Sunday, September 10, 2006

A BCS Problem?

In the BCS system of college football an incentive is given to score as many points in 4 quarters as possible. People complain about this. They believe that in the old system, the object was to win the game by a comfortable margin (unless maybe you were playing an "evil" rival, in which case you were justified in obliterating them to your satisfaction). I did some reading, and I think that in the old system the teams also needed to win by a huge scoring margin. It made a difference in the pre-BCS days ('94):
Helen Wasiakowski of Sweet Valley, Pa., notes, "If only good sportsmanship were a factor in determining the BCS standings." Sadly, it's the other way around -- college polls penalize sportsmanship. Christopher D'Lauro of Boulder, Colo., notes that going into the final regular-season game of the 1994 season, Penn State was ranked No.1. In that final game, the Nittany Lions held a three-touchdown lead over Indiana in the fourth quarter; Paterno brought in his subs to make sure everyone got on the field during the season. (There are many on Division I teams who never actually play, and Joe Pa was concerned about his players in this category.) The result of clearing the bench was that Penn State won "only" 35-29. Pollsters sneered at the final score and elevated Nebraska to No. 1. Penn State went on to win the Rose Bowl, but Nebraska got the national championship because Paterno made the colossal blunder of being a good sport.
The BCS has other incentives for teams also: rewarding defensive achievement, rewarding stronger schedules, etc. It's not perfect, of course. I live in the Mountain West Conference. I believe the feeling is one of BCS-exlusion, although I can see how it's a bit reasonable.

In any case, running up the score is an issue beyond the BCS.


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