Several years back, when daughter Quinn announced her intention to transfer to Boise State University – “Dad, it’s only $6,000 a semester,” she said, nonchalantly fitting “only” and “$6,000 a semester” into the same sentence — her father had to come up with the appropriate sports wisecrack.
“Guess it’s true what they say, dear,” I quipped. “The grass really is bluer on the other side.”
That was, of course, a reference to BSU’s “Smurf Turf,” the blue artificial surface upon which the Broncos play football.
Quinn didn’t get it. Alas, this transfer was not about gridiron glory. She didn’t know the Boise field was blue.
She does, now.
Too bad for Boise State the grass really isn’t greener.
When Chris Petersen’s Broncos lost 34-31 in overtime to Nevada on an icy November night in Reno, the Western Athletic Conference, BSU and other “non-major” conferences saw $17 million, for a Bowl Championship Series game, shrink to less than $1 million. That’s what Boise State made for whipping a good Utah team 26-3 in something called the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl.
Put another way, when Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman missed two field goals that would have won or tied the Nevada game, $8 million sailed wide left. Brotzman, the school’s all-time scoring leader and a terrific kicker, has been roundly supported by his team, school and coaching staff … to their credit.
Or, from the Nevada perspective, the 14th-ranked Wolfpack cost itself an estimated $1 million when it beat the Broncos.
It’s never been more apparent that the Bowl Championship Series — what does that mean, anyway? — is a mess of big-money collusion, and Boise State is the poster school for the inequity. Here’s a bet that the Bad College Scenario is challenged in court, led by BSU, and here’s betting it is tossed aside. Why? It’s fundamentally wrong.
The Broncos opened this season on a “neutral” field in Washington, D.C., playing Virginia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference.When Tech stormed onto the field that night, its 80,000 assembled Hokies shook that stadium to its pilings. Yet BSU scored the game’s first 17 points, shut the crowd up and came back very late to beat a talented Tech team 33-30, and instantly elevate its stock in the calculation of college football superiority.
Tech promptly went out and lost to James Madison, Dolly’s husband, 21-16 on its home field. Suddenly, Boise State’s accomplishment was tarnished.
Coach Frank Beamer’s Techsters then proceeded to win 11 straight games, defeat Florida State for the ACC championship, and earn a berth in a BCS bowl game … and the $17-ish million that comes with it. In other words, Boise State’s enormous regular-season victory in the nation’s capital meant nothing at season’s end.
Fans are taking notice that the college football regular season really means nothing in the end. They’re not watching as much as they used to do. College football, a terrific American sport, is lagging behind the National Football League, where regular-season games do count, and where a champion is determined legitimately.
Nobody’s disputing that Oregon and Auburn should play for the national football championship. They’re the two best teams out there. But let’s see Auburn leave the Southeast, travel to the Sierra Nevada in November, and beat a 12-win Nevada football team that lost once all season, and counts on its record a three-touchdown win over California, which gave Oregon its closest game of the season. Auburn in Reno? Brace for Cold and Snow, Tigers, and see if those BCS hopes survive.
Never happen, in the current system. With the Southeastern Conference’s protected status, Auburn has too much to lose by risking a road game far from home.
College football need only look at college basketball to realize the potential of a championship tournament. March Madness is America’s premier sporting event. And it brings in buckets of money for the participating conferences. Even the BCS conferences acknowledge a college football playoff tournament would be far more lucrative than the status quo.
Major college football is the only one of 23 NCAA sports that does not decide a champion by a tournament. The only one. It’s time to end that.