Wednesday, April 6, 2011

NCAA Tourney 2011: Nicole's Crystal Ball (Part 4)

Third Round
Ohio State over George Mason: "Ooh, I really like the masons.  1 vs. 8 though.  Fat guy vs. Free Masons.  Fat people make me feel better."  Result: correct [Note: The "fat guy" is the Buckeye mascot.]
Clemson over Princeton: "Tigers vs. Tigers! But Clementines are cute and yummy." Result: incorrect, both teams had lost in the 2nd round.
Syracuse over Xavier: "Professor X vs. Jeff.  6 vs. 3.  Jeff gets a little help; let's have him go one more." Result: incorrect, Syracuse lost to Marquette in this game. [Note: Jeff is a former co-worker, Jeff Suss.]
North Carolina over Georgia: "Upsetting UNC?  I don't like Peaches that much." Result: correct [Note: "Peaches" is a friend, Andy Etters, who is from Georgia.]
Duke over Michigan: "Ooh, Wolverines...but it's 1 vs. 8.  Who did you pick? [Duke]  That dude coaches the Olympics.  Yes to Duke." Result: correct
Arizona over Texas: "[In Will Farrell's George W. Bush voice:] 'Don't mess with Texas.'  Wildcat vs. a longhorn.  That's an interesting fight.  The wildcat is quicker; wildcats would win.  We've gotta start getting more serious about this mascot thing." Result: correct
Connecticut over Missouri: "Connecticut!  It's our street!  And you were born there.  Ooh, that means first boyfriend vs. second.  But I married the second one.  Boom!" Result: correct
San Diego State over Penn State: "San Diego is a whale's vagina.  Look it up; it's in the Geneva Convention." Result: correct [Note: These are paraphrases of two different lines from two different Will Farrell movies.  Between these, the Texas line and her obsession with cougars because of Talladega Nights, she's basing most of her picks on his comedy in one way or another.] 
Kansas over Illinois: "1 vs. 9.  1 always goes at least two rounds." Result: correct
Vanderbilt over Morehead State: "V." Result: incorrect, Vanderbilt had lost in the second round.
Georgetown over St. Peter's: "Aren't they just bulldogs with spikey collars?  Do that one." Result: incorrect, both teams had lost in the second round.
Notre Dame over Texas A&M: "Notre Dame!" Result: incorrect, Notre Dame lost of Florida State in this game.
Pittsburgh over Butler: "Panther is close to cougar.  Although Pittsburgh does have an NFL team.  [I told her that Butler is near Indianapolis, which also has an NFL team.]  Both have NFL teams, but a cougar would kill a bulldog." Result: incorrect, Butler won this game.
Wisconsin over Utah State: "Double-U beats U." Result: correct
BYU over Gonzaga: "Cougs! [As Farrell's Ricky Bobby:] 'How can I control my heartbeat!?'" Result: correct
UCLA over Florida: "Ooh, that's a tough one.  Go Sharks, but a gator vs. a bear?  Now that would be awesome.  [As Jim Halpert:] 'What kind of bear is best?'  Bear is best." Result: incorrect, Florida won this game. [She said "Go Sharks" because the Florida fans do the same arm-movement-chomp as San Jose Sharks fans.]
(Results: 9-7 but with seven-of-eight elite eight teams left, three-of-four final four, one finalist, and her champion)

Sweet Sixteen
Ohio State over Clemson: "Oranges can't beat fat people.  The fat people would just eat them." Result: incorrect, Kentucky won this game.
North Carolina over Syracuse: "We already helped Jeff for two rounds.  And I like blue." Result: correct
Duke over Arizona: [As Farrell in Old School:] "You're my boy, Blue!" Result: incorrect, Arizona won this game.
Connecticut over San Diego State: "Whoa, this is interesting.  Alright, let's play this out.  Aztecs vs. Huskies.  San Diego vs. Connecticut so where we met vs. where you were born.  San Diego has an NFL team that I don't like.  Wait, is this 'UConn'?  I love UConn!"  Result: correct
Kansas over Vanderbilt: "Jayhawk is like an Indian, right? [It's a bird.] Oh.  Well a Commodore is like a pirate.  And that guy from Pirates was a total sissy, so Kansas is more legit.  More American.  And they're the 1-seed." Result: correct [Note: I assume the guy from Pirates is Johnny Depp.]
Notre Dame over Georgetown: "Both Catholics, oh shoot.  The numbers are 2 and 6.  And I've been to Notre Dame.  [We've been to Georgetown, too.]  Yeah, but I was in Notre Dame's gym.  And I was the mascot there.  [Actually, I was the mascot there.  You were a cheerleader.]  Shut up.  And don't write that.  It's St. Patrick's Day; Irish win." Result: incorrect, VCU beat Florida State in this game. [Note: All of that happened in the 2000 Women's NCAA Tournament when USD played at Notre Dame in the first round.  Nicole was our school's mascot but stepped in for an ill cheerleader for that game and I went as the mascot so I could go to the game for free during spring break.  But I'm gonna be in big trouble when she sees I wrote that.]
Wisconsin over Pittsburgh: "Cougars vs. Beavers?  Please.  [Actually it's Panthers and Badgers.]  Whatever.  I hate Pittsburgh; the Steelers suck and that guy needs a haircut.  And my cousin, Blake, went to Wisconsin and he needs good news." Result: incorrect, Butler won this game.  [Note: I'm not sure the guy who needs a haircut is, but I assume Troy Polamalu.  Blake was in a terrible car accident a few months ago and is recovering.]
BYU over UCLA: "Oh man, a coug vs. a bear!  Cougs.  I have to be consistent." Result: incorrect, Florida won this game. [Note: Consistent with what?  They're the only cougars in the tournament.]
(Results: 3-5, with one Final Four team, one finalist and her champion left)

