NCAA News and Notes
Human Polls to Have Bigger Role in BCS
AP Sports Writer, Aug 12, 2004
NEW YORK (AP) - The folks who run the Bowl Championship Series are still trying to get it right: Pick the most deserving teams to play in its title game and stop infuriating so many college football fans.
Last year, the BCS' six-year-old computer-biased formula left Southern California out of a national title game even though the Trojans were No. 1 in both the AP media and coaches' polls.
That created the BCS' worst nightmare - split national champions. USC clinched the AP title by beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl, and LSU won the coaches' crown by defeating the BCS' No. 1 team, Oklahoma, in the Sugar Bowl.
And just like the last time there were co-champions, when the 1997 crown was shared by Michigan (AP) and Nebraska (coaches) and the Bowl Alliance was ditched - the conference honchos sacked their system and went for another overhaul.
This year, it's up with people and down with the utterly confusing mix of calculations that included strength of schedule, won-loss records and quality wins.
The AP media poll and the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll will each count for one-third of a team's BCS ranking; computers will count for the other third. Before, the human polls combined made up just one-quarter of the ranking.
``This will be easier to understand, much more accurate and will serve us better,'' Pacific-10 Conference commissioner Tom Hansen said. ``Will we get into trouble again? Probably.''
Hansen has seen his league left on the outside looking in for two of the last three BCS title games. The Trojans finished third in the final BCS rankings last year, and Pac-10 champion Oregon was edged out of the 2001 title game by Nebraska, which was trounced by Colorado in its final regular season game.
``It's a better formula, it's simpler and I think it's got all the components,'' Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said. ``There's nothing perfect about it, just as there's nothing perfect about the human polls.''
What the BCS has done is simply shift the weight of responsibility from computers to people. Now, the polls count for two-thirds. Before the BCS, college football relied almost exclusively on the media and coaches polls to determine bowl matchups.
All 11 Division I-A conference commissioners and Notre Dame were involved in the process that changed the formula.
Longtime AP poll voter Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the changes are good - and bad.
``It simplifies things for the fans, and if something goes wrong they'll know who to blame,'' he said. ``And that's the bad part, they'll know exactly who to blame.''
Ballots of AP voters are made available; the coaches' ballots are not released.
Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, says 88 of the 117 Division I-A coaches are against having their ballots made public. Teaff said opponents