Weighing Tebow's Heisman Chances and the BCS With the fate of this year's Heisman Trophy up in the air, Wall Street Journal sportswriter Stefan Fatsis says the big question is whether Tim Tebow of Florida will be the first sophomore to win the award. As for college football's national championship game, Fatsis says it's an "athletic and public relations fraud."
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Weighing Tebow's Heisman Chances and the BCS

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Weighing Tebow's Heisman Chances and the BCS

Weighing Tebow's Heisman Chances and the BCS

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In New York tomorrow night, one of four young athletes will be the 73rd recipient of the Heisman trophy, honoring the best college football player in the land.

Joining us now to discuss that, and the end of an utterly chaotic college season, is sports writer Stefan Fatsis of the Wall Street Journal.

Hi, Stefan.

Mr. STEFAN FATSIS (Sports Writer, Wall Street Journal): Hey, Robert.

SIEGEL: The finalists for the Heisman are Tim Tebow of Florida, Darren McFadden of Arkansas, Chase Daniel of Missouri and Colt Brennan of Hawaii. McFadden is a running back and the others are all quarterbacks.

Mr. FATSIS: And the big question this year is whether Tebow can break what sports blogger Dan Shanoff has dubbed the class ceiling and become the first sophomore ever to win the award.

He's got the credentials. He's the first guy in college football to ever do a 20-20. He ran for 22 touchdowns and he passed for 29 for a 9-and-3 Florida team, a very good Florida team.

McFadden is considered his main competition. He's a junior. He ran for 1,725 yards and pretty much single-handedly led Arkansas to a triple-overtime upset over then-number one LSU a few weeks back.

SIEGEL: Now, the Heisman crowns the nation's outstanding college football player. Hence, it's very subjective. In a way, they're all (unintelligible).

Mr. FATSIS: And in college football, I think, it's even more so. It's harder to compare college players with one another than it is pro players. The pool is so much bigger; teams run so many different kinds of offenses. Many college teams tailor their systems around the strengths of certain players, and the result is often huge statistics.

That's why you can argue that Tebow's 22 rushing touchdowns shouldn't be considered that big a deal. Florida utilizes the fact that he's very big and very powerful, so when he gets inside the five-yard line they let him run the ball. Or you could say that Colt Brennan's prodigious passing statistics are inflated because that's what Hawaii does; it throws the ball almost all the time.

And I think this helps explain why not every Heisman winner goes on to have a great NFL career. At least though with the Heisman, you've got a lot of voters, 925, former winners plus the media, so at least you're comfortable with the outcome.

SIEGEL: Now, in addition to the Heisman trophy, we'll figure within a few weeks who is the winner of the national championship game. And that's also a pretty subjective process.

Mr. FATSIS: Even more so. You've got several computer programs and two human polls making the decision. One of those human polls consists of 100-plus people, some of whom have nothing to do with college football; the other, 60 coaches, who couldn't be more biased in where they slot teams.

And particularly this year because of the absolute chaos that we talked about on the field, every top rank team lose in one after another after another toward the end of the season. The final polls were more open to bias and judgment than ever.

And that's one of the things I think that exposes this system, this Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, as truly fatally flawed.

SIEGEL: Because of the unusually unsatisfying way that college football crowns a champion. Do you think that chaos of this particular season might actually help bring about a play-off, say with the top 16 teams in an elimination or something like that?

Mr. FATSIS: In a word, no. There's too much money in these established relationships, specifically the relationship between the Big 10 and the Pac-10 conferences with the Rose Bowl. They're going to block any change, at least until 2015 when the current round of TV contracts expires.

In the meantime, the BCS, the Bowl Championship Series now says it will consider adding one more game, maybe receive the top teams after the bowls and plays another definition of a championship game, featuring the two top seeds. But I think that's just going to be more of the same here. You're throwing a bone to respond to critics and shaking out more money from the system without offering real clarity that you would get from an eight-team or a 16-team play-off system.

SIEGEL: Now, we haven't mentioned that the game that will determine the championship of college football will feature LSU and Ohio State.

Mr. FATSIS: And isn't this the very problem, Robert? Instead of talking about the actual game, we're talking about the way that these two teams were picked to get to the game.

SIEGEL: Who do you like in that game?

Mr. FATSIS: I'm going to leave that to the computers. I have no idea.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Okay, Stefan. Have a good weekend.

Mr. FATSIS: Thanks, Robert.

SIEGEL: Stefan Fatsis of the Wall Street Journal who speaks with us in most Fridays about sports and the business of sports.

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