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Cal Has a Gripe the Size of Texas

December 07, 2004|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

It's Tuesday morning in college football, California still isn't going to the Rose Bowl and, frankly, people want answers.

Cal's computer-generated snub from the Jan. 1 Granddaddy has inspired outrage, cries for reform and several conspiracy theories.

"I probably have 100 e-mails today from disgruntled fans," Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said Monday on a conference call ostensibly arranged to talk about his five-year contract extension.

The Cal controversy isn't going away.

Golden Bear players and fans are incensed -- and wondering whether the team's Rose Bowl bid was snatched by suspicious maneuverings.

How did this happen?

As with everything involving the BCS, it's complicated.

Cal entered the weekend ranked No. 4 in the bowl championship series standings with a .0013 lead over Texas.

Based on BCS rules, the No. 4 team was guaranteed an invitation to a major bowl.

The Rose Bowl was hoping to take Cal with the at-large pick and keep its game a traditional Pac-10-Big Ten match-up.

(Remember, before the BCS, USC would have been in the Rose Bowl and Cal would have been out.)

The question entering the weekend was whether Cal would hold its slim BCS lead as it prepared to face Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Cal won, 26-16, yet the Golden Bears lost points in both the writers' and coaches' polls.

And up went the red flags.

Nine of the 65 writers in the Associated Press poll jumped Texas ahead of Cal in final voting.

Three of the five AP voters from Texas who had Cal ahead of Texas last week moved Texas ahead of Cal.

Neal McCready, a Mobile Register writer, kept Cal at No. 4 but jumped Texas from ninth to fifth.

After receiving more than 1,100 angry e-mails from Texas fans last week, McCready acknowledged he should have had Texas ranked higher earlier in the season.

"I decided to study it more," he told the Austin American Statesman. "I came away with the conclusion you couldn't punish Cal and Texas for losing their only games against Southern Cal and Oklahoma."

Mitch Vingle of the Charleston Gazette moved Texas from No. 5 to No. 4 and dropped Cal from No. 4 to No. 6.

"Because I saw the game," Vingle said. "And also, when it came right down to it, if you put these two teams head to head, based on what I saw, Texas would win."

John Rohde of the Oklahoman said he flip-flopped his Texas-Cal vote because he thought Cal should have "drilled" Southern Mississippi.

Cal still finished No. 4 in both human polls, but its lead over Texas was parsed enough so that Texas' larger lead in the computer component made the BCS difference.

The BCS changed its formula this year, giving more weight to the human polls and weighing the rankings by total points.

Last year, Cal would have enjoyed a much larger proportional BCS advantage simply by finishing ahead of Texas in the human polls.

At stake here was whether Cal or Texas would play in a major bowl game. That means an additional $4.5 million for the Pac-10 or the Big 12 Conferences.

The writers didn't have a financial stake in the Texas-Cal debate, but you could argue they have a journalistic stake.

Several national writers no longer participate in the AP poll. The reason: "Because I don't want to get calls like this," said Boston Globe national football columnist Mark Blaudschun, who voted in the AP for 17 years. "I don't want to be part of the story. How you vote shouldn't determine who plays in a championship game or a bowl in which you go from $1 million to $14 million. If your vote can swing that around, it's wrong."

Some of the 61 coaches who participate in the ESPN/USA Today poll did have a financial stake in whether Texas or Cal advanced to the Rose Bowl.

And Cal lost far more points in the final coaches' poll than it lost in the writers' poll.

"My impression of this whole thing was that the coaches' poll is what made the big difference, the swing in the coaches' vote," Tedford said.

Cal's fate with the coaches actually took a suspicious twist before the final BCS standings.

On Nov. 21, the day after Cal defeated Stanford by 35 points and Texas was idle, the Golden Bears lost points in the coaches' poll.

The week prior, Texas had to rally to beat lowly Kansas.

"A lot of things just didn't make sense," Tedford said. "When Texas beat Kansas by a slim margin, and then they didn't play, then we beat our two opponents by a cumulative 82-18, and they gained a bunch of ground on us?"

Texas had an another advantage over Cal in the sense the Big 12 has seven voting coaches as compared to five for the Pac-10.

A chart Monday in USA Today, a co-sponsor of the coaches' poll, was telling.

Last week, no coach had Cal ranked below sixth. This week, four coaches had Cal at No. 7 and two at No. 8.

Tedford, who is a voting coach, thought that was curious following his team's 10-point road win against a school going to a bowl game.

"I would be interested to find out who those teams were that voted us down that low," Tedford said. "To find out what conference they were from."

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