Monday, December 29, 2008

NFL Wrap Up

It sure was nice to have so much hanging in the balance in week 17. If teams weren't fighting for their lives they were fighting for their dignity or not fighting, depending on how you look at it. The great thing about the final week is that the hatchets start swinging early. We've seen several coaches and general managers get their pink slips and Bill Cowher has already turned down an offer to coach the Browns.

Nice isn't in the Job Description

Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage are officially finished in Cleveland. Phil Savage was a bold GM who was able to broker deals to bring in impact players, unfortunately Romeo didn’t coax enough consistent effort from the role players to make it matter. Phil’s problem was that even though he was a solid GM, he was not nearly as valuable as he thought he was. His ego got in the way and he wore out his welcome. Good riddance. Humility is a virtue, Phil. Live and learn.

By all accounts Romeo Crennel was a great guy. In fact, we heard announcers say as much all season long. Well, we all know what happens to nice guys. A few of the players said they wanted to fight for Romeo to keep his job, but if they would have applied that fight to the execution of their plays Romeo’s job would have been safe. Romeo never exuded a sense of control over the team or a firm grasp of the situation they were in. He didn’t manage games exceptionally well and didn’t even attempt to kick start the Browns until the season was all but in the crapper.

Now the Browns have an interesting problem. They have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Can they find the right combination of GM and coach to whip the team into shape, or will Lerner make the mistake of hiring more high profile egomaniacs bent on making their mark by dismantling the team and starting from scratch?

Let the Drama Begin

Brett Favre proved once again that he is a throwback player, except when he has to throw back. He’s a gunslinger, even when he happens to be across the line of scrimmage and on the receiving end of a reverse lateral. For some reason the officials opted not to run off the last seven seconds of the game after Favre hurled the ball forward on a hook and lateral gambit. They decided that he wasn’t intentionally trying to stop the clock, so apparently they believe that Brett Favre is just stupid. That makes sense. Stupid, selfish and childish.

The Jets canned Eric Mangenious in the wake of missing the playoffs but the Jets fans can hang the mediocre way the Jets finished the season of Brett Favre and his old school ways. It’s not his fault the NFL expanded the season to 16 games. He gets tired, and crabby and throws three interceptions when his team is on the brink of being eliminated from the playoffs.

Ironically Chad Pennington enjoyed on of his best seasons in leading the Dolphins to the playoffs. Unlike Favre, Pennington played smart and stayed focused which allowed the Dolphins to wrap up a division title and complete a historic turnaround from last year’s 1-15 performance.

Favre doesn’t know whether or not he’ll be back. His shoulder hurts and he wants to see what the MRI has to say before he makes any decision. No word on whether or not he’ll have his head examined this Spring when he makes his indecision public. Here's hoping that the Jets exercise his binky option and put this baby to bed.

Loser thy name is Marinelli

Rod Marinelli got the heave-ho after his Lions put the finishing touches on an 0-16 season. How in the hell does that happen? With all the parity in the NFL and a salary cap that makes it impossible for teams to hoard great players you simply can’t lose 16 games. The Lions managed to lose to a Green Bay team that had nothing to play for. That’s special.

I heard somebody say that it wasn’t like the Lions were trying to lose. I beg to differ. They had to be trying. No word on whether or not Rod Marinelli’s daughter is looking for a better defensive coordinator just yet, but we’ll keep our eyes open in the Casual Encounters section on Craigslist.

Marinelli is believed to be considering a move to the business world where he'll parlay his inspirational leadership skills into a career as a auto executive.

Hanging up the Hat

Speaking of heavy drama, how about them Cowboys? They got worked by the Eagles and then blamed Jason Garrett for not being creative enough. Apparently all those turnovers were designed plays intended to catch the Eagles off guard. I don’t know if Jason Garrett’s any better at coaching than he was at toting a clipboard all those years but the Jr. High School antics of TO, Romo and Romo’s butt-buddy Jason Whitten certainly didn’t help the Cowboy’s stay focused down the stretch.

As a football fan I couldn’t be happier. I grew up hating the Cowboys. I still think Roger Staubach is putz and Jerry Jones gives me the creeps. Tony Romo doesn’t impress me and anybody who respects TO doesn’t respect the game of football. I hope that whole wagon full of ass clowns rolls into next season intact and lays another egg right on top of Big D. America’s team my ass. Dallas sucks and it's only fitting that they have a team that does as well.