Elite Eight
Ohio State over North Carolina: "What city is Ohio State in? [Columbus] I do like Christopher Columbus. But I like UNC's blue.  But our frisbee team is Flip Cup and we're red.  They're both public.  I like Duke better than Carolina." Result: incorrect, Kentucky won this game.
Connecticut over Duke: "Whoa.  That's hard.  I love Duke.  And UConn's blue too.  And it's Connecticut.  1 vs. 3.  That's close.  What did you pick? [Duke] But you're from there and we live on it.  Blue Devils and Huskies.  I picked Duke last year, so not Duke again." Result: correct
Notre Dame over Kansas: "Notre Dame." Result: incorrect, VCU won this game.
BYU over Wisconsin: "Cougs." Result: incorrect, Butler beat Florida in this game.
(Results: 1-3, with one finalist and her champion still left)

Final Four
Connecticut over Ohio State: [Long pause while considering this one closely.] "UConn has a cooler name.  And we live on Connecticut Street, and you were born there.  And all Ohio has going for them is flip cup and fat people." Result: correct
Notre Dame over BYU: "Catholics vs. Mormons.  Blowout!" Result: incorrect, Butler beat VCU in this game.
(Results: 1-1, with her champion still left)

Championship Game
Connecticut over Notre Dame: "I really like Notre Dame, but I just can't do it.  The NFL really pissed me off.  So UConn." Result: correct [Note: While Notre Dame is not in an NFL city, it is in Indiana, home of the Colts.]

Tie-Breaker: Championship Score
"Connecticut will get 78 because you were born there in that year.  And Notre Dame will get 73 because 7 and 3 are the holy numbers.  7 sins and the Trinity!  So 78-73."

Some new patterns have emerged.  Any vague connection to any Will Farrell movie or line is usually worth one or two picks.  This used to just be for Talladega Nights, but it seems to now be all of them.  
Notre Dame is her favorite school, for sure.  Second is Duke and she obviously is starting to like Connecticut a lot too.

Part 5: Final Statistical Results (coming Thursday)
Tourney Bonus Coverage: The Jim Nantz-pun-o-meter game (coming soon)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

NCAA Tourney 2011: Nicole's Crystal Ball (Part 3)

The dust has settled and Nicole won both bracket contests she entered again this year.  So whether it makes any sense or not, we have to allow for the fact that whatever she is doing works.  How well?  She ranked in the 98th percentile nationally on Yahoo! and approximately 1.1 million people were entered there.  So pretty well.

As you will see from her picks and reasoning below, and as I've written before, she is partial to cougars (or similar), the color blue, states/schools she likes or has some connection to, schools that start with "V", single-word names, intimidating mascots, private/Catholic schools, and, if all else fails, better seeds.  She also said this year that she was against schools in NFL cities because of the lockout (actually it was because she got me the Sunday Ticket for Christmas and I may not get to enjoy it because of the lockout).  She also said that she no longer favors schools from the South or around New Orleans because the Saints won the Super Bowl.

As always, I told her the schools, seeds and mascots.  Sometimes she asked for more information like colors, cities and public/private.  Sometimes she knew that already.  Believe it or not, no alcohol was consumed prior to picking, but it was really late at night.

East Round 2
Ohio State over UTSA: "Aren't the Buckeyes that fat guy? But I don't want to look stupid, so I pick the far people.  They'll motivate me to lose weight." Result: correct
George Mason over Villanova: "Tough because it's a V school.  But National Treasure had the Masons and Nicholas Cage needs a break. Result: correct
Clemson over West Virginia: "Clementine oranges: cute name though Tigers are way better." Result: incorrect, West Virginia went on to the 3rd round.
Princeton over Kentucky: "Wildcats vs. Tiger is a great battle.  Let's do Princeton; I really like them.  And KFC sucks." Result: incorrect, Kentucky went on to the Final Four. [Note: Nicole knows nothing about Princeton basketball and presumably likes them because they're smart kids.]
Xavier over Marquette: "Isn't 'Xavier' spelled with an 'x'?  That guy from X-Men is pretty bad-ass.  That would be a huge word on Words with Friends [like scrabble]." Result: incorrect, Marquette went on to the Sweet 16.
Syracuse over Indiana State: "Didn't Syracuse win last year? [No]  Jeff [Suss, a former colleague] went there and he has to move to Portland.  Orangemen is a really cool mascot, like my Clementines!  Sycamores is lame dude.  Trees?" Result: correct [Note: When I told her that Larry Bird went to Indiana State, she said, "Bird is overrated."]
Georgia over Washington: "Peaches [Andy Etters, a former ultimate teammate] is from Georgia.  Do they have the NFL? [They both do.]  Oh man, the Seahawks is Pete Carroll.  Bulldogs vs. Huskies...hmm...that's a tough one.  I really don't like Carroll." Result: incorrect, Washington went on to the 3rd round.
North Carolina over Long Island: "Long Island is barely even a state. [In fact, it's not one.] I know UNC is good and plus, they match USD's colors." Result: correct

