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Chris Dufresne | ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Here in the valley of the shadow of BCS, peace is a pipe dream

December 04, 2006|Chris Dufresne

So much for "peace in the valley" ...

Those were the words incoming Bowl Championship Series coordinator Mike Slive used to describe last year's controversy-free season in which USC and Texas ended up playing a Rose Bowl for the ages.

Back in the valley on Sunday, wagons were overturned, Michigan was mugged, and the BCS returned to being the most laughed-about way to determine a championship.

In terms of ratings, interest and the "hoot" factor, things couldn't be better.

And something has to be done to fix it?

Yes.

Remember, convoluted is the BCS' operative word.

In case you missed it, Florida jumped Michigan for the No. 2 spot in the final BCS standings and will play Ohio State for the national title on Jan. 8.

Michigan suffered its only loss, to Ohio State, on Nov. 18, and has been losing ground ever since. First it got passed in the standings by USC, and now by Florida.

Florida claimed the No. 2 spot by the final total of .9445 to .9344. That's close even if you never got beyond basic math.

Florida and Michigan actually tied for second in the BCS computers, leaving it up to the pollsters in the three-headed BCS formula that keeps headline writers busy.

It came down to this: People did not want to see a replay of Ohio State-Michigan, so enough Harris poll voters and USA Today coaches switched sides to turn the tide.

"We have a system," Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr said. "I've said all along that system would speak. And it has spoken."

It said, "We want Florida."

It wasn't a clean break.

Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel didn't cast his vote, because he thought it was a conflict of interest.

"That was slick," Carr would say.

Florida Coach Urban Meyer said coaches shouldn't be put in these kinds of situations.

"I'm never going to vote in the USA Today coaches' poll," Meyer said. "No reason to. ... Imagine if Coach Tressel voted for us?"

Meyer then had to defend himself from charges that he shamelessly lobbied for his Gators at the expense of Michigan.

Meyer grew up in Ohio ... enough said?

Meyer said last week that people didn't want a rematch and that Michigan had its chance against Ohio State.

Meyer said Sunday his comments were directed at the BCS system he wants to see bulldozed.

You could go over this with a comb and conjure conspiracy theories. Two Harris voters ranked Florida at No. 5 while another had the Gators at No. 1, ahead of Ohio State.

Crazy stuff.

USC and Michigan "fell" into a Rose Bowl neither school really wanted to play in. The Trojans and Wolverines will be parading on the heels of devastating losses to their archrivals -- defeats that cost each a chance to win the national title.

The Rose Bowl, conversely, was thrilled to get the Pac-10 and Big Ten back because two weeks ago it was looking at Rutgers or Louisville as a possible anchor.

Carr, who won his only national title by winning the Rose Bowl after the 1997 season, said the Rose Bowl was not a consolation prize.

"The day will never come in my life where there will be a disappointment of playing in the great tradition of the Rose Bowl," Carr said.

Yet, emotions were getting tugged in so many directions.

On the BCS-absurdity meter, actually, this year rates no more than tied for third.

This is the fifth time in the BCS' nine-year history that there has been controversy involving the title game.

Nothing was worse than 2003, when USC finished No. 1 in both polls but No. 3 in the BCS, or 2001, when Nebraska staggered into the national-title game after a 62-36 loss to Colorado.

This year's hiccup will stir more barks for change.

The problem is the BCS doesn't quite know how to get off the fence it's sitting on.

Officials are torn, reluctant to barter the best regular season in sports against any sort of NFL-style playoff.

If you took the Michigan "problem" out of this year's equation, most BCS officials would be thrilled.

Eight of the top 10 teams in the final BCS standings landed in a major bowl.

The Sugar Bowl got Notre Dame to pair with Louisiana State in a game some Mardi Gras-bent pitch man will sell as "Beads vs. Beads."

The Fiesta Bowl got feel-good Boise State against Oklahoma, which didn't get knocked out of a BCS game because of that bad call in the Oregon game.

Louisville, at 11-1, was not denied, and will play Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.

Still, the latest controversy may kick-start the next baby step to reform.

Slive, who is serving as BCS coordinator in addition to his role as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, is open to a sensible solution.

While he knows school presidents are opposed to the full-blown playoff that Meyer wants, Slive sees an opening to revisit the idea of a "plus-one" model, which would determine the national-title participants after the four BCS bowls are played.

"Maybe we ought to take a look at opening up some," Slive said of the system.

Slive jokingly refers to any option beyond "plus-one" as the dreaded "playoff" word.

Slive says no system is going to be perfect, and he's right about that, but he insists the BCS will continue to look for ways to improve itself without endangering a) the regular system or b) the bowls.

The BCS is open to ideas.

Note to readers: the first BCS plan was concocted on a napkin.

Meyer says blow up the BCS now and start over.

"It has to be done," he said. "It's just, 'Can it be done?' "

Carr says players -- not computers, coaches with vested interests or sportswriters with food stains on their ties -- should decide who plays for championships.

"They play the game," Carr said of players. "It's a game for college kids. We should make all the decisions based on what's best for them."

This isn't "peace in the valley" anymore.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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