Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tostitos Shmostitos: Why Bowl Games Make A Mockery Of College Football

Nihja White dives for end zone in Delaware's quarter-final win
I'lll take the excitement and unpredictability of college football over pro ball any day, and the roof of a domed stadium hasn't collapsed at a college venue since forever. But this year's Bowl Championship Series, based not on post-season playoff performance but the vagaries of computer rankings and the stink of big bucks, yet again makes a mockery of the sport.

But then, one level down, there is the Championship Football Subdivision, the NCAA football division for medium-sized colleges like perennial powers Delaware (which is my alma mater), Appalachian State, Villanova, Georgia Southern and Montana.

Unlike the Bowl Championship Series, the FCS holds post-season playoffs that culminate in a true national championship game, whereas the BCS is beholden to the major bowls, which select teams based on those somewhat arbitrary computer selections and do not culminate in a true national championship.

Sure, Auburn will meet Oregon at the Tostitos Bowl on January 10 in what is being called the BCS National Championship, but neither team earned their way to Phoenix the old-fashioned way -- by a process of post-season elimination as in every other NCAA sport and NCAA football at all other levels.

A consequence of money and not true grit talking is that many bowl games have idiotic matchups. An extraordinary 12 teams that don't even have winning records are playing in bowls this year, while Boise State has been relegated to a third-rate bowl sponsored by an automobile muffler installation chain by virtue of a single missed field goal.

* * * * *
If you're still reading at this point, you may notice a geographic disparity with the Football Championship Series subdivision that does not exist in Bowl Championship Series subdivision: Other than Montana, the FCS powerhouses are all Eastern schools.

Wait, there's more.

Since the first FCS national championship game in 1978, schools in the Eastern time zone have won 23 times, Central (3), Mountain (5) and Pacific (nada). And including this coming weekend's semi-final games, over the last 10 years Eastern teams have been in the field 26 times, Central (8), Mountain (5) and Pacific (1, by virtual of Eastern Washington qualifying this year).

One explanation would seem to be that there are many more schools on the East Coast, as well as the hands down best FCS conference, the Colonial Athletic Conference, which has fielded four of the last seven national champions and was the runner up twice. Yet it cannot be that simple since there are 66 Eastern teams and 47 Central teams, but Eastern teams have overwhelmingly dominated.

What, if any, other factors come into play to make the best of the FCS so geographically lopsided season in and season out?

An obvious one is that
the overall density of high school football players is an overwhelming advantage for Eastern schools, while there are huge swaths of empty space in the Central, Mountain and Western regions. It is therefore harder to travel and recruit, and talent is spread much more thinly.

Yet as a knowledgeable fan friend notes, many kids outside the East grow up breathing, eating, and sleeping football, while back East much of the talent is late blooming and is relatively undeveloped.

* * * * *
This weekend's FCS semi-finals matchups: Villanova vs. Eastern Washington (8pm EST Friday on ESPN2 and Georgia Southern vs. Delaware (Noon EST Saturday on ESPNU.)

Photograph by William Bretzger for The Associated Press

No comments: