USC in a Bind

The Floyd scandal could cost USC any hope of postseason berths following the 09-10 season for basketball. USC football is already in trouble with the Reggie Bush payments (don’t they still owe his agent money?) and could be looking at a postseason problem for the football team, which would really hurt the Pac-10 in general when it comes to the lucrative BCS games.

But Arizona, having dodged a bullet in not hiring Floyd, is starting to smell like roses – at least in basketball. Football, I’ll take a Holiday berth for sure, but if USC is on probation this coming season, the Pac-10 championship could be wide open. Arizona should improve on last season’s success and make themselves into a contender for the upper echelon of the conference.

Basketball, well, Arizona is already leaps and bounds over half the conference already, and with USC headed downhill fast, the 26th straight NCAA Tourney berth is more and more a reality – remember that historically the Pac-10 gets at least 4 teams in every year. Being in the top 4 of the Pac-10 this year should not be a stretch for Miller and company.

But what of Floyd and USC?

Safe bet is that the IRS, the Justice Department, and the NCAA come calling and slap USC and Floyd’s program silly. $1000 to a “handler” that ended up making 250x that for “delivering” Mayo to the Bill Duffy Sports Agency pre-draft seems kinda silly in retrospect, doesn’t it?

Floyd’s well-known as a good recruiter, not so much as a coach. But then with all this coming to light, how “good” of a recruiter is he actually? LSU, do you really want Tim Floyd now?

BCS uprising

Every year there’s some shmoe that feels slighted because their team was left out of the BCS (and/or championship game).

Last year, the Utah Utes actually deserved to be in it against Florida – Oklahoma had no business being there whatsoever. (Frag off, Sooner fans… tell me again what Oklahoma’s bowl record in BCS-era bowls is? Zero-for-what?)

Anyway, Congress, being a bunch of foolhardy people with apparently nothing better to do, decided to hold a hearing on the whole mess – wasting taxpayers’ money, natch – and threaten “legislation” if the scenario isn’t fixed to their liking. Really, the only thing they can do is try to pass a law saying the BCS Champion cannot be named the “National” champion.

Really, the whole reason the other schools feel slighted is because of the money involved – an $18 million payoff for teams that end up in a BCS bowl. You bet that the other 5 conferences and those 4 Independent schools want a piece of that!!!

So, if the BCS people actually cared to listen, there’s an easy way to fix this without resorting to a playoff: Add two more bowl games to the “BCS”.

Right now, the BCS consists of four bowl games plus the Championship game – the Fiesta, the Rose, the Sugar, and the Orange Bowls. Each bowl has “tie-ins”, meaning that a specific conference championship is contractually obligated to play in a specific bowl unless that team qualifies for the BCS Championship game. The tie-ins are:

Fiesta: Big 12 champ
Rose: Big Ten and Pac-10 champs
Sugar: SEC champ
Orange: ACC champ

Note that the Big East does not have an official “tie-in”, but historically the Big East ends up in the Orange Bowl as well.

The conference champions of the aforementioned six ‘power’ or ‘BCS’ conferences automatically gain a berth in those bowl games. Ok, so that’s six teams for 8 slots, not counting the BCS Championship. But really, the BCS Championship game has always featured two teams from those six conferences, just sometimes not the conference champions (which ALSO is a stupid loophole that needs to be fixed).

The following proposal leaves the current BCS ranking system in place while allowing for other conference champions to “play” in the BCS (and thus getting a share of that $18 mil…):

New rule – no team can be a part of the National Championship game if they are not a conference champion. This means that after all scheduled and conference championship games have been played and the final end of season standings have a team that is not a conference champion ranked #1 or #2:

  1. If #1, the team will be re-ranked to #3, the #2 team will become #1, and the highest-ranked conference champion will be the new #2.
  2. If #2, the team will be re-ranked to #3, the #1 team will stay #1, and the highest-ranked conference champion will be the new #2.
  3. If both #1 and #2 teams are not conference champions, the teams will be re-ranked #3 and #4 and the two highest ranked conference champions will be re-ranked #1 and #2.