West Round 2
Duke over Hampton: "The Hamptons suck.  The Hamptons is like wannabe-Malibu.  It's all rocks.  Stupid." Result: correct [Note: She's never been to the Hamptons and I think she's thinking of Cape Cod.]
Michigan over Tennessee: "Right off the bat, I was thinking Wolverines because we already have a Xavier.  That would be cool.  Plus, "Volunteer"?  That's really your mascot?  Does a Wolverine have claws?  Wait, is it a fictional character? [She forgets that it's a real animal every year.] I feel like Wolverines is better than Cougars." Result: incorrect, Michigan went on to the 3rd round.  [Note: This Wolverines vs. Cougars thing really floored me.  Cougar-superiority has been at the core of her entire system for years.  I though she was doomed after this.]
Arizona over Memphis: "Wildcats are pretty sissy, right...vs. a tiger?  David Levin [co-worker] went to Arizona and I promised him one.  He made me feel welcome at work." Result: correct
Texas over Oakland: "Isn't that the Texas where Wendy went?  Oakland here sucks.  But I do work there.  Oh, Wendy.  Screw her!  She moved away from us.  What's the other team's number? [13 vs. 4].  No chance.  Plus, I like Wendy. [Note: We actually moved away almost a year before Wendy did, but she did move further.]
Missouri over Cincinnati: "Bearcats?  That name is just too long.  But I had an old boyfriend that went to Mizzou.  How can I take that school seriously?  How do you even spell Cincinnati?  Oh!  The Bengals!  F those guys." Result: incorrect, Cincinnati went on to the 3rd round.
Connecticut over Bucknell: "Buck 'em off the list!" Result: correct [Note: she was extremely proud of this pun.  Jim Nantz would have been, as well.]
Penn State over Temple: "Stupidest mascots ever. [I explained that a Nittany Lion is a local mountain lion.] You have a Penn State shirts, right?  And 'Owl'?  Seriously?" Result: incorrect, Temple went on to the 3rd round.
San Diego State over Northern Colorado: "SDSU is a 2?  Northern Colorado...too many words ["San Diego State" has more words] Both have NFL teams, so it's a tie.  Go with the numbers [seeds]." Result: correct

Southwest Round 2
Kansas over Boston: "Terriers?  Like the dog?  Those are kick-dogs." Result: correct [A kick-dog is apparently a dog small enough to punt.]
Illinois over UNLV: "How can you even take a school seriously from Las Vegas?" Result: correct
Vanderbilt over Richmond: "Spiders?  Jeff [Donlevy, my brother-in-law] went to Vandy and it's a "V" school.  And he let us stay at their house for a week over Christmas.  And he gave us Dom Perignon at New Years!" Result: incorrect, Richmond went on to the Sweet 16.
Morehead State over Louisville: "I have a hard time taking that one seriously because it sounds like Louis Vuitton.  Morehead is funny.  Go with the funny one." Result: correct [Note: It's moment like this where you realize her genius.  She thinks sounding like a designer disqualifies you from winning, but a penis joke makes you win.]
Georgetown over Virginia Commonwealth: "Too many words." Result: incorrect, VCU went on to the Final Four.
St. Peter's over Purdue: "I like St. Peter's Basilica.  And it's Catholic and private.  Is the other one Catholic?  [No]  Both mascots are kinda lame.  14 over 3...that's impossible.  But 'Purdue' sounds like 'poo.'" Result: incorrect, Purdue went on to the 3rd round.
Texas A&M over Florida State: "Aggies?  Well that's stupid.  Although Jim and Steve [my brothers] were Aggies [at UC Davis].  Wait, is this the Florida that does the 'chomp, chomp'?  [No, this is the tomahawk-ones.]  That tomahawk thing is annoying and pretentious.  I pick the non-Florida one.  I mean, what are they, hailing Hitler?" Result: incorrect, Florida State went on to the Sweet 16.
Notre Dame over Akron: "Notre Dame!  Yeah!  Catholic and Irish!  I don't know the other one, 'Zips' is pretty sick, dude." Result: correct

Southeast Round 2
Pittsburgh over UNC-Asheville: "Panthers, ooh, that's like a cougar." Result: correct
Butler over Old Dominion: "Monarchs?  Butterflies?  Gimme a break." Result: correct [Note: "Monarchs" actually refers to actual monarchs, not butterflies.]
Utah State over Kansas State: "No more wildcats.  Kansas has the Chiefs, so Utah it is!" Result: incorrect, Kansas State went on to the 3rd round. [Note: when I told her that the KC Chiefs play in Missouri, not Kansas, she said, "That's stupid.  Why did the NFL name them the 'Kansas City Chiefs' then?"]
Wisconsin over Belmont: "Didn't that horse die at the Belmont?  Anthony and Adria [friends] and my cousins went to Wisconsin. Result: correct [Note: I think she's thinking of Barbaro who was put down after breaking his leg at the Preakness in 2006.  Either way, impressive knowledge.]
Gonzaga over St. John's: "I really don't like St. John's because Angelina Jolie is the spokesperson.  And Justin Howard [friend]!  WCC-representation!" Result: correct [Note: I have no idea what the Angelina Jolie line means.]
UCLA over Michigan State: "U-C-L-A-fight-fight-fight!  I feel like if you've been to a game, you should root for them.  Unless they're a-holes.  Like Chargers fans.  Screw SDSU." Result: correct
Florida over UCSB: "Chomp-chomp! Santa Barbara is a part school.  Plus, Chris [Valente, a longtime friend of mine and UCSB alumnus] GTL's."  Result: correct

