to California was a back up plan, a last resort, if the University of Minnesota decided to offer him the job he was taking it.
He flew back home and in the weeks to follow he was sure he would be coaching the Minnesota Golden Gophers come next season. He even went as far to call the California school and let them know he would be taking a job elsewhere. The deadline for teams to call came and he waited for the phone to ring.
Everything was seemingly pointing to Minnesota, it made the most sense, it was the clear choice. But in life nothing is a sure thing. This man did get a call that night, but it was not the one he thought he would get nor the one he was hoping for. He got a call from the struggling program in California, they offered him a job and he took it. His dream job, the one that on paper seemed like a sure thing, they did not call. Or at least they could not get through to him. You see that night fate played its hand, there was a terrible snowstorm that blocked the University of Minnesota’s call from ever reaching him.
This man never got the call from the job that seemed so clearly to be the obvious choice and instead he ended up at a clunker of a program in California. This university’s name was UCLA and this man was one John Robert Wooden, the eventual hall of fame coach and ten-time NCAA champion.
Imagine if John Wooden had lived in a perfect world, a world that decided its moves by the simple input of stats, numbers, and opinions into an equation. In that world John Wooden would have gone to the University of Minnesota. Maybe he would have had the same success, or maybe he wouldn’t have had any success at all. Maybe in this world, today, he is irrelevant. In this world, he never won 664 games or 10 National Championships. He is not known as one of, if not the greatest, basketball coaches of all time.
In this perfect, computer driven hypothetical world, John Wooden is an unrecognizable name, instead of a champion.
What John Wooden is, and what other sports have that college football does not, is a true champion. When people look back on Wooden’s career they think of his 10 championships and see UCLA as one of college basketball’s richest programs. There are no doubts about who the best team truly was back then, it was proven. They played through a grueling schedule and fought through the postseason tournament to earn their spot in the championship game year in and year out.
A computer did not put them there nor were they given the spot based on public opinion. They earned it. The BCS did not tell the world who should play for the championship, it was proven on the court where it should be. Fate led John Wooden to UCLA and from there his coaching helped lead UCLA on one of the most historic runs in sports. Fate, destiny, the natural events of life got him to UCLA, not the BCS.
There is no equation that can account for what truly makes a great team.
On March 14M 2011, a coach was huddled in his office with a few players and fellow coaches to watch the CBS selection show. There was little chance of his team making the NCAA tournament that year; virtually no one, including himself, thought they would be picked. They had lost their conference title game and many around the country thought they did not deserve a shot at the bigger named schools because of this.
Luckily for them, college basketball is not run by a computer or media/coaches’ opinions. College basketball has a true 68-team playoff to decide its champion. This team was picked by the tournament committee to play in the recently added first four round, they had made it. The pick was a shock to all the experts; many were borderline angered by the pick.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas was so outraged by their inclusion in the tournament he asked this question in reference to the committee, “Do they even know the ball is round?”
He was not the only one who felt this way either, everyone wrote them off but the committee took the time to truly look at the team and saw what the entire nation soon learned, Virginia Commonwealth University was the epitome of a true team. Game after game they were picked to lose. Logic, stats, media and outside opinions said they didn’t belong. They said they did not stand a chance. Instead, the VCU Rams led by coach Shaka Smart, showed how the game of basketball is supposed to be played — as a team.
Instead of losing, they won game after game. First they beat USC then Georgetown, then Florida State, then Kansas, proving the media, the statisticians, and the world wrong all the way to the final four. And they did not squeak by in their wins either, they won all but one by double digits.
Virginia Commonwealth fell short of the championship, losing to Butler in the semi finals, but the Rams certainly made their mark. VCU went from an afterthought to a Final Four team. VCU went from controversial pick to an inspiring example for mid majors everywhere. The Rams showed what can happen when five experienced players play as one impassioned team.
A computer would have put VCU in a bottom feeder bowl game if it were a college football team. A computer might not have put them in a bowl game at all. But in college basketball a computer is not allowed to decide the fate of a team because a true team cannot be measured by an equation.
There is no equation that can account for heart.
In May of 2008, a struggling baseball team showed up at their conference tournament, unranked and seemingly about to finish off their disappointing, injury laden, season. Then magic happened. The Fresno State Bulldogs finally found their form and when a champion uncovers the spirit to win, its game over for anyone who comes in between them and glory. They won their conference tournament. They upset Long Beach State at Regionals.
Then, even more shockingly, they upset perennial powerhouse Arizona State in the Super Regionals to earn a spot in the College World Series. The injuries that had plagued them all season did not stop either, they kept coming, but it no longer mattered, they just kept on winning despite of it.
Tommy Mendoca, who was playing with two dislocated fingers, was quoted in a Sports Illustrated article as saying, “Fingers? Who needs ‘em?”