Bowl matchups:

  • National Championship game: #1-ranked team in BCS vs. #2-ranked team in BCS.
  • Fiesta: Big-12 champion vs. MAC, Conference USA, Sun Belt, or Independent champion
  • Rose: Pac-10 champion vs. Big Ten champion
  • Sugar: SEC champion vs. MAC, Conference USA, Sun Belt, or Independent champion
  • Orange: ACC champion vs. MAC, Conference USA, Sun Belt, or Independent champion
  • Holiday: WAC champion vs. Mountain West champion
  • Gator: Big East champion vs. MAC, Conference USA, Sun Belt, or Independent champion

In theory, the Holiday bowl could be any of the champions available, but realistically, being in San Diego, it will be anchored by the WAC and/or the Mountain West teams since it’d be difficult for any other team other than a Big East team to bring a lot of supporters (almost literally) cross-country. This also allows the bowls to select a conference champion pairing based on potential matchup and ticket sales. Order of selection of remaining champions will be based on the ranking of the host champion. However, if a bowl loses a host team to the National Championship Game, then that bowl will select a replacement team from among the automatic-qualifying teams (BCS Top 16) before any other selections are made, the bowl losing the higher ranked team receiving the first pick. If the Rose Bowl should lose both its teams to the National Championship Game, it shall receive two replacement picks. The bowl that picks first for replacement picks shall pick last for conference champion selection to fill its bowl slot.

Note that the way the proposal is presented ensures a conference champion is present in any of the BCS Bowl games except in the rare case of the Rose Bowl losing both its obligated members to the National Championship game.

If we use the Final 2008 season results as a barometer: (note again, I don’t condone Oklahoma’s final ranking here… I’m just using the data from 2008)

  1. Oklahoma (Big 12 champ)
  2. Florida (SEC champ)
  3. Texas
  4. Alabama
  5. USC (Pac-10 champ)
  6. Utah (Mountain West champ)
  7. Texas Tech
  8. Penn State (Big Ten champ)
  9. Boise State (WAC champ)
  10. Ohio State
  11. TCU
  12. Cincinnati (Big East champ)
  13. Oklahoma State
  14. Georgia Tech
  15. Georgia
  16. BYU

The remaining auto-bid conference champs:
19 Virginia Tech (ACC champ)
22 Ball State (MAC champ)
— East Carolina (Conference USA champ) – #47 computer rankings
— Navy (Independent champ) – #53 computer rankings
— Troy (Sun Belt champ) – #73 computer rankings

Then the bowl matchups would have been:

  • Gator: Cincinnati (Big East champ) vs. Navy (Independent champ)
  • Holiday: Boise State (WAC champ) vs. Utah (Mountain West champ)
  • Fiesta: Texas (BCS #3) vs. East Carolina (C-USA champ)
  • Rose: USC (Pac-10 champ) vs. Penn State (Big Ten champion)
  • Sugar: Alabama (BCS #4) vs. Troy (Sun Belt champ)
  • Orange: Virginia Tech (ACC champion) vs. Ball State (MAC champ)
  • National Championship game: Oklahoma (Big 12 champ) vs. Florida (SEC champ)

No matter how you slice it, there’s going to be someone that complains. In this case, it’ll be the Sugar and Fiesta bowls for having to take East Carolina and Troy for their games. At least the Sugar gets a team that’s close to the Bowl location – East Carolina would have to travel cross-country to Glendale, AZ. And realistically, neither team really deserves to be included in the BCS – they’re just not that good. The Cincy/Navy matchup is a good one though, as is the VaTech and Ball State matchup.

A post for another time is relegating two conference champions to “odd man out” status based on their rankings – lowest two teams don’t get the auto-bid, allowing for “replacement” picks as well. If that were the case, Navy and Troy would be dropped, Cincy would be playing East Carolina (an ok matchup), and Sugar would probably pick Texas Tech, while Fiesta would probably have taken Ohio State.

I would also like to see the human polls weighed less than the computer polls. It is obvious in the past three seasons that the human polls have been manipulated to include certain teams and exclude others based on personal agendas. Right now, the human polls account for fully 2/3 of the final tally – the Harris Poll and USA Today are each 1/3 of the equation, while the 6 computers are “summarized” into the last 1/3.

I propose that the computer poll summary be 1/2 of the equation, that two more computers are added to the mix to ensure a “truer” average, that four of the eight polls be allowed to use Margin of Victory in their calculations – because the human polls certainly do – and that the two human polls account for 1/4 each. This would be a fairer way of ranking since then neither the computer polls nor the human polls could unduly influence the other’s rankings.