And that brings us to the post season. The Patriots and Cowboys were the odds on favorites to make it to the Super Bowl and both teams failed to even make the playoffs. HA HA. At least the Patriots can point to the loss of Tom Brady as a problem. To their credit they almost made it. And that's with all of Belichick's brilliant asistants lending their winning ways to other venutres...oh, right.

The Giants really ruled the roost in the NFC and seem to have to best chance at advancing thanks to their bruising running game and a vicious defense. Carolina looks tough but when they are forced to pass they really put their trust into one man and that is not their QB. You can’t be too high on a team that has built its offense around a wide receiver. Steve Smith is a fantastic player, but he can only make a difference if he gets the ball. I don’t know if that’s a Super Bowl winning formula.

After that the NFC gets really thing. Atlanta enjoyed a nice turnaround but they don’t have the depth to advance and it’s hard to picture the Eagles or the Vikings plugging their leaks long enough to float through the playoffs. The Cardinals made the post season by managing to be mediocre enough to stay on top of a lousy division but they aren’t fooling anybody. The Giants will return to the Super Bowl.

In the AFC the picture isn’t so clear. The Colts are dangerous because Peyton Manning is simply the best quarterback to ever play the position. Period. He makes the offense better and if the Colts can score that frees up their defense. Pittsburgh was strong all year and they seem to have their horses healthy. They have a great defense that can keep the game close and that means they won’t have to count on a lot of production from Big Ben, who remains one of the more overrated QBs in the game.

Baltimore also has a liability at the helm but not nearly as glaring in seasons past. Flacco is just a rookie but he’s delivered when he had to. The Ravens also sport a great defense that can keep the game tight enough the minimize Flacco’s deficiencies.

San Diego is a non factor. Phillip Rivers is a clown he won’t rise to the challenge of outsmarting the AFC’s better defenses. He picked apart the Broncos but it’s unlikely he’ll out duel Manning in the first round. Even if the Chargers manage to contain the Colts and advance, Rivers will come unglued against the Ravens, Steelers or the Titans.

For some reason, I don’t buy the Titans. They have a great defense and dominated the AFC all year but I wonder about Kerry Collins in the playoffs. Surely the time will come when he’s called upon to win a big game and I don’t know if he can answer that call. The Only QB in the AFC that you can count on in such a situation is Peyton Manning but it’s going to be hard for him to deliver three weeks in a row. The Colts will probably get past the Charges handily and they might surprise a rusty second round opponent but unless Miami upsets Baltimore and Pittsburgh to advance to the AFC title game I think the Colts will get stopped there. So who will it be?

Baltimore will beat the Dolphins. It’s a great story for Miami but that 10 game turnaround has as much to do with a softer schedule as it does with an improved game plan. That wildcat offense isn’t going to fool the Ravens, not unless Ronnie Brown comes out throwing like Joe Montana…and that isn’t going to happen. The Ravens will wear the Dolphins out and win easily. That would pair the Colts with the Steelers and the Ravens would face the Titans. That’s not good for the Titans. The Ravens will be pumped up after the wildcard game and it will take the Titans a while to get going but it will be too little too late. The score might be close but the game won’t ever be in doubt.

The Colts will face a tall order in getting by the Steelers in Pittsburgh on the terrible turf. If the conditions aren’t absolutely atrocious the Colts might be able to find ways to frustrate the Pittsburgh’s defense and get some points on the board. The Colts will have to come up with big plays on defense because they simply can’t grind it out up front for 60 minutes. They need to force turnovers and coax the ball in to Roethlisberger’s hands. It won’t be easy, but I like their chances if they don’t get banged up in the first round. Those bye weeks can be counter productive and the Colts might be able to stun the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

That would put the Colts at home verses the Ravens or on the road against the Titans. I don’t know if they’ll have enough gas left for either contest. The Colts aren’t built to take a beating. For some reason I can picture an Manning a Manning Super Bowl but I don’t think it will happen this year. The Giants will get Eli to the big dance but the Colts just don’t have the muscle to run the AFC gauntlet. You can never count a player like Peyton Manning out, but that doesn’t mean you should bet on him either.

So after all of that I guess I talked myself into the Ravens and the Giants in the Super Bowl and if the Giants are healthy you have to like their chances. They put on a rushing clinic when the faced the Ravens earlier in the season but that could have been a fluke. It’s also hard to say what the Giants will get out of Eli Manning, especially with Plaxico Burress being weighed down by all that baggage.

