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Sports & Fitness // Hot Air
Steve Murray

New Boss Same As The Old Boss

Finally, after two decades of arguments and confusion, college football has ditched the BCS in favor of new arguments and confusion.

The BCS Presidential Oversight Committee gathered in front of the assembled media last week to sing the praises of a system they vowed to defeat not so long ago.

It was a turnaround that would make Mitt Romney proud.

The plan that would destroy the sacred tradition of the bowl system while jeopardizing the academic standing of student-athletes, now, somehow magically makes the bowls even stronger while providing greater opportunities for the players.

There you have it, clear as mud.

Details still need to be worked out, and publicly it seems we know very little beyond a committee will select four teams to play for the yet-to-be-named title.

Actually, we know quite a bit more.

* Expansion is inevitable: Regardless of TV contracts or hypocritical concerns over academic issues, the four-team playoff will give rise to an eight- and perhaps even a 16-team format as soon as TV contracts allow.

The reasons are simple. Once the networks, schools and conference get a taste of the financial teat that will be exposed by the playoff, prudence and greed will demand more fiscal satisfaction.

* The critical decisions will remain secret: A major complaint of the BCS was the complex and hidden selection process that determined bowl game competitors.

A playoff selection committee won’t change that.

Each year, similar groups meet to determine what teams will make the NCAA men’s and womens’ basketball playoffs and while the committee members are known, very little information or explanation is given to support their choices. Expect the football committee to adopt the same, “We are honest so just trust us” mentality.

* Boise State still won’t get in: Even if the committee meetings are open for scrutiny, it will hard for mid-majors to crack the top four. With so few slots available, the chances of a Boise breakthrough will be even tougher without writers polls based on past season success.

Unless Boise gets an invite from the Pac 12, which won’t happen, its conference opponents will kill its strength of schedule, making it even harder for it to move up.

* The SEC will still dominate: BCS rankings became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since the SEC was the best conference, the team that wins the conference therefore has to be the best team in the country, so that’s the way the vote went.

This won’t change under the new rules. A win in the SEC will mean more than a win in the Big East, and every loss is less punishing than in the Mountain West.

* Socialism will remain a dirty word: This may be the most pessimistic part of the list, but to think a playoff will somehow better level the playing field for all school is just naive.

The BCS was created not to create equality, but to control competition and payouts. That ain’t changing.

Schools such as Hawaii will see a financial bump from a BCS-style fractional split, but it won’t be enough to maintain the inflationary spending that has consumed collegiate athletics.

* Players will demand to get paid: This has happened before. With such an exclusive arrangement, more pressure will be put on administrators to create a fund to pay stipends.

The NCAA won’t approve such a plan until a court demands such actions, but legal fees generated by the push to be paid, and the subsequent rebuttals based on Title IX requirements, will continue to rise.

* Big Ten will be outed: For years the Big Ten has been playing three-card monte in an effort to convince the world they are as good as the SEC.

They’re not.

The Big Ten boasts some of history’s best programs – Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska – but even in their best years they are usually one step below the SEC powers.

Until the playoff, the Big Ten could hide its miscues by citing superior in-conference competition for its lack of title game participation.

This will no longer be the case.

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