Whenever I decide to use the treadmill at the gym I try to position myself in front of the one TV (out of six in the cardio room) that is actually showing ESPN. There’s a good reason for this. When I’m sitting there drenching myself in sweat there are very few things that can hold my interest long enough to distract me from the mile ticker, calorie counter, heart beat monitor or whatever the hell else my treadmill is trying to tell me about my exercise. One of those nice distractions is Sportscenter. The other one is pretty much any sporting event outside of golf. I would rather watch the World Series of paint drying than watch live golf. The other typical TV choices at my gym? CNN (on this day it was Al Sharpton’s show…yes, seriously. CNN has officially given up), Fox News (yeah…), HGTV (seriously?!) and a slew of other talk “news” programs like Nancy Grace (I could, but I won’t).
Back to the treadmill. Not only did I get a spot in front of Sportscenter for the duration of my run, but they were also having a panel discussion about a playoff system in college football. I love watching these Outside the Lines debates between pundits, coaches and whoever else ESPN thinks might be somewhat pertinent to the college football discussion. It’s great theater and, as I’ve stated in the past, one of the most compelling debates in American athletics. Plus, I have a bias towards a playoff system and it gets my adrenaline pumping to watch pundits (many from ESPN, which benefits from the bowl system) go against many coaches who have called for a playoff. So you can imagine my dismay when, after listening to a few idiots talk about the “integrity” and “tradition” of the bowl system, the coaches got on the air and…did the exact same fucking thing! What? You guys are the ones that have been calling for a playoff for years! Out of everyone involved (besides the players) you’re supposed to be the ones fighting for the most equally competitive way to play the game and decide a champion. You’re supposed to bash the bowl system endlessly because of its blatant hypocrisy and inequality, not praise its (bullshit) nostalgia and tradition!
It began with Urban Meyer, a guy that parlayed a career making Utah into a BCS busting mid major football power into the Florida job where he won two national titles. At Utah he was unequivocally a playoff guy because his undefeated Utah team (despite winning a BCS bowl) got the shaft when it came to competing for a national title in 2004. Of course at Florida things changed when he realized that, not only could he make the national championship game, but he could do it with an actual loss on the resume. What a turnaround. You think that constipated feeling in his heart (the one that forced him to leave football) was caused by a complete lack of moral fiber?
It didn’t just stop there. I watched Nick Saban, the legendary coach at the University of Alabama, not only laud the bowl system, but claim that a playoff would take away from “time spent in the classroom.” Are you fucking kidding me? Look, I’ll be the first one to talk up the merits of the average NCAA athlete in the classroom. When people take time to look beyond football and basketball there’s evidence that correlates playing an NCAA sport with higher GPAs and graduation rates when compared with the average American college students. The structure that training for and playing a varsity sport year round requires often translates to the classroom (student-athletes would fail otherwise for lack of time). Still, that doesn’t diminish the fact that NCAA football and basketball players tend to be the major outliers from the otherwise successful academic numbers associated with being a student athlete. That the Division I versions of each sport are by far the worst offenders only exacerbates how trumped up and ludicrous Nick Saban’s academics spiel is.
In Saban’s case this aversion to a playoff shouldn’t actually be that surprising, but it has nothing to do with academics. The one time a team of his played a non-BCS conference football team at the height of their powers (Utah in the 2008 Sugar Bowl) his 12-1 Alabama juggernaut got demolished 31-17 in a game that was never even that close. In fact, going back to 2004 the non-BCS teams, more often than not, have beaten their big bad brethren. Discounting Boise State’s win over TCU in 2009 (one of the biggest cop out match ups conceived in the BCS era) the little guys have beaten the big guys 4 times (with 3 different teams) and lost once on the college game’s bigger stages (they haven’t been given a shot at the biggest). What was the largest of those wins? A 35-7 evisceration by Utah of Pittsburgh in that first BCS buster game in 2004. The coach of Utah at the time? Urban “I shit you not he is this much of a douchebag” Meyer. Utah deserved as much of a shot at the title game that year as anyone. Instead they got to watch USC pummel Oklahoma and cement itself as the “greatest team ever”…until of course it lost to Texas in 2005’s national championship.
This is what kills me most about a guy like Meyer who despite not coaching right now will remain one of the most visible coaching minds in modern college football for years to come (especially if he gets back into, you know, coaching). He deserves the accolades. One of the few complements I’ll give the guy is that he is an amazing coach, who worked his ass off to get to where he did. He won 2 national titles (one of which without Tim Tebow as the starter) and should have had an opportunity to coach in another at Utah. Indeed, he said as much after that historic win back in 2004. Still, the next year he’d understandably left for greener (get it?) pastures and completely changed his stance. The worst part? He already has his national titles. Switching to a playoff, even a 4 team set up, won’t diminish that, at least not in his life time. Still, he’ll continue to pump up the BCS system, if for no other reason than to have an opportunity to step back into the driver’s seat of another national power that begins every year with a head start over at least 50% of the field. Well done asshole.
That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for, “Let’s recap: Jesus Montero has a 1.235 OPS with 3 homers, 6 RBIs and 6 Runs through 6 games. He can DH or catch, and the Yanks are in the middle of a big September. We could just nickname him the savior now.”