BCS Head Hancock Brushes Off Bowl-Bashers

Bill Hancock is the man in charge of the Bowl Championship Series, or BCS. With college football's championship game Monday night, it's prime time for BCS-bashing. Many fans want a traditional-style playoff. Bill Hancock takes it all in stride.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

In the world of college football, the name Bill Hancock invariably gets a smile - which is ironic because if you say the name of Bill Hancocks employer, often youll get a sneer.

Hancock is the executive director of the Bowl Championship Series - or as its known to its many critics, the event thats killing college football. The BCS uses computers and polls to match the two top-ranked teams in a title game. Those critics would rather have a more inclusive playoff.

Tomorrow night in Glendale, Arizona, this years two top teams, Auburn and Oregon, play for the BCS championship.

As NPRs Tom Goldman reports, Bill Hancock is happily doing his job amidst the grumbling.

TOM GOLDMAN: They come in waves - reporters at a college football media event this past week find the tall man with the wire-rim glasses and easy manner.

Mr. BILL HANCOCK (Executive Director, Bowl Championship Series): See you, Christine.

Unidentified Reporter #1: Bye-bye.

Mr. HANCOCK: Take care. Hey, Rachel.

Unidentified Reporter #2: Hey, good morning. How are you?

GOLDMAN: Yahoo Sports national columnist Dan Wetzel wasnt part of the hotel ballroom scene in Scottsdale. But he knows the meet-and-greet was genuine.

Mr. DAN WETZEL (National Columnist, Yahoo Sports): When Bill Hancock asks you how youre doing, he actually wants to know the answer. I dont think you find that often in American society anymore.

GOLDMAN: High praise, especially from a guy who co-wrote a book titled Death to the BCS. It came out a couple of months ago, and already is in its fourth printing. Wetzels book says the current system of running college footballs postseason, with no playoffs, hurts the universities financially and - says Wetzel - doesnt serve the competitive interests of players and fans.

There is the well-researched BCS bashing by journalists like Wetzel. Then, there are firebombs...

Mr. JAMES CARVILLE (Political Consultant/Commentator): The people that run the BCS are the most short-sighted, mental midgets anywhere in sports administration, anywhere in the world.

GOLDMAN: ...thrown by public figures like James Carville, which leaves Bill Hancock a bit confused.

Mr. HANCOCK: I dont understand some of the anger about it. The invective is a little hard to deal with, but it doesnt again, it doesnt get me down.

GOLDMAN: If anything, it motivates Hancock to get to work - affably, of course.

Mr. HANCOCK: Hi, this is Bill Hancock with the BCS. Im good, except Im late.

GOLDMAN: BCS championship week, which means even more interviews than Hancock normally gives. In 2009, his bosses wanted Hancock to be more aggressive in, as he puts it, telling the story of why the BCS is important.

This phone interview Friday was with a radio host named Chris in Atlanta.

Mr. HANCOCK: We get it that some people would like to do something different. But what we have now gives us a compelling regular season, and a bowl system that benefits way more teams than a playoff ever would.

GOLDMAN: The BCS hired Hancock in 2005, partly because he had the right temperament for what one BCS official calls a thankless job. Hancock has a natural sense of humor. When he was in his 20s, he and his brother owned the local newspaper in his hometown of Hobart, Oklahoma. He had the freedom to do anything with the paper. And he did, one beautiful spring day.

Mr. HANCOCK: The front page was blank except for one line. It said: Todays Front Page Canceled On Account Of Spring Fever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HANCOCK: And then on Page 2, I put a banner headline that said: OK, If You Got To Have News, Here It Is. And we put some news on it.

GOLDMAN: And the barbs from BCS bashers arent quite as sharp to a man whos known the pain of losing a child. Thirty-one-year-old Will Hancock died in a plane crash in 2001. Bill wrote a book about coping with the death. It endeared him even more to the college football press corps - the same press corps that will keep hammering away at the BCS while Hancock keeps smiling - he hopes.

Mr. HANCOCK: Ive told a couple of dear friends that if you see me changing because of all this, let me know because I dont want to become someone different.

GOLDMAN: So far, so good.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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