Rematches are always tough to call and a lot can happen in the next three weeks. If both teams are healthy and happy going in I think the Ravens will have an advantage simply because they’ll have something to prove, but the Giants seem to have more weapons on offense even if Plaxico Burress is out.

Of course, predictions are only fun because they’re often wrong. They play the games for a reason and if the Super Bowl ends up being a contest between the 9-7 Cardinals and the 8-8 Chargers it wouldn’t surprise me at all. It might bore me, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

You're out of order...

A lot of people are talking about Rob Parker, the columnist for the Detroit News who asked Rod Marinelli if he wished his daughter had married a better defensive coordinator. Marinelli blew off the question during the press conference that followed Detroit’s 42-7 loss to the Saints but later he expressed his anger and now that people have taken his side he’s expressing it more. Anything to distract people from the fact that his team is 0-15 on the year thanks in large part to a defense that gives up a lot of points. A defense that happens to be coached by his son-in-law.

Now Marinelli gets to play the role of concerned father. He’s putting his foot down and won’t allow his daughter to be attacked by the likes of Parker which is what you expect a family man to do…except for the fact that Parker didn’t say or imply anything about Marinelli’s daughter.

The object in question is Marinelli’s judgment. His daughter might be a great girl and her husband, Joe Barry, is probably a swell guy who’s only guilty of not being able to coach a defense. Rob Parker isn’t casting aspersions on either of them. The issue is whether Marinelli is letting his love for his daughter interfere with the business of football. The Lions are on the verge of becoming the first 0-16 team in the history of the NFL. If Marinelli is compromising his staff because of nepotism it’s a valid topic for discussion.

Terry Bradshaw threw a bit of a tizzy over the question and a lot of other people are chiming in. They think Parker should be fired because he made it personal.


Marinelli made it personal. This issue is why most successful companies have very strict policies about the employment of family members. It’s hard to fire your son-in-law. Parker’s question is just a snarky way of asking why if Marinelli is letting his personal relationship with his staff affect his managerial decisions. It’s a valid question that deserves an honest answer. Rod Marinelli gets paid a lot of money and he has to answer for his team’s performance.

Instead, Marinelli saw an opportunity to throw his daughter in front of the question and pretend it was an attack on her. The reality is that nobody cares about the little tramp. We want to know if Marinelli is more willing to face the consequences of an 0-16 season than he is to face his daughter when her husband is staring down a 30% cut in pay.

I think Rob Parker’s question was funny but I’m not surprised Rod Marinelli didn’t see the humor in it. When you’re 0-15 you shouldn’t find the humor in anything, but you also don’t get to throw a pity party for yourself because your daughter’s marital status was the subject of a question.

There’s been some speculation that Marinelli might retain his job after this season is over. A lot of people believe that the Lions were hamstrung by Matt Millen’s ineptitude as a general manager and there’s no question that Rod Marinelli had his work cut out for him but 0-15 is simply inexcusable. Since he’s clearly not doing his job as far as winning football games, the least Marinelli can do is explain why he is not.

I can’t get behind Marinelli on this. He gets paid a lot of money and part of the job is answering tough questions. Rob Parker’s job is to ask them. Parker might have been snide in the way he asked the question and it’s possible that the question was actually rhetorical but it wasn’t out of line. The people who are upset with Parker are out of line. That goes double for Terry Bradshaw…stick with being the comic relief on the frat party Fox passes off as NFL analysis. Leave the real work to people more qualified.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bowling for Dollars

One of the arguments against a playoff system at the FBS level of college football is that it would deprive schools of the privilege of playing in a bowl. It’s true that a lot of teams will never aspire to the level of play necessary to qualify them for a shot at a national title but they still get to play one last game on the national stage if they win enough during the regular season. Six is the magic number, which is why 6-6 Notre Dame managed to secure a trip to Hawaii on Christmas Eve.

Not every six win team gets to play in a bowl because 6-6 does not a winning record make, but when you have the kind of history Notre Dame has and the harbor porpoise you call a coach has been out of the water too long, you get to pack your bags for paradise. Never mind the fact that Notre Dame didn’t beat anybody respectable. Forget about the reality of the modern era where Notre Dame is a second tier program that refuses to join a conference for fear of not being able to negotiate its own television contracts.

