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System breeds trouble

Can't be surprised by Stoops', Mangino's comments about purity of BCS 

Posted: Thursday November 18, 2004 3:48PM; Updated: Thursday November 18, 2004 5:00PM
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While the rest of us are forced to consider the horror of a Utah-Boston College Fiesta Bowl Extravaganza, Bob Stoops is lobbing grenades at the BCS establishment, specifically ESPN, little brother of the college bowl abomination's owner, ABC. Seems Stoops is miffed at what he perceives as a potential conflict of interest by the network and its high-profile analysts. ESPN has a contract to televise SEC games on Saturday nights, a circumstance Stoops says contributes to the prevailing wisdom emanating from Bristol that unbeaten Auburn is better than unbeaten Oklahoma.

Stoops' comments come three days after the post-game eruption by Kansas coach Mark Mangino, a generally likeable sort who is trying desperately to turn the Jayhawks into winners so that he can move on to a better job. He has never said that, but come on. After watching his team fall prey to Texas thanks to a blown call late in the game, Mangino went off.  That the Big 12 wants Texas in a top-tier BCS game and therefore instructed the striped shirts to aid the Longhorns in their attempt to beat everybody on their schedule but Oklahoma.

OK, so Stoops and Mangino have crossed into the "Holtz Zone," that well-documented region in which respected coaches sound less like tactical geniuses and more like Oliver Stone. ESPN doesn't prefer the SEC over the Big 12, especially since big bro ABC has a TV contract with Oklahoma and its brethren. And the refs weren't favoring Texas. They were just incompetent.

Stoops and Mangino were out of order, but the spirit of their comments was clear.

It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to figure out that $16 million per school (the amount each BCS participant receives) is a lot of money, and that people would do some pretty desperate things to get hold of it. Hell, hit men will work for $1,000 -- if you have a coupon. Imagine what folks will do for an eight-figure payday.

The beauty of Stoops' and Mangino's comments is that they delve into the second layer of the BCS mire. We clear thinkers have made all the salient arguments why the system is the college athletic equivalent of Black Death, but we have been shouted down by hypocritical college presidents, self-serving coaches and media types out to pursue their own fame and glory. So be it. Let's get into the seamy underbelly of the creature and look at the twisted jumble of conflicts of interests that erodes the BCS' shaky integrity.

What we have is a system of choosing a champion that relies on secret votes of coaches -- whose ballots still are not made public -- and a set of computer rankings which often rate Team A over Team B, even if Team B has vanquished its alleged superior on the field. Factor in a group of media members who are already discussing the possibility of a "backlash" against Stoops for daring to question their finely-coiffed colleagues' motives, and you have a wretched mess. Are coaches favoring their conference mates? Are they holding grudges over age-old rivals? Don't wait around for the BCS itself to intervene. It's not looking for integrity, just more money.

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Things will get even uglier Dec. 5, when the BCS pairings are announced - for better or (more likely) worse - and ABC turns into Sybil. You'll have the network's "analysts" asking "pointed" questions about whether the championship game is truly a matchup of the two best teams in the country. That's followed by a bleating advertisement for said game, which is hyped with the same fervor ABC might use to promote exclusive coverage of an Iranian nuclear test. Say what you want about CBS' over-the-top marketing of the NCAA basketball tourney, but when the Eye says the UConn-Georgia Tech game is for the title, it's for the title.

It's time to realize that the BCS is about nothing more than six conferences (and no one has yet convinced El Hombre why a mid-major like the Mountain East belongs in that group) trying to gorge themselves on as many TV dollars as they possibly can. When that's the case, anything is possible. Anything. Stoops and Mangino may have been off base with their comments, but don't excoriate them for believing that the BCS is less than pure.

And remember, Utah isn't in that Fiesta Bowl game yet. There are still two weeks for an "accident" to happen to the Mountain West champs.

EL HOMBRE SEZ: It's a shame to see Cowboys coach Tuna "We're Stupid" Parcells struggling to find answers for his team's hilarious incompetence. Wonder if his previous success had anything to do with an assistant coach named Belichick? No matter what, we're all rooting for you, Tuna. To keep losing. ... NASCAR heads into this weekend's final (Your Company Name Here) Cup race expecting huge red-state ratings. It shapes up as a big battle between Sharpie, Lowe's and DuPont. May the best decal win. ... Meanwhile, the NHL is about a month away from canceling this season. Fans in Columbus, Atlanta, Nashville and Phoenix will be crushed.

AND ANOTHER THING: If there is any justice in the world, Toronto and Sacramento will not reward pouting stars Vince Carter and Peja Stojakovic by trading them. Both players demanded to be moved before the season and have responded to their teams' unwillingness to ship them off by playing weak ball. Carter is shooting 37.8 percent from the field and 29.0 percent from 3-point range. His 3.9 rpg are a career low. Though Peja hit the MiseraBulls for 29 Wednesday night, he's making a mere 32.1 percent of his trey attempts and has an assist-turnover ratio less than 1-1. Carter and Stojakovic should be dealt -- and exiled to Atlanta or Chicago. Better still, hold onto the players and force them to earn their sizeable keeps. Maybe each could spend a week as apprentices to Grant Hill to learn about class and perseverance.