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BCS delights as Frogs croak

Posted: Friday November 21, 2003 1:18PM; Updated: Friday November 21, 2003 1:43PM
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The BCS boys are breathing easier today. Thanks to Southern Mississippi's 40-28 victory Thursday night, they can go back to ignoring Texas Christian University.

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For a while there, it was getting pretty tense. In starting 10-0, TCU was knocking at the door of the BCS clubhouse and getting plenty of media support for a chance at one of those coveted eight spots.

The BCS' reaction? Imagine Martha Burk asking Hootie Johnson to join her for 18 at Augusta. And maybe a Coke afterward. Well, you can come out from under the desk now, Mr. Johnson, she's gone.

Now that it's 10-1, TCU can slink back and disappear among the hoi polloi. Back to being just another team that has no business calling itself I-A as far as the BCS is concerned. Back to the GMAC Bowl, where it belongs.

Not only does the BCS not have to invite the Frogs to its little party, but now it doesn't even have to explain why. If TCU had finished undefeated and still been denied a spot -- a very likely possibility -- things could have become uncomfortable.

Maybe Thursday's loss was for the better. Maybe it's better that the Frogs' dream was shattered on the field and not in the war room of the BCS frat house, where victories and hard work would have been outweighed by alumni presence and Nielsen ratings.

Maybe it's better that we still have the illusion that TCU could have and would have crashed this exclusive party. This is still America, and in America we still need to believe that everybody has an equal chance to succeed, that the doors of opportunity cannot be slammed shut based on our circle of friends.

As much as Thursday's loss probably stung TCU coach Gary Patterson and his players, in five or 10 or 20 years it might actually be easier to live with the fact that they cost themselves this chance instead of it having been taken away by a bureaucracy that reeks of monopoly and fascism.

It's not about the playoffs vs. BCS debate. There's never going to be a perfect solution. And it's not about the hypothetical X's and O's of TCU competing against an Oklahoma or an LSU or a Texas in a BCS bowl game. Maybe the Frogs would be crushed. But if they deserved the chance, they should get the chance, regardless of their conference alignment. If not TCU this year, then somebody else next year. Or whenever.

This is a country that has always been drawn to the underdog. It's why we love movies like Hoosiers and Rocky. It's why we tell tales of immigrants who came here with nothing and built empires. Do we believe in miracles? Well, we used to ... until the BCS told us not to.

The irony of the NCAA is how differently it approaches its two biggest national championships. Football is a members only elitist affair, while basketball is a model of democracy in which the best teams in the nation have to accept the challenge of all comers. So you won the Patriot League and now you want a piece of Duke? Step right up, Spunky, and take your best shot.

Eventually some of those Cinderellas, say a Gonzaga, transform themselves into accepted members of high society. In football, however, that can't happen because it's a given fact that certain programs won't ever compete for a national title. Not because they can't, but because they aren't allowed to.

TCU was spared that harsh reality when it was done in by Southern Miss. Fine. It was settled on the field. I'll take a kick in the butt on the field over a slap in the face from the BCS any day.

David Vecsey's Voice of Reason column appears weekly on SI.com.

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