A late-season loss at Nevada ended any chance Boise State had of playing for the national title or even making it to a BcS game, but that hasn’t stopped the school’s president from blasting away at the current system used to determine a national champion.
The impetus for Pres. Bob Kustra‘s latest strafing of the BcS was an error in one of the computer rankings used by the BcS.
Thanks to the eagle eye of Jerry Palm of CBS Sports.com, it was discovered Monday that the model used by Wes Colley — one of six sets of computer rankings used by the BcS — failed to include the result of the Div. 1-AA (FCS) playoff game between Western Illinois-Appalachian State into his data set. That failure led LSU to be ranked No. 10 in the final BcS standings and Boise State No. 11. The “glitch” was corrected, “Baghdad” Bill Hancock, spokesperson for the BcS, apologized for said “glitch” and the BcS released revised standings that reflected the Broncos at No. 10 and the Tigers at No. 11.
(Writer’s note: the system used to determine a national champion can be substantially influenced by the results of a 1-AA playoff game? Really?)
Obviously, this error had no impact on the selections for the BcS bowls or, more importantly, for the national title game — this time, and as far as we know as the Colley system is the only formula made available to the public — but it was enough for Kustra to launch yet another offensive against a system that’s viewed by many/most as… well… offensive.
In a letter sent to university presidents and athletic directors, Kustra once again blasted the BcS for the computer error involving his school, as well the lack of transparency in the system and how egregious it is to reward mediocre seasons with BcS bids and yes UConn your ears should be ringing right now.
Here’s Kustra’s letter, in its entirety:
I trust that you have heard about the news from CBS sports analyst Jerry Palm that the BCS rankings erroneously ranked the positions of four teams in the final BCS rankings of the season.
The BCS has corrected for it and Bill Hancock has apologized, but it still leaves open the question of transparency. There are five other computer models used to determine the rankings each week that are hidden from public view, unlike the approach used by Wes Colley who allows the light of day to shine on his work. Thankfully, in this case an astute third party caught the error and brought it to the attention of the BCS. I’m sure that you can imagine numerous “what if” scenarios where this type of mistake could have had significant repercussions.
How many times have we heard calls for transparency on our campuses and how many times have we shared our governance and communicated with our faculties and other constituencies in a transparent fashion? Yet, in intercollegiate athletics, with the NCAA standing silently on the sidelines, we allow the BCS to work its magic with no idea of how accurate its rankings are on a week to week basis.
It’s egregious enough to see teams with mediocre seasons climb into the BCS bowl games because they happen to be in privileged conferences, while others with better records are written off as second-class citizens. When we cannot see how these decisions are made, it becomes an affront to the concepts of integrity and fair play that we claim to value.
When C. Wright Mills wrote of the “power elite”, I doubt he was speaking of universities and intercollegiate athletics. If he were still around, there could be a great second edition, this time focused on where elitism really runs rampant and takes Division 1 football players from some conferences and restrains their ability to compete. I hope you noticed my choice of the word, “restrain”. I trust we will all be hearing more about “restraint” unless presidents step up and do the right thing.
Of course, by “restraint”, Kustra is referring to “restraint of trade“, the buzzwords that those opposed to the BcS hope could trigger a Justice Department probe of the cartel. That is something long overdue, and it’s a threat — much like the BcS does with a return to the old bowl system if a playoff is foisted upon them — that’s used nearly every time someone such as Kustra lobs rhetoric-filled grenades at the system.
As for the computer glitch, something must be done if the BcS is going to continue determining the national champion. Kustra is correct; the transparency issue needs to be addressed. Should we just assume that the other five computer models, hidden from public view as Kustra writes, are free from the same type of error that forced Boise State and LSU to be flip-flopped in the final release?
Of course not. This Colley glitch has shined a bright light on yet another aspect of the BcS that is wrong on many different levels, and a Hancock apology and a promise from the BcS to address the computer issue in a couple of months is simply not enough.
Make the formulas used by all six computer geeks available to independent auditors right now, so that they can be gone over with a fine-toothed comb by unbiased and objective parties right now. Stop hiding and give some transparency. Right now.