BCS Head Plays Defense For Bowl Championships
SCOTT SIMON, host:
A host of college football teams play their final game of the regular season today, so that perennial controversy over the BCS, the Bowl Championship Series - college football's method of deciding a champion - is back. And last week we spoke with the president of Boise State University, Bob Kustra, which has a 10-1 record this year, about why he feels under the BCS system his team doesn't get a fair shot at a national championship.
Mr. ROBERT KUSTRA (President, Boise State University): It's a playoff system that is designed by the BCS and in many ways is rigged by the BCS to allow some teams in and to deny other teams the access I think they deserve.
SIMON: Now we're joined by Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, who joins us from Fort Worth.
Thanks very much for being with us.
Mr. BILL HANCOCK (Executive Director, Bowl Championship Series): Thank you, Scott. It's an honor to be with you.
SIMON: And let me get you to respond first to that phrase - in many ways rigged by the BCS to allow some teams in and to deny other teams access.
Mr. HANCOCK: In no way is it rigged. Most of the season, Boise State and TCU were ranked number three and four, and if things had come out differently last weekend, Boise State would likely be in the national championship game. So in no way is it rigged.
SIMON: Well, there are some teams that - or some conference winners that get an automatic bowl bid, dont they, the AQs?
Mr. HANCOCK: Yes. Six conferences have AQ.
SIMON: And how is that fair to teams, once again, like Boise State or Texas Christian, or any non-BCS team that doesn't have that kind of automatic access but has a great year?
Mr. HANCOCK: The six are determined by the marketplace, the marketplace being the television folks and the bowls, and also determined on the field. There was a four-year evaluation process, and in that evaluation those six conferences were the top six. And the criteria were all agreed to by the 11 conferences. We think it's fair and appropriate, and also, of course, any other team has a chance to qualify, as it appears that TCU will this year.
SIMON: It raises this question, as it does almost one way or another every year: If other NCAA sports get playoffs - we're thinking particularly of basketball - why not football?
Mr. HANCOCK: We have a unique situation in football with the bowl system that benefits this year 70 groups of students. No other sport has anything like it. And what's good for one sport may not necessarily be good for another sport. This multi-day bowl experience, five or six days in a different culture, is a tremendous thing for student athletes, and we're proud that it's a part of college football, and I think that's why the overwhelming percentage of the coaches and also the players like the system that we have.
SIMON: Now, when you talk about the bowl system, of course, the Orange Bowl, the Rose Bowl. Now, for example, it's irresistible - as some people have pointed out this week - the Big East Conference may not have a single team in the top 25 at the end of the season, and yet it gets an AQ, it gets an automatic qualifying conference bowl bid. Now, how is that good for anybody?
Mr. HANCOCK: Well, the conference is - I get that, and certainly I hear that a lot. The fact of the matter is that in every championship in the NCAA, conferences are part of it. Conference champions get an automatic spot. And when I was director of the Final Four, we heard every year, that somebody would say, wait a minute, Team X is an automatic qualifier because they won their conference, but they're not as competitive as Team Y in our conference that didn't make it. So that happens in every sport. We just happen to have a system in college sports where conference champions get automatic berths.
SIMON: Mmm. But, of course, what happens in other sports is that there's a playoff system so that eventually these things get determined on the field.
Mr. HANCOCK: Oh, yeah. No doubt. But the situation remains the same, that conference champions get in many times that are not as good as teams that are left out from other conferences.
SIMON: Mm-hmm. Would the BCS be willing to, if not change its format, but tinker with it?
Mr. HANCOCK: You know, the BCS, it's an event that is managed by the 11 conferences. And every year in the spring, the 11 commissioners get together and say, how can we make this better? And they noodle it around and talk and some years come out with changes, some years not. This is the first year of a four-year contract with television partner ESPN and with the bowls, so I wouldn't expect any substantial changes to be made in mid-contract.
But that's not to say that they won't look at it and - and as I said - scratch their heads and come back and say, you know what? This might be a way to make it better.
SIMON: Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS. Thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. HANCOCK: Thank you, Scott. It's an honor to be with you.
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