Implementing a playoff system doesn’t mean you have to eliminate bowls. You can still have obscure bowls played in the middle of the week to appease the mediocre teams who win 7 games or take home a conference title nobody really cares about. Playoffs would only require modifying the BCS bowls to accommodate a post season tournament.

There are people who complain that playoffs would diminish the importance of the other bowl games, but as I look over the schedule I find it hard to believe that these games could be any less significant.

There are two games that I’m going to sit down and watch. I’m interested in seeing if Penn State was tested enough during the regular season to keep USC under wraps. I don’t think they were, but I have to see it for myself. Personally I think that the Big 10 was weak this year and Penn State didn’t play anybody worthy of national respect. Ohio State was an important win for Penn State but I’m not so sure it proves anything. USC wasn’t as dominant as people thought they were after the beating they handed the Buckeyes but they still have some firepower and they have a good defense. Penn State’s in trouble.

I’m also interested in the Oklahoma/Florida pairing. I hate the BCS and I won’t give either team credit for winning a national title when this one is over, but I think that off all the games you could have scheduled for this bowl season, this is the best pairing. I suspect Oklahoma’s defense is a lot better than people think and Florida won’t be able to keep up with the Sooners, but Bob Stoops has suffered a couple of humiliating BCS losses in recent years. This game is a toss up. It could go either way. I don’t like either program but Tim Tebow seems like a big, fat, overrated jerk to me and I like Sam Bradford so I’m rooting for Oklahoma.

I won’t waste my time watching Utah get throttled by Alabama. I hope Utah does well but I don’t think they stand a chance in this one. I maintain that the BCS scheduled this match up to punish Utah for crashing the BCS party. Alabama and Texas was an intriguing concept but I suspect that game would have impugned the credibility of the BCS title game. So the BCS people ruined it for everybody. Thanks, old white guys in suits, you really know how to screw things up.

Even though I consider myself a waning Buckeye fan I won’t waste my time watching the Fiesta Bowl. Jim Tressel manages to throw a soggy sweater vest on everything, including Terrelle Pryor. The Buckeyes are predictable and boring. The defense doesn’t make big plays, and the offense has become one dimensional. Don’t let the spread formation fool you, Tressel’s offense is easy to read and tough to watch. Texas will dismantle the Buckeyes in short order, holding out hope that a big win will help them make a case for being the people’s champion. Sadly, Ohio State has become a BCS doormat and beating the Buckeyes won’t impress anybody.

Outside of that, I really couldn’t care less about the rest of the bowls. Not only will I not bother watching, I think that I might even forget to check the box scores to see who won. No offense to the fans and players of all of those teams who will be playing, I just don’t care. It’s not my fault that college football has the audacity to lump 119 programs in one subdivision as if they’re all equal. Fans know better. There are 20 teams that matter and the rest are just fodder for the schedule. Most of the bowls are like those cheap hats they stuff into cases of beer. But hey, it looks good on you though.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Racism is still a factor

It's interesting that the United States recently elected its first African American president. On the surface it leads one to believe that this country has come a long way with regard to racism and prejudice. When you look closely at Barack Obama you realize that not only did he overcome the obstacle of race, but he also hurdled xenophobia and a significant generation gap.

In the world of sports the accomplishments of athletes and their significance are often overstated in the name of nostalgia. Sports writers are held to a much more relaxed standard and they tend to publish articles that wax philosophically about the importance of trivial events. Otherwise reprehensible people are often sanctified in print because they played through an injury or put familial obligations on the back burner in order to play an pivotal game. In many cases athletes are given credit for acting selflessly when their actions were entirely selfish.

There are some things that do matter. Jesse Owens shattering Hitler's notion of a superior Aryan race in the 1936 Olympics matters. It's ironic that Owens was an American hero at those games but when he came home he was often required to enter hotels and banquet halls through the service entrance, but his accomplishments at the games and the manner in which her carried himself broke down barriers.

It was the strides Owens made that opened doors for Jackie Robinson years later, although it's unfair to forget that black soldiers who served heroically in combat during World War II opened many doors as well. Robinson, however, was a catalyst and it was his ability to grasp the full scope of his responsibilities that opened the door for other black players.

The integration of sports was a major step in the right direction. People identify with athletes and as black players achieved excellence in athletic competition, a wary, white public began to accept them. It was a qualified acceptance but the integration of sports helped ease the integration of society.