I will continue with the rest of Nicole's picks tomorrow.  She was a pedestrian 21-11 with this picks in the first round, but these things aren't won in the first round anyway.

Part 1: Results through the Round of 64
Part 2: Statistical Comparisons of Nicole's system vs. AP, RPI, seeds and Sagarin through Round of 32
Part 4: Nicole's Round of 32 through Championship picks
Part 5: Final Statistical Results (coming Thursday)
Tourney Bonus Coverage: The Jim Nantz-pun-o-meter game (coming soon)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NCAA Tourney 2011: Nicole's Crystal Ball (Part 2)

Since my wife first started filling out her own bracket two years ago, I have come to realize that while her system makes absolutely no sense, it works.  So this year, I decided to try and quantify why.

Categories Nicole Uses:
Better seeds 37-11
Best/Worst Conferences (listing only those with multiple bids)
  • ACC 7-1 (3-0 in Round of 32)
  • MWC 4-1 (2-0 in Round of 32)
  • Colonial 4-2
  • Big East 9-9 (2-5 in Round of 32)
  • CUSA 0-2
  • MAC 0-2
BCS Conferences vs. Non-BCS Conferences 18-8

Best/Worst States (listing only those with multiple bids)
  • Florida 4-0
  • Wisconsin 4-0
  • North Carolina 5-1
  • Alabama 0-2
  • New Jersey 0-2
  • Tennessee 0-4
  • Animals vs. People 11-7
  • Cats vs. Dogs 3-2
  • Wildcats 5-2
  • Huskies 3-1
  • Bulldogs 4-3
  • Tigers 1-4
  • Ancient Greeks (Trojans and Spartans) 0-3
Best/Worst Colors
  • Red 14-9 (6-2 in Round of 32)
  • Blue 33-28
  • White 19-16
  • Purple 3-3 (eliminated)
  • Black 7-11
  • Green 1-3 (eliminated)
Best/Worst Color Combinations
  • Blue/Red 6-1 (3-0 in Round of 32)
  • Blue/White 14-8 (6-1 in Round of 32)
  • Orange/blue 4-3
  • Single color 2-3
  • Blue/Gold 6-7 (1-4 in Round of 32)
  • Green/White 0-2
  • Blue/Gray 0-2
Public vs. Private 9-5
East of the Mississippi vs. West 9-11
Union vs. Confederacy 8-10

Totals for various systems:
  • Nicole’s Actual Picks 30-18 – 62.5%
  • Better Regular Season Final RPI vs. Worse 33-15 – 68.8% (East 10-2, West 11-1, SW 4-8 and SE 8-4)
  • Better Regular Season Final AP Ranking vs. Worse 30-16 – 65.2% (East 9-3, West 10-1, SW 4-8 and SE 7-4)
  • Better Seed vs. Worse 36-12 – 75.0% (East 10-2, West 12-0, SW 4-8 and SE 10-2)
  • Better Regular Season Final Sagarin rating vs. Worse 37-11 – 77.1% (East 10-2, West 12-0, SW 5-7 and SE 10-2)
*These results were not adjusted after each round; they reflect what the bracket would be like had it been picked this way before the Tournament.

Points of interest:
In all four of the more scientific systems just named, they would have 6-of-8 Elite Eight teams left (missing Pitt and Notre Dame), 3-of-4 Final Four teams left (missing Pitt), and both Finalists.  Nicole has 7-of-8 Elite Eight teams left (missing Notre Dame), 3-of-4 Final Four teams (missing Notre Dame), and one Finalist (missing Notre Dame).  So she did worse than all four heading into the Sweet 16, but they way points generally multiply in later rounds, she is actual in a far better position than all four.

In the 11 games whose results featured a worse seed winning, one was a 9 beating an 8, one was a 5 beating a 4, and four others featured “upset” wins by major national programs (Florida State, Gonzaga and Marquette twice) – hardly “Cinderella” material.  That means through 48 games, only five game were truly unforeseeable upsets: 11 VCU over 6 Georgetown, 12 Richmond over 5 Vanderbilt, 13 Morehead State over 4 Louisville (which Nicole picked), 11 VCU over 3 Purdue, and 8 Butler over 1 Pittsburgh.  We all should have seen the other 89% coming.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

NCAA Tourney 2011: Nicole's Crystal Ball (Part 1)

Making picks for the NCAA men's basketball tournament has basically become a sport in and of itself.  National media outlets reserve year-round coverage for "bracketology," seemingly anyone who has ever watched a game of college basketball now writes a blog about who got robbed and how to make your bracket, and likely more people join tourney bracket groups than vote for president.  Speaking of which, the President now does an annual bracket special on ESPN and he actually went 15-1 on day 4 on Friday.

