By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
If this were 2014, who knows whether Marshall or Rice would be hosting the Conference USA championship game?
One thing is for certain — the game’s site would not be determined the way it was Sunday.
After Florida State wins the national championship in January (yes, that’s my prediction), the BCS will be no more, giving way to the birth of the playoff system most of us have wanted for years. The BCS has been a source of controversy and consternation for a long time now, and is certainly going out with a bang.
Teams that felt worthy of playing for college football’s most coveted prize have been left out, and the potential exists for it to happen one final time next week.
But who would have thought the BCS rankings would have such an impact at the mid-major level as they have in Huntington and Houston?
With East Division champion Marshall and West winner Rice finishing with identical league records, and without a head-to-head matchup to invoke as a tiebreaker, everyone had to wait for the BCS rankings release late Sunday for the site to be announced.
What a dizzying Sunday it proved to be.
Would-be mathematicians dusted off their abacuses in attempts to crack the code.
Jerry Palm, the college football guru at CBSSports.com, released some early projections that had Rice ahead of Marshall. Later, after Marshall received votes in the USA Today coaches and Harris Interactive polls — two-thirds of the BCS equation — Palm updated his projections to reflect the Herd at 32 and Rice at 56.
Everything seemed to be pointing toward Marshall hosting its first conference title game in 11 years. Instead, the BCS dropped its C.
Apparently, Palm had been working closely with C-USA to come up with the winner. After all, tickets had to be printed and plans to sell them had to be made as quickly as possible.
Usually, the BCS only worries about computing its top 25. It was even stated in a C-USA release that, “While the BCS standings technically rank 1-25, as that is all that is required for the BCS, the formula (which equally weighs the Coaches poll, Harris poll, and computer polls for a BCS average) can be extended to determine the relative positions of teams.”
In other words, Palm did C-USA a favor in agreeing to help.
I can just hear Palm reacting with a “really?” when the C-USA asked for his help in solving the dilemma.
In the end, Rice won out because Palm’s earlier projections did not take into account the computer positions of teams that did not receive votes in either of the human polls — e.g. Rice.
Palm was even quoted in the C-USA release that the formula used for breaking the tie “doesn’t match the formula I use for my ratings on CBSSports.com, which serve a different purpose, but I believe it was absolutely appropriate and fair.”
Translation: “Rice is your winner. Now, please, leave me alone. Auburn just beat Alabama in the greatest finish to a college football game ever. I have more important things going on.”
I don’t think C-USA acted to job Marshall. At least, not intentionally. I just think the league didn’t think it through. It is clearly spelled out that “BCS ranking (i.e. average computer ranking) would be used to determine host.”
That’s pretty simple. But when it came down to it, the rules were altered at the absolute wrong time.
Far be it for me to say the league dropped the ball, but C-USA made Bill Buckner look like Willie Mays on this one.
The BCS should never have been involved in the first place. Unless there is a Northern Illinois or Boise State involved, the BCS is useless to a mid-major conference. Go to points scored in conference games, or points allowed, or attendance, or mascots — anything other than the BCS. Even the Big 10 — a BCS conference — waits to use the rankings as a fifth tiebreaker when trying to determine a division champion.
If C-USA isn’t good enough for the BCS, then the BCS should not have been good enough for C-USA.
— E-mail: gfauber@
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