Marshall: Time to Fix Mess Called the BCS

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the problems with the Bowl Championship Series.

If it wasn't obvious two years ago, it should be obvious now. This thing we call the BCS is badly broken.

Barring an upset loss to UCLA, once-beaten Southern California will play unbeaten Ohio State for the national championship. Florida, should it win the SEC championship, will be 12-1 against arguably the most difficult schedule in the country and will be left out.

That USC lost to unranked Oregon State and Florida lost to No. 11 Auburn doesn't seem to matter. It is, after all, USC.

The Gators don't have the kind of argument Auburn had in 2004, because they aren't unbeaten, but they have a pretty good one. What they don't have is "style points." Winning is no longer enough, and that's sad.

The BCS was meant to bring order to a chaotic system. Instead, it has created more controversy and more bad feeling than ever. Is USC better than Florida? Better than Michigan? Better than Louisville? The problem, of course, is that there is no way to answer that question.

But there has to be a better way than the brainchild of former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer.

If I woke up tomorrow and was put in charge, here's how I would change it:

1. Go to the "plus-one" format. No. 1 would play No. 4 and No. 2 would play No. 3. The winners would play for the championship. That certainly wouldn't eliminate all controversy, but it would help. It would make it much less likely that a deserving team, like Auburn in 2004, would be left out.

2. Make teams that do not win their conference championship ineligible to play for the national championship.

3. Eliminate computers from the formula. When computers can look at what Notre Dame has done this season (or last) against a weak schedule and rank the Irish ahead of Auburn, which has beaten two top five teams, something is wrong. As they say, garbage in and garbage out.

4. Turn the decision-making over to a committee of qualified people--former coaches, administrators, whatever--who would pledge to look only at the facts and not consider previous seasons, name recognition or television ratings.

5. Eliminate Notre Dame's virtual free pass into the BCS. The Irish should join a conference or take their chances like everyone else.

I'm sure I could come up with some more changes that would make the system better. We can only hope that someone who actually has power will recognize that something needs to be done.

A full-fledged playoff, popular as it would be, is not going to happen. The presidents aren't going to have any part of it. But if they can't come up with something better than this, they ought to just go back to the old way and let the polls settle it.

Even that system, flawed though it was, was better and more fun than the mess we have on our hands now.

Moving on...

It's truly sad what ESPN's college football coverage has become.

No entity has done more for the game than ESPN. For two decades, the network has been the voice of college football, as well as college basketball. There was a time when it was actually a journalistic enterprise of sorts.

Since the network's merger with ABC, ESPN's analysts have become shameless shills for ABC's agenda of the moment. Some have even privately admitted as much.

I was astonished Saturday night when Lee Corso and his buddies began praising Notre Dame after USC's 44-24 victory in a game that was never close to in doubt after the first quarter.

Then it became obvious why. They began beating the drums for a Michigan-Notre Dame rematch in the Rose Bowl. Michigan, you will recall, routed Notre Dame 47-21 in South Bend earlier in the season.

Why would they push for such a ridiculous rematch? The Rose Bowl is televised by ABC. Notre Dame brings ratings. Who cares if it would be right?

Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and friends have no qualms about saying one thing one week and something totally opposite a week later. The fact that the SEC is on CBS when the other major conferences are televised by ABC leaves the SEC on the outside looking in.

Kir Herbsreit

I've said before and I still say that I don't believe voters in the polls look to the talking heads for guidance. But ESPN's analysts certainly create national perceptions that are hard to shake.

It's too bad they don't take the responsibility that comes with that as seriously as they once did...

Has any coach ever been praised more for doing less than Notre Dame's Charlie Weiss? He has no wins of national significance in his two seasons. His biggest win this season was over Georgia Tech. The biggest accomplishment of his Notre Dame career is playing USC close last season. And a lot of people have played USC close...

Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll signals TD as his Trojans score vs. Notre Dame on Saturday night.

On the other end of the spectrum, what Pete Carroll has done at USC is nothing short of phenomenal.

When Carroll took over in 2001, USC football was at a low ebb, no longer a major player on the national scene. When Auburn played USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum in the season-opener in the 2002 season-opener, there were thousands of empty seats.

Five Pac-10 championships and two national championships later, USC is clearly the dominant program in college football.

But that doesn't mean it should get a free pass to the championship game.

Until next time...

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