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State of confusion

Sorting out the baffling bowl selection process, more

Posted: Wednesday November 29, 2006 12:24PM; Updated: Wednesday November 29, 2006 2:07PM
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Despite blowout losses to Michigan and USC, Brady Quinn and the Irish are headed for a BCS bowl, likely the Sugar.
Despite blowout losses to Michigan and USC, Brady Quinn and the Irish are headed for a BCS bowl, likely the Sugar.
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On the list of life's complexities, there are few things more baffling than the college bowl selection process. The federal tax code perhaps. Mortgage applications. Setting up TiVo.

But at least those things, albeit confusing, have some sort of logical basis. I can sit here and explain to you why Louisville could go 11-1 and still potentially wind up in the Sun Bowl while 10-2 Notre Dame is assured of no less than the Sugar Bowl -- but that doesn't necessarily mean it will make a lick of sense.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger. You have questions. I have answers. But I'm guessing you're not going to like some of the answers.

Please explain the BCS selection process/order. I have heard so many scenarios about which bowls want which teams and wonder who will get what they want and who will get Boise State vs. Wake Forest. Thanks.
--Greg Schwartz, Twinsburg, Ohio

This is as good a place as any to start. First the conference champions are placed in their "host bowl:" Big Ten and Pac-10 to the Rose, Big 12 to the Fiesta, SEC to the Sugar and ACC to the Orange. (Big East does not have an anchor bowl). The bowl that loses the No. 1 team to the title game gets first choice of replacements. This year that will be the Rose for losing Ohio State. The bowl that loses the No. 2 team gets second choice. If it winds up being USC, then the Rose will have second choice as well.

After that, the order for the final three spots this year (the order rotates annually) is: 1) Sugar, 2) Orange, 3) Fiesta. Therefore your Wake Forest-Boise State scenario is nearly impossible, because Wake, if it wins the ACC, automatically goes to the Orange, and the Orange, by choosing ahead of the Fiesta for its second spot, is going to take someone besides Boise State.

Why did 11-1 Wisconsin accept an early invitation to the Capital One Bowl instead of waiting for a possible at-large BCS bowl invitation? Is there a rule limiting conferences to two representatives or are there other factors?
--Scott Zimmerman, Springfield, Mo.

Yes -- there is a limit of two BCS berths per conference, and Ohio State and Michigan have locked down the Big Ten's (in fact Michigan will be guaranteed a berth if it remains in the top four). I was surprised at first to see just how many people are unaware of this rule, seeing as it's been in place since the BCS' inception, but then I remembered that prior to this year, there were only two at-large berths instead of four, so it really wasn't an issue. It's possible Wisconsin's situation will cause the BCS to reevaluate the rule, but I doubt it will change. A second BCS berth is worth an extra $4.5 million to the conference, and I can't see the commissioners agreeing to something that might risk their chance of receiving it and/or giving one of their competitors a $9 million boost.

Stewart, for the life of me I cannot figure out why there is still talk of Notre Dame playing in a BCS game? Even with the extra game this year, are you telling me the likes of LSU, Florida, Rutgers, Louisville, West Virginia or Arkansas could be left out of the BCS picture while an Irish team that lost twice by 20-point margins and have no real quality wins could still be included?? Is the Pope on the BCS committee?

Before I get into Notre Dame specifically, you need to always keep this one, essential rule in mind when talking about any bowl other than the national championship game: It's not about who's most deserving, it's about which teams' fans will buy the most tickets. Bowl reps talk endlessly about rewarding teams, creating exciting matchups, blah, blah, blah. At the end of the day, they have a stadium to fill, television ads to sell and sponsors to appease. They're going to do what makes the most business sense -- which is why nine times out of 10, a bowl will jump at the opportunity to take Notre Dame and its national following.

As much as the public complains about the Irish and its preferential treatment, they invariably tune in to the game. For all the backlash about ND's Fiesta Bowl berth last year, the reality is that game drew much bigger ratings than it would have if Ohio State had faced Oregon instead. It'd be one thing if the BCS was under some obligation to make sure the undisputed 10 best teams go to their bowls, but that's not the case. If it were, you wouldn't be seeing Georgia Tech or Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl. Notre Dame is no less entitled to a BCS berth than those teams are, which is why you won't hear me complaining if the Irish go to the Sugar Bowl.

On the other hand ...


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