Even though the NFL, or at least what later became the NFL, accepted black players and even had a black coach, Fritz Pollard, in the early 1920s, it was difficult for black players to make the transition into coaching and even more difficult for the few black assistant coaches in the league to advance into the head coaching position. Even into the 1980s there was a belief that black athletes lacked the intellectual capacity to be successful as starting quarterbacks and head coaches. Doug Williams became the first African American quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory in 1987. Art Shell became the first African American head coach in the NFL since the NFL started using face masks.

Even though the NFL loves to claim that it was a bastion of racial harmony from its inception, the reality is that it left a lot to be desired. There was a difference in how black players were treated and compensated. Racial prejudice and bias influenced personnel decisions for years. People questioned why a league that relied so heavily on the performance of black athletes seemed to deny opportunities to African Americans behind the scenes. It was in the 1990s the NFL began addressing that issue and it's been only in the past 10 years we've seen something resembling equality. There's still work to be done, but the NFL has kicked a lot of doors open.

The same is not true in college football. Recently Auburn infuriated people around the league by offering its head coaching position to a former coordinator who had achieved nothing but failure as a head coach at Iowa State. Gene Chizik was successful as a defensive coordinator at Texas and Auburn but his 2 year stint at Iowa State resulted in a total of five wins. Moreover, he left Iowa State with four years remaining on his contract. So not only did Chizik fail to demonstrate success as a head coach, he also failed to demonstrate integrity.

Turner Gill is an African American head coach from Buffalo. In his three years at the helm Buffalo has steadily improved, winning the MAC Championship over unbeaten Ball State and earning a bowl bid this year. Not only has Gill proven his abilities to develop a program, Gill's background includes NFL experience. He was the Director of Player Development with the Green Bay Packers before he was offered the top job with the Buffalo Bulls.

There are plenty of reasons Auburn passed on Gill. His lack of familiarity with the SEC likely played a significant role. Similarly Chizik had demonstrated success at Auburn as the defensive coodinator for an unbeaten team a few years ago. So not only was Chizik familiar with the SEC, he also knew a lot about Auburn. It's hard to believe that race was the deciding factor in Chizik's hiring but you can bet it was an influencing factor.

Out of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision (Division 1-a) programs only four have African American head coaches. Of those four programs only one (Miami) is a respected football power and it is in the middle of a rebuilding process after a number of problems forced out the previous coaching staff. Randy Shanon will probably be given plenty of time to repair the once storied Miami program but even if he is successful at restoring Miami to greatness the odds of other significant schools hiring black coaches are slim . When you look around the NCAA you just don't see any prominent assistant coaches who happen to be black. Several teams with older coaches are grooming heirs apparent and all of them are white.

The problem with the NCAA is that there really isn't a singular authority. The National Collegiate Athletics Association is a voluntary affiliation. The rules are established by the university presidents. In the NFL the teams are franchises that must conform to the mandates from the league office. So it's a lot easier for the NFL to identify and address perceived problems.
The NFL is also a money driven league. Coaches don't have to recruit players, nor do the players have to meet certain academic criteria. In college coaches have to play political games. They have to raise money, sell tickets and convince the best players to play for them. Yes, there are times when money changes hands. Some coaches work the secret booster circuit to acquire financial inducements for top players. Those who don't have to be really good at selling their program's ability to help players make it to the NFL. So it's a lot harder to hire the right guy. Often, bigger schools like Auburn prefer to hire a coach who knows how to schmooze the boosters over a guy who can coach. After all, a lot of Athletic Directors will tell you, the head coach is the CEO and the assistant coaches handle the Xs and Os.

Money talks. It always has. In the NFL the money is right there on the table. It's all about tickets and advertising. Winning solves all the problems. In college football it's not always so simple. Winning consistently doesn't solve problems so much as it keeps them on hold. Winning generates some revenue but the real money comes from checks signed by rich boosters. University presidents have to make sure that they keep the benefactors happy. Too often the decision to hire a coach isn't made by the athletic director or even the university president. Gene Chizik might have landed the Auburn job over Turner Gill because somebody with deep pockets wanted him bad enough to sign a six figure check. There aren't any rules that prohibit these things and until there are, the NCAA can't get a handle on why black coaches are passed over.