For the last two years, I have written about my wife's mystifyingly successful system for picking (she's beating me again).  It is one part basketball knowledge, 4 parts mascot death-match, 2 parts travel log, 2 parts color war, 1 part class-warfare.  But it works.  In a vain attempt to quantify this system, I humbly submit the following statistics for your consideration.  Refer to them at your own risk when filling out your bracket next March.

These statistics are from all 36 games through the first two rounds of the 2011 men's tournament (unless noted otherwise).  All results more than 1 game above or below .500 are listed.

Basketball Knowledge: Seeds, Rankings and Conferences
Better seeds went 25-7 (not including 1st round games which are between teams ranked the same)
AP Top 25 teams went 19-6 (one loss was to another Top-25 team)
ACC: 4-1
Big Ten: 5-2
Colonial: 3-1
Pac 10: 3-1
Big East: 7-4
C-USA: 0-2
Mid-Atlantic: 0-2

Mascot Death-Match
Animals: 25-20  People 9-11
Indians: 3-0  Ancient Greeks 0-3
Birds: 5-4  Cats 7-6  Dogs: 5-5
Tigers: 1-4 (0-4 in Round 2)  Wildcats: 3-1  Bulldogs: 3-2  Terriers 0-2

Travel Log: State vs. State Comparison
Florida: 2-0
Kansas: 2-0
Washington: 2-0
Indiana: 3-1
Virginia: 4-2
Alabama 0-2 (both in Round 1)
Tennessee 0-4

Color War*
Blue: 21-17
Red: 8-7
Gold: 1-3 in Round 1, 5-3 in Round 2
Orange: 2-0 in Round 1, 4-5 in Round 2
Black: 5-9
Blue/Yellow: 2-0
Blue/Red: 3-1
Blue/Gold: 5-3
Black/Gold: 3-5
Blue/Gray: 0-2
Green/White: 0-2
3 Color Schools: 3-5

*Colors are taken from schools' officially listed colors.  Shades of colors went into primary colors in most cases (crimson and cardinal are both just "red" here), unless there were enough of the alternate color to make it worth distinguishing it as its own (gold stands alone from yellow).

Class Warfare
Private schools: 8-15
Public schools: 28-21
Catholic schools: 3-5

So while all these results are preliminary and need a larger sample (i.e.: the rest of the tournament) before we can call any of it infallible and scientifically proven, some working hypotheses:

God is not a basketball fan or the Catholic schools would be doing better.  For the record, Mormons were 1-1.
Alabama and Tennessee schools should stop playing basketball and focus on other endeavors.
Utah State got the biggest screw-job of the year by earning a 12-seed and having to play against a 5-seed  ranked worse than them in the AP poll (USU: 19, Kansas St. 21)
Stricter private school academic standards seem to be outweighing their ability to allegedly bend admission rules to bring in ball players.
Black may be cool, but wear it and you lose.
"Blue" chip recruits apparently take that title to heart when choosing which jersey they'll wear.
Among pets, birds are doing slightly better than cats, with dogs bringing up the rear.  But it's a difference of only percentage points.
Wildcats are much better than Tigers.
The Big East lived up to the hype for the most part (but their 11 bids does nothing more than prove than expansion of the tournament was unnecessary - if you are 11th in your own league, do you really deserve a chance to play for a national title?)
VCU belonged.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The BCS Makes Its Case, And It's Not A Good One

The 2010-2011 Bowl season is now in the bag and we have a BCS Champion, though not an NCAA Champion.  The good news is that Auburn is probably the best team in the country and probably deserves the title.  Though I can't imagine there's anyone outside of Alabama not wondering what Stanford or TCU might do against the Tigers.  

It’s hard to blame the advertisers, school administrators, venues, corporate sponsors or bowl organizers for trying to make a buck while also figuring out a better way to determine a football national champion than we used to have.  And the BCS is better than its predecessor.  What I blame them for is settling for a system that neither maximizes how much money they could make, nor determines a champion in the best way possible.

A playoff would unquestionably be the fairest way to determine a champion.  We see it in every other sport and every other level of college football, and while the best team may not always win a tournament, a tournament winner is always the unquestioned champion.  No campaigning, no geographical or conference bias, no voting, everyone got a fair shot…the last man standing wins. 

The great irony behind the BCS’ motto, “Every game counts,” which also serves as their Twitter and Facebook handle, is that in reality, only one game counts.  But this is only one of the many glaring holes in the pro-BCS argument.  

On their official website are a number of links to articles and statements in which BCS administrators and those making the most money from its existence argue for its continued existence.  These defenses of the BCS are the same ones that we often hear on television and radio, but none of them is actually a good reason to sit pat with what we’ve been dealt. 

So let’s put all the cards out on the table and see what we actually have.  BCS vs. Playoff, once and for all.  Each of these pro-BCS arguments is taken directly from their website or from articles linked from their website. 