Power points tweaked yet again

One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of power points by the Arizona Interscholastic Association in order to determine which teams make the playoffs out of the 213 member schools participating in football.

There’s anywhere from 28-35 teams in each division, and there are seven divisions: 1A (which is 8-man football), 2A, 3A, 4A-II, 4A-I, 5A-II, and 5A-I which encompasses the 27 schools in the state with the largest enrollments or those schools which have traditionally competed in the toughest division (like Brophy Prep or Salpointe Catholic) even though they have smaller enrollments.

Well, in previous years, the AIA used to just have a set number of qualifying teams from each division’s conference make the playoffs, regardless of record. So, if you were in conference B of the 2A division, and your conference was obligated to send 3 teams, if team #3 has a 2-8 record, but team #4 is 0-10, guess who’s going? (Note, this actually happened in 2007 in the 1A conference… go here to see what happened.)

However, in more recent years, the AIA has decided to use Power Points – a decision soundly derided by fans across the state (and several coaches). The AIA’s brain trust came up with the following methodology:

50 points per win, 5 points for each win by opponents if the opponents are same division or higher.

On paper, it seems like a workable plan. In action, the AIA fell flat because they failed to consider several things:

  1. if your team resides in a strong region, you will get the benefit of those region members’ wins
  2. power points reward teams in large conferences for losses more than they reward wins by teams from small conferences, regardless of the opponent’s quality, conference, or division.
  3. they don’t take into account schedule strength
  4. (and this is the killer) only wins over AIA opponents gain “win” points, so a win over an out of state school gains a team zero, and all the wins by THAT team also net zero points.

So, this year the AIA came up with a “much better system”. First, they came up with a “matrix” of point values (you can already see this is a problem – IF YOU HAVE TO CREATE A MATHEMATICAL MATRIX TO EXPLAIN SOMETHING, IT SHOULD BE A SIGN THAT IT WON’T WORK) wherein a team gains a specific number of points for a win depending on the opponent’s division.

The number of points is the same for a win over a team in your division and one division lower. For every division lower than that (two divisions, three divisions) subtract 5 points from the win points (so, a 4A-II over a 4A-II nets 50 points, but a 4A-II over a 2A nets 40 points). For every division HIGHER than yours add 5 points (a 4A-II over a 5A-I nets 65 points, since 5A-I is three divisions higher).

Ah, but now come the “opponent points” or “victory points” – each win by your opponents nets you 5 points if their win is over a team in their same division or one higher/lower, otherwise subtract .5 points (yes, half a point…) for each division lower than the set threshold, and add .5 points for each division higher than the threshold. 5A schools (both 5A-II and 5A-I) get the shaft here because they are the highest divisions, so they can’t get any more than 5 victory points for their opponents’ wins.

So what happens if a team is not an AIA member (like say, a team from Juarez, Mexico, or maybe one from Utah, California, or Nevada)? Your Athletic Director must petition the AIA to recognize that team as a “valid” opponent and the AIA must then label them as a comparable division (like maybe a 3A school) based on the school’s enrollment and current state division – New Mexico, for example, has a divisional breakdown similar to Arizona’s so that would not take as much time as a team from California which has super-conferences and super-regions.

All in all, it sounds like a lot of work, right? It is. And the AIA doesn’t just stop there – it claims it can do “automatic” updates of the Power Points on its website after every weekend slate of games based on the outcomes. Problem – AIA doesn’t actually go out and gather the scores, it asks that the head coaches or representatives of the home team input the final results to the website. And the smaller schools are notorious for NOT doing so in a timely manner.

My question – if this power point system is SO GAWD-DARNED GOOD, why doesn’t the NCAA use it? I mean, that’s the cream of the crop – the top dawgs of the amateur football spectrum, right?

Maybe because the NCAA already knows that IT DOESN’T WORK. The NCAA uses a Selection Committee for Divisions I-AA, II, and III to determine seedings and teams eligible for the playoffs. While the AIA obviously doesn’t have the manpower to do so (yet), it should look to other ways to determine seedings. I’ve come up with one (link here), but I would love to be on a Selection Committee as well. The question is, who else would – or should – be on that committee? That, I don’t have an answer to.