The problem with racism is that it isn't a singular entity. Racism is like a cockroach infestation. You can't eliminate it in one fell swoop, you have to go cupboard to cupboard. Even then, you can't be sure you've solved the problem. Everybody knows that if your house is dirty, the roaches are only going to come back. Nobody keeps a dirtier house than college football and until something is done to clean it up, racism isn't going away.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Dirty Business of the BCS

I have a love/hate relationship with college football. Growing up in Northeastern Ohio I was essentially raised on the game and I have a deep appreciation for the nuances and the history of the sport. I have watched the game evolve and players get better as the seasons go by. It’s a remarkable game that provides endless entertainment.

Growing up in Ohio, it’s hard to not have strong feelings about the Buckeyes. Most people love them. Ohio State has a long, illustrious history and some of the greatest figures in the game have spent time in Columbus. Still, there are those who can’t stand Ohio State. They get tired of having all things scarlet and gray crammed down their throats 365 days a year. I can certainly appreciate how they feel.

My problem with college football isn’t specific to Ohio State, but since Ohio State is one of traditional powers in college football the things I hate about the game are very much a part of the Ohio State legacy. The greed, the corruption, the politics, the cheating…Ohio State isn’t above breaking the rules, but anybody who thinks they’re alone is living a lie.

The NCAA enables the sort of plausibly deniable malfeasance that Ohio State engages in to go on at the bigger programs. It’s good for business and in the end that is exactly what college football is. The difference between college football and the NFL is that the NFL is honest about its agenda. The NCAA still tries to pretend that it serves a noble purpose.

In college football everybody is on the take but only the players suffer consequences when their greed gets the better of them. This January the NCAA will parlay it’s approval of a non-sanctioned postseason into hundreds of millions of dollars of which the players who risk life and limb in these games will see nothing in the way of compensation. Sure, the bowl sponsors do arrange for the players to receive gifts but when you think about the money changing hands at the administrative level these gifts are insulting.

Players accept it because the NCAA has managed to convince everybody that it’s in the best interest of the “student athlete” to forego compensation. If players were paid for their performance, the NCAA argues, then they wouldn’t focus on their academic development.

Of course the NCAA doesn’t seem to care about the quality of the education being offered. Many college football players attend college for five or six years without obtaining a degree. Many of the players who do receive diplomas accomplish this feat in convoluted courses of study that have no value in the real world and even less value to the so-called “student athlete” who might want to pursue a career in football.

Apologists will tell you that the money that changes hands gets put back into the schools. They’ll tell you that college football generates revenue that supports gymnastics, swimming, field hockey and tennis. This is true, but not until a lot of old men in suits get paid. Most of the college coaches you’ll see on the sidelines in January make base salaries that exceed one million dollars per year and most of those coaches are under contracts that guarantee that money for a number of years beyond this one. A few coaches even have provisions in their contracts that allow them to renegotiate for a raise if they achieve certain performance benchmarks, few of which pertain to the academic achievements of their teams.

Beyond base salaries coaches are able to broker marketing deals on behalf of the team that secure even more money and most coaches have agents that seek out endorsement contracts that are completely independent of their collegiate responsibilities. So the average compensation package of your typical coach roaming the sidelines in a BCS bowl is quantified in terms of millions of dollars. A few coaches will actually receive bonuses measured in millions if they win their BCS bowls. Meanwhile the players are walking away with a few hundred dollars worth of corporate swag. That’s fair.

Still, I could get past this. Players go into this situation with eyes wide open. They know they’re going to get used for four or five years and some of them manage to negotiate illicit deals on the side that may or may not be facilitated by their coaches. Athletic directors and coaches look the other way and the NCAA ignores these issues until they are so blatantly obvious and embarrassing that somebody has to be sacrificed upon the alter of deniability. At a big revenue-generating program like Ohio State or USC it’s the wayward player, at a less important school you’ll see scholarships stripped and bowl privileges revoked. There’s no oversight committee checking up on the NCAA to ensure that it is enforcing its rules and applying its penalties evenly and none of the college presidents are going to rock the boat because they know that their own programs wouldn’t survive a thorough investigation. So mum’s the word.

But so is money and that brings us to this year’s BCS selections. Obviously the BCS title game pits the number one ranked team in the final BCS standings against the number two ranked team. This year both teams finished the season with one loss. Interestingly enough the top ranked team, Oklahoma, lost to another team that finished the season with one loss: Texas. Even though the usual suspects are telling fans to let it rest, this is cause for concern. Texas seems to have a very legitimate argument that they should be playing for a national title.