BCS:A 16-team playoff would include guaranteed spots for each of the 11 Division I conferences.   This means that Alabama, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Oregon and the like would be included.  Also, you would include Central Michigan from the Mid-America Conference and Troy from the Sun Belt.  How much interest would there be in that first round game between Troy and Alabama and likewise, the 2-15 pairing of Central Michigan and Texas?” –Butch Henry, from a BCS’ homepage link to an article published in January 2010 in the Aiken Standard.

Playoff: Exactly.  Each of the power conferences would still get their best horse in the race.  And then the next five best teams would be invited as well.  As for the amount of interest in a Troy vs. Alabama first round game, I’d say it would be considerably higher than a BYU-UTEP New Mexico Bowl.  Or a N. Illinois-Fresno St. Humanitarian Bowl.  Or an Ohio-Troy New Orleans Bowl.  Or a Southern Miss-Louisville Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.  Or than probably any of the 30 non-BCS games, and perhaps more than the Connecticut-Oklahoma Sugar Bowl.

BCS: “There will be no bowls if a playoff system is initiated. Only 16 teams would play postseason. Do you think the Southeastern Conference, which has 10 teams playing in bowl games this year, will support for one second a system in which only two or three teams go to playoffs? How many coaches get fired for not making the playoffs when just two or three get to play? We have more than 60 teams going to bowl games this year. No one will agree to a system that only 16 get to go.” – Henry

Playoff: So make a secondary tournament (like basketball’s NIT) or host bowls for the next 44 teams after the Tournament field is named.  That way we get a legitimate national champion, most of the corporate sponsors still get their names on second tier games, 60+ schools get honored with some postseason play and all those bowl venue communities still cash in. 

BCS: Bowls provide an opportunity for half the schools competing to finish the season as a champion.  A tournament would make 15 out of 16 kids finish as a loser. 

Playoff: True.  If the goal of the bowl system really is to provide a sense of accomplishment to the players, then fine…keep it.  But don’t sell tickets, naming rights, or advertising and play the games behind closed doors.  After all, it’s the kids that matter, not the Title, and not the cash, right?

BCS:An ESPN The Magazine poll in August showed that when players were asked whether they would rather have a college football career with three bowl trips or one playoff trip, 77 percent favored the bowls and only 23 percent wanted a playoff.” – Bill Hancock, Bowl Championship Series executive director on

Playoff: If you asked, “Would you rather have a college football career with two bowl trips and a playoff trip or three bowl trips,” my guess is that the majority would prefer at least one title shot along with a free vacation or two. 

BCS: “Division I-AA, II and III playoffs lose money and must be supported by surplus revenues from the Final Four.” - Henry

Playoff: So does pretty much every bowl but the biggest 10, and they are all supported by the big ones.  Additionally, the amount of national interest in Division I-A is so much higher that the interest in the other divisions, that this parallel doesn’t hold up. 

BCS: “Playoff games would have to be played on college campus sites to ensure a crowd for rounds one through three.” [Paraphrasing:]  “Otherwise, crowd support in early round games would be a concern because teams wouldn’t know where they’re playing until only 6 days before the next round.  The Sugar Bowl teams are given 17,500 tickets to sell and would likely swallow many of them.  Basketball tourney teams are given just 750 tickets in the regional rounds and often struggle to sell them.  Attendance would be a huge problem.” – Henry

Playoff: The bowls are currently played at neutral locations, so that part of the argument is moot.  While one week to get fans to mobilize is tougher than one month, I can’t imagine this would truly be a concern in almost all cases.  Additionally, it is reasonable to expect an increase in attendance by more neutral local fans because the games become relevant to all fans, not just fans of the two schools competing.  Boston College and Nevada played 2 miles from my home last night.  Tickets were on Craigslist for as little as $35.  $50 on the 50-yard line.  I am a huge college football fan and it never occurred to me to go to the game.  Had it been a playoff game, even with the same two underwhelming teams, I would certainly have gone and they would have certainly sold out.  Additionally, the other Division I tournament similar in profile, men’s basketball, is played on neutral sites to massive crowds, sometimes five-times more than normal regular season games or more.  And they only get a week’s notice for those games as well. 

As for the tickets allotted, bowl teams have to buy those 17,500-or-so tickets and the schools take a bath almost every time.  Regardless, I imagine most schools would gladly make that investment to make sure they can get in the building every student and alumnus or alumna who wants to be there.

Furthermore, what would be wrong with schools hosting playoff games?  Basically every other sport does it to no negative consequences.  Don’t top seeds deserve home-field advantage?  Won’t it protect the favorites from the small conference winners who perhaps aren’t on par?  So the road fans would only have 6 days to plan travel, but again, that’s how it is with nearly every other sport and anyway, the higher seed’s fans should get the advantage.  Yes, the stadiums may be smaller in some cases and thus revenue would shrink in those cases, but it would also feel less sterile and corporate and would allow (at least half the teams each week) to attend normal classes.  No neutral site reverie like the bowls provide and no corporate media orgies all week (or two), but isn’t this about the football and the kids, anyway?  And besides, couldn’t all those parties and events be held in college towns just as easily as they could be held outside AT&T Park?

BCS: “Playoffs and plus-one systems sound great to the fan because it gives them a better viewing experience. But college athletics should be viewed more like minor league baseball, a breeding ground for potential pros, not a league in and of itself.” – Krystina Lucido from a link on the BCS’ homepage to an article published in December 2010 in the Press Box Online.

