Let the College Football Games Begin: ‘The High Court’ is in Place

 

Is there anything left for college football which is not an object of criticism?

We don’t like “boring” football so we have structured rules which have allowed “wide open” offenses to score almost at will. We didn’t like how some officials’ calls were questionable, so we added “instant replay.” We don’t like concussions (who does?) so we emphasize rules for “helmet-to-helmet” contact with greater scrutiny—actually, when I played we called such contact “spearing” but the officials were lax in calling it for whatever reasons.

And the beat goes on…

Is all this second guessing really for the “improvement of the game?” I think so…I hope so!

Condoleezza Rice

Still, the most egregious short-coming for NCAA Division I-A Football was the determination of a “National Champion.” Never mind that NCAA Division I-AA, Division II, and Division III all have very adequate playoff systems. The financial success of the bowls could not allow such a playoff system in I-A. And for years, we had arguments as to the legitimacy of the various “polls”—AP, UPI, Coaches’, etc. Alabama claims 14 “national championships,” but some of them came from such notable arbiters of football supremacy as “Hulgate,” “Williamson,” Parke-Davis,” and “Billinglsey.”

While these bastions of pigskin prudence all sounded more like accounting or law firms, until we got to the BCS there were typical disputes regarding national champions in football. There have been eighteen “split” national champions in the history of American Collegiate Football, the most recent in 2003 when LSU won the BCS in the Sugar Bowl with a 21-14 victory over Oklahoma, while the AP crowned Southern Cal for its 28-14 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The AP has since opted out of participation in the BCS calculations—thank goodness!

Then, like a lightning strike came the “Bowl Championship Series” or the BCS and the NCAA now had the NCAA FBS (formerly I-A) and the NCAA FCS (formerly I-AA). The FBS had its “quirks” as it sought to determine which two teams would compete for a “legitimate” National Championship. There were polls of all sorts, computer programs of every dimension imaginable, and somehow we still managed to leave out teams from the so-called “power conferences” which had posted undefeated regular season records. To wit: 2004, undefeated SEC Champion Auburn was left out of the BCS in favor of Oklahoma because the computer element of the BCS rankings had OU rated higher than Auburn, even though the SEC had a higher Conference Power ranking than did the Big-12 at the time.

But today, today a new era of crowning a “true” national champion has a real genesis. You see, the master-minds of gridiron conjury (yes, a new word I am claiming, much like the declension of ‘athletic ability’ to ‘athleticism’) have announced the names of the High Court of Selection for the new and revised version of the BCS. And it’s a playoff! It only has four teams in the “playoff”, but, hey, it’s not going to lose any money for the stodgy old bowl associations either—and that’s something!

The High Court of FBS Selection will have 13 members—former college and NFL quarterbacks Oliver Luck, Archie Manning, and Pat Haden, former college coaches Tom Osborne, Tyrone Willingham, and Barry Alvarez, will join Mike Gould, Tom Jernstedt, Dan Radakovich, Mike Tranghese, Steve Weiberg, and Chair of the High Court is Arkansas Athletics Director Jeff Long.

But the biggest name to be on the High Court is a person who never played football! And she’s a girl! And, OMG, former Auburn Coach Pat Dye was having apoplexy over her choice! It is Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, former Provost at Stanford in charge of Athletics (who, by the way hired Willingham to coach The Cardinal with good success), and the daughter of a football coach from the Great State of Alabama!

She may very well be the best choice of the lot but that remains to be seen.

The point is that we are at a real starting point now as we sunset the current two-team BCS Championship Game and head into the sunrise of a 4-team BCS Championship “playoff.”

The specific parameters for selection have not yet been finalized, but we do know that the High Court will meet four times during the college football season and will release its rankings every other week starting in or around mid-October.

Few events in sport have spurred so much conversation as the current state of NCAA FBS Football for so very many reasons. And the conversations seem to inherently breed controversy, so it is no wonder that even the finalization of the High Court has provoked a kerfuffle.

But, hey, a girl! OMG, what’s the world coming to…

Dr. Arthur Ogden, the Chair of Sports Management at the United States Sports Academy, can be reached at aogden@ussa.edu. Ogden has coached college football for 12 years, including as defensive coordinator at Auburn University, and served as a Director of Athletics at the collegiate level for 10 years. His doctoral dissertation on Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy of education won the coveted Dilley Award for Outstanding Dissertation of the Year in 1995.

 

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