The BCS managed to solve that problem by pairing Texas up with a very overrated Ohio State team in the Fiesta Bowl. Logic would dictate that Texas, as the third ranked team in the final BCS poll should play the next best team which, in this case, seems to be Alabama. Alabama spent most of the year ranked number one before losing to Florida in the SEC title game. Of course, if Texas happened to beat Alabama convincingly then Texas would have even more of an argument for being the best team in the country. By relegating Texas to a less appealing battle with an Ohio Sate team that has a recent history of BCS failure, Texas won’t have as compelling a case. Everybody, you see, beats Ohio Sate in January.

The BCS BS doesn’t stop there. BCS officials weren’t happy to see Utah and Boise State finish in the top 10. Granted, both schools come from weak conferences but they are the only unbeaten teams remaining and a lot of fans would like to see how they fare against traditional powers. Boise State famously upset Oklahoma in a BCS game two years ago but it was on the strength of a gimmicky play so most people think it was a fluke.

The BCS doesn’t care about flukes. The BCS cares about two things: money and credibility. And credibility only matters because it influences future revenue. Credibility is why Texas is being insulted with a game against an Ohio State team that beat 10 creampuffs and it’s why the BCS doesn’t want teams that are in non-BCS conferences winning BCS games. If that happens a couple more times the BCS will have to re-evaluate which conferences deserve the BCS honor. The ACC and the Big East won’t like that.

Another problem with schools like Boise State and Utah is that they don’t travel many fans. It was bad enough when West Virginia failed to sell its ticket allotment last year and bowl officials had to fill seats with random people from the streets and it hurt West Virginia to be on the hook for that money. The reality is that most schools don’t have a national fan base that can buy tickets to bowl games on the west coast. Most schools aren’t in the middle of a metropolitan area that has enough people with the money to make the trip to watch a BCS bowl. So the BCS likes to keep the club exclusive.

Which is fair, but don’t run around claiming that the BCS Championship game is the national championship fans have been looking for. The problem is that a lot of people will lose interest if the BCS admits that what they’re really doing is arbitrarily nominating a champion from a number of select schools that generate a lot of money.

That’s why the BCS opted to punish by sending them to the Sugar Bowl to face Texas. Rather than invite unbeaten Utah to Arizona to face Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, a game many Utah fans could rive to, BCS officials begrudgingly sent Utah to be sacrificed for being insolent enough to shake up the final poll. Alabama was two scores shy of playing for the national title. They won 12 games over the course of the regular season and only lost to a favored Florida team in the SEC title game. Utah’s unbeaten and it’s players relish a shot at playing on the national stage but reality tells us that Utah won’t last a quarter. Stranger things have happened but the smart money says Utah won’t even be competitive against Alabama. But Utah might put up a fight with Ohio State, and could beat Virginia Tech and/or Cincinnati which is why the BCS didn’t make those games a reality.

It’s interesting that the two weakest teams in the BCS picture are playing each other. That will give the casual observer the illusion that the game is interesting. Cincinnati won a disappointing Big East conference this year and Virginia Tech staggered to a win in the beleaguered ACC. Nobody things either of these teams worthy of a BCS honor but they won titles in conferences that are guaranteed a BCS berth. So the BCS swept these two embarrassing dust bunnies under the rug by having them play each other.

If Utah were to throttle either of those schools the BCS would have a lot of explaining to do. How could the BCS continue to deny entire conferences access to the BCS party when it’s been proven that those conferences can beat BCS teams in big games? The same is true if Utah holds its own against Ohio State. The BCS can’t accommodate everybody which is why fans want playoffs. If the Utahs and Boise States of the world compete toe to toe with BCS schools in BCS games the push for playoffs will continue to strengthen.

So the BCS manipulates the matches to minimize scrutiny. We might carp about some of the selections, but after the games are played fans will accept the results. As long as those results don’t impugn the integrity of the BCS the BCS officials are happy. Alabama will clobber Utah, Virginia Tech and Cincy will wallow in mediocrity and Texas won’t have much to brag about if they humiliate Ohio State. In the end, the BCS will have successfully determined who the best team in the country is and nobody will have room to complain. Most importantly, the money will end up in the right hands once again.

And that’s what college football is all about.