Playoff: This is college athletics, not minor league professional athletics.  If we should not view it as “a league in and of itself,” then why is there a BCS at all?  Why aren’t all games considered scrimmages?  Of course there should be a fairly-determined champion and the viewing experience of the fans (students and alumni, especially) is completely relevant. 

BCS: “Playoffs in December would disrupt the exam process.” – Henry

Playoff: Division I-AA, II and III teams seem to have figured this out.  And the BCS causes conflict for academics, as well.  For instance, Auburn and Oregon played the National Championship game on January 10, 2011 and were in town for the game a week earlier…while classes had already begun for the Spring Semester. 

BCS: “The average size of players in Divisions I-AA, II and III are far less than those in Division I-A. Their recovery time is far quicker than the size and strength of players in the largest class. Alabama has already played 13 games. What would be left of its team to play four more games over the next four weeks?” – Henry

Playoff: All players would be at the same disadvantage, so there would be no advantage gained by anyone but those teams strong enough to rest stars.  And is a D-IA player’s recovery time really that much longer?  They are bigger on average, yes, but they’re also more athletic and stronger on average as well.  NFL players are bigger, stronger and more athletic that D-IA players, and they play 16 games plus as many as four postseason games.  Should we get rid of the NFL playoffs and just vote for the Super Bowl competitors after Week 11?

BCS:Even a four-team playoff adds two games to a 12 or 13-game season.  Fourteen games for a student athlete is way too much; this is like a professional schedule” – Mark Even on Bleacher Report

Playoff: Putting the semifinals on January 1 would be best for keeping the New Year’s festival feel.  So the Quarterfinals would be the week before Christmas.  The First Round would be around December 10-15.  Each round could easily be separated by more than a week to allow extra rest.  Currently college football’s regular season generally wraps up by the end of November.  This provides two weeks or more of down time before the playoffs start.  Additionally, schools could cut their regular seasons down to 11 or 12 games, rather than 12 or 13.  Finally, only 8 teams would play more than 1 postseason game.  Four would play more than two.  Two teams would play more than 3.  They are able to handle this at other levels; there is no reason to think they couldn’t do it at D-IA. 

BCS: “A bowl game…is a reward for a team that has had a successful season.

Playoff: So is a playoff game.  And by successful, do you really mean 7-6?  23 bowls teams were 7-6 or worse in 2010-2011.  8 finished under .500.  It’s one thing for the Seahawks to make the postseason with a sub-.500 record because they won their division.  It would have been another if the Cowboys had been invited because they would have sold a lot of tickets. 

BCS: [Paraphrasing] It would be unfair to take the bowl-swag and per diem money away from athletes. - Henry

Playoff: [Washing vomit out of my mouth after reading that argument] Um, I guess they can still get (illegal) benefits from corporate sponsors for playing in playoff games and, obviously, they would still get per diem.

BCS: “Teams spend five to seven days at the bowl site prior to the game. Practice and meetings take up half the day, and players are free to go to the beach or hit the tourist spots/social gatherings up until a day or so before the game. Then, the coaches put in place the normal game procedures.  If there is a playoff, the players know the coaches will fly the team to the game site on Friday, play the game on Saturday and fly home immediately afterwards.” - Henry

BCS: "Add a playoff and the [AT&T Cotton Bowl] Classic experience becomes nothing more than a short business trip. The Cotton Bowl prides itself on creating life-long memories for the student athletes." - Rick Baker, AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic president on

Playoff: So the players will spend more time at home and in class, and the teams spend less money on lodgings.  They are not entitled to trips to the beach or tourist spots.  They can do that on their own time and there is no reason that schools should fund it.  Bowl trip festivities seem to blatantly break NCAA rules against improper benefits given to athletes.  Are other non-athletes afforded the same trips? As for memories, I think the winning team would still look back fondly on the game while the losing team would still blame the refs. 

BCS: "[Some] claim the bowls will survive a playoff, but a playoff would put an end to the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl.” - Tina Kunzer-Murphy, Football Bowl Association chairman and Maaco Las Vegas Bowl executive director on

Playoff: Perhaps, but it would also be the beginning of a legitimate NCAA Division IA football championship, which is the point, isn’t it?  The Las Vegas Bowl could continue to choose non-tournament teams if they so chose.  Granted, there would be little interest in that game perhaps, but there already is little interest in it.

BCS: “Almost all bowls donate a portion of the local profits to area charity. There is no charity when the NCAA takes over. There is no incentive for a locality to support the local playing of a game other than tourism.” – Henry

Playoff: No charities besides the non-profit universities that would reap huge financial windfalls, right?  As Henry writes, they don’t all donate to charity anyway, so don’t paint them all with a saintly brush.  A lot of money would be lost by venue-area businesses but the point is to choose a national champion in the fairest way possible, not to pimp our finest athletes out to the highest bidder.  The amount of money brought in the participating schools and their local communities would be huge in relation to what they make now, so the point is basically moot. 