It was this attitude and this grit that allowed their historic run to ultimately end in victory. They lost two games at the College World Series but they never quit fighting and beat Georgia in the championship series to take home the trophy.
Fresno State went from falling apart to National Champions all because they had the chance to prove they could do so. Their starting lineup, by seasons end, was full of players who, at the beginning of the year, were planned to only be role players. They adjusted, they fought, and eventually they hit their stride.
If college baseball followed football’s post-season format, this story never would have happened. The Fresno State Bulldogs never would have had the chance to show the world what the true heart of a champion looks like — it may be torn and tattered but it never stops beating.
There is no equation that can account for destiny.
The 2001 NFL season will forever be remembered for the unlikely rise of a soon to be dynasty. It was a team that started off 1-3 and lost its starting quarterback to a concussion. They had to turn to an unknown second year player that could not even win the starting job in college.
Needless to say, there were skeptics aplenty. They struggled through the season but somehow managed to keep their heads above water and thanks to a few serendipitous plays, they made it all the way to the Super Bowl. To call this team a team of destiny would be an understatement. This team was the New England Patriots and destiny, fate, and the game of football, allowed for the birth of a legend.
Every time it seemed like New England would be knocked out of the running, as so many expected, something would happen to give them another chance. First it was the unexpected rise of a young quarterback named, Tom Brady after an injury forced him into action.
Then, there was a weird turn of events late in the year when David Patten was knocked unconscious and fumbled the ball. The Bills initially looked to have recovered but upon further review it could be seen that Patten’s head was actually touching out of bounds while he was in contact with the ball which ruled the play dead. This gave the Patriots a chance to kick a game winning field goal and continue their run.
Next was the infamous ‘Tuck Rule’ play against the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots were driving down to take the lead when Tom Brady was sacked and fumbled the ball. The game was over. The dream season was over. That was until the refs ruled the fumble to be an incomplete pass and gave the ball back to the Patriots. They won this game and went on to win the Super Bowl against the overwhelming favorites, St. Louis Rams.
A legend in Tom Brady was born and a dynasty had risen.
The New England Patriots are now seen as a perennial Championship contender and are led by a quarterback in Tom Brady that some call the greatest to ever play the game. Imagine if the 2001 season was played on paper alone. And matchups were given solely based on stats and voters.
What if Tom Brady had a decent regular season but because of a computer poll was not even given a chance at a championship? What if the next season they gave the quarterback job to a more experienced ‘talented’ player?
Sounds ridiculous now but Brady’s career was given a chance to flourish because of the strange string of events that occurred during the regular season and playoffs. No one, no computer, could have predicted these events. It all played out on the field and in a BCS system none of these moments would have been allowed to happen.
Sports are played by humans, not computers.
Fate, heart, destiny, and the talent of a true team cannot be measured by an equation. College football refusing to change its postseason system is an injustice to sports fans everywhere. It is time for the BCS to go and for a true, controversy free, champion to be crowned. People can argue that postseason tournaments are more about who the hottest team is instead of who the best team is, but that is only an excuse for the overrated. The best team in any sport should be able to show it on the playing field, not through the percentage points decided by people who have never worn a helmet.
This year, once again, we have two high profiled supposedly great teams in the championship game. Florida State and Auburn very well may be the best teams in the nation but how can fans truly believe that?
Auburn was beaten by a fellow top 10 team in South Carolina and Florida State has played in what was a very weak ACC conference this season. Regardless, both were voted into the championship game, key word being voted. In past years smaller schools such as Louisville, TCU and Boise State have had great seasons but were given no chance to play for the title because voters ‘assumed’ they could not hold up against the bigger schools. All three went on to upset these so-called better teams in the bowl games they were slotted in (Louisville over Florida-2013 Orange Bowl, TCU over Wisconsin-2011Rose Bowl, and Boise State over Oklahoma-2007 Fiesta Bowl.)
Year after year there are teams who feel slighted and many times rightfully so. The nation is forced to watch a championship game that rarely lives up to its billing because many times one or both of the teams truly did not deserve to be there. It’s time for this to end.
The only level of NCAA football that does not have a playoff system is Division I. People argue the game is too violent for the players to handle a true playoff, yet again an empty excuse. If smaller divisional schools can handle the rigors of a playoff then Division I schools should be able to do the same.
College football has exciting moments but it will never be able to duplicate what other sports can until they change the way they decide their champion. It’s anti-climatic and a disgrace to an otherwise great game. The BCS forces college football to assume its’ champions instead of crown them. Starting next season a four-team playoff will determine the National Champion, and while this is a step in the right direction, its still not allowing the game to run its true course.
In all likelihood these four teams will be the top four teams in the polls, which again are voted on, bringing up similar problems to the current system. It’s time to say goodbye to the BCS, or any sort of polling system, and hello to real, undisputed championship teams.
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