BCS: “Bowl games have a great following on television. This past year, the Alamo Bowl between Missouri and Northwestern had higher ratings on ESPN than Duke-North Carolina basketball.” - Henry

Playoff: I’m guessing that Duke-North Carolina game wasn’t a postseason game, or that stat would have been different.  Football is far more popular than basketball; ratings for regular season college football games routinely out-do ratings for regular season college basketball games.  But NCAA Tourney basketball games routinely out-do bowl games.   That same 2008-2009 Alamo Bowl between Missouri and Northwestern got a 4.60 national television rating.  It was the 8th highest rated bowl of that year.  The average bowl game (34 games total) that year drew a 3.99.  The average NCAA basketball tournament game (65 games total) in the same year drew a 5.71.  And keep in mind that the Alamo Bowl (like nearly all bowls) was played on either a holiday, a weeknight in primetime or on a weekend.  Almost half of those 65 basketball games were played on a weekday or before primetime.  And they still outperformed the bowls by an average of 143%

BCS: "January 1 has become internationally known as America's New Year Celebration, and a salute to tradition and a love of pageantry that has thrived in Pasadena since 1902. Without a bowl system and structure in place, college football loses its unique appeal and storied traditions. In its place a corporate sporting environment of a playoff would destroy the experience for all those involved: athletes, host communities and fans alike." -Scott McKibben, Tournament of Roses, Rose Bowl Game executive director on

Playoff: The loss of January 1 as a College Football Holiday would be too bad.  And there is something to a pageantry of the January 1 Bowls that would be lost, the Rose Bowl in particular.  However, the BBVA Compass Bowl pitted a 7-5 team against a 6-6 team on January 8, 2011.  The Bowl pitted a 6-6 team and a 9-4 team on January 6, 2011.  It seems to me that the sanctity of January 1 is long gone already.  And are we really arguing that a playoff would create more of a corporate structure than a system of corporate-sponsored bowls?  Also, I’m pretty sure that January 1 is everyone’s New Year Celebration, not just America’s.

BCS: “A large amount of the attendees to these games are students. A playoff series, played in multiple areas, is not conducive to the audience. Students can't travel that much and universities cannot supply that much transportation.” – Lucido

Playoff: This is a good point, but I fall back on the fact that the other divisions of football all do it and play in front of sold out (though smaller) stadiums.  If games were played at home-sites, this would be less of a problem, and again, there would be far more casual local fan interest. 

BCS: Won’t the 17th team complain (probably rightfully) that they deserve a seat at the table just like the 3rd team does now, or the 69th team will in basketball this year?

Playoff: Yes they will, but it’s a lot harder to argue that point when you are barely good enough to be on the national title radar at 17th than when you are 3rd and possibly undefeated.

BCS: The four BCS Bowl venues would never allow a playoff to happen because they currently get to host two games every four years.  With a playoff, even if they kept their name on the playoff games, they’d only get one game per year.

Playoff: Why are non-school, non-conference, and non-NCAA officials making these decisions in the first place?  Also, this could easily be fixed by having a 3rd place game the day before the National Championship game and that third place game could rotate among the big four each year.

BCS: If teams want to make the National Championship game, they should take care of business on the field and make sure they make the top two. 

Playoff: Like TCU going 12-0, Stanford (losing only at #2 Oregon), Wisconsin (losing only at #9 Michigan State), Ohio State (losing only at #5 Wisconsin), Boise State (losing only at #15 Nevada in overtime), or Michigan State (losing only at then #18 Iowa) going 11-1?

BCS: Putting aside all the other bowls, in most years since the BCS worked and got the two best teams in the championship game

Playoff: Except the times that it hasn’t worked.  And again, just because the two best teams faced off for the title, doesn’t mean the third (or others) best teams didn’t also deserve a shot.  It seems that every season we all say, “This is the year that finally proves how terrible this system is,” and yet the next year seems to always make a new and even stronger argument for tearing the system down.

BCS: “College football is the one sport where the regular season counts.” - Henry

Playoff: That’s a bit of a stretch, but it is perfectly accurate to say that it is the one sport where the postseason doesn’t count.

Put plainly, there is simply no good reason for universities to remain in the BCS system.  It clearly does not determine a champion in the best way possible and it doesn’t make them the most money possible.  Austin Murphy and Dan Wetzel wrote a cover story for Sports Illustrated that pointed out the massive amounts of money that universities pay out in order to cover their bowl trips.  From unsold tickets to travel to hotels to meals to media campaigns and events, schools break their banks to get into bowls that don’t wind up earning them any money or get them any closer to a national title.  But bowl organizers reap fortunes from the games, even paying annual salaries over $1 million just for a few days of events.  Their stark picture of the bowl system and the BCS clearly shows that it is the bowl committees making all the money, not the universities or conferences.  And while they are entitled to their entrepreneurial ventures, that simply has nothing to do with football, with schools or with kids. 

And I’ve not even gotten into the ridiculously unfair conference tie-ins that placed unranked Connecticut in a BCS bowl and forced #10 Boise State to play before Christmas.  Nor did I get into the recruiting power that smaller conference schools would gain, thus leveling the playing field, and making it unnecessary for schools to destroy smaller conferences and rivalries by jumping ship in chasing football money.

The bowl organizers say it would ruin them to have a playoff.  Perhaps.  But it should be the schools getting rich, not the party planners.  And while ultimately, college football is extraordinarily popular even with this corrupt and broken system, if you had a car that everyone liked the look of but it didn’t run properly, you’d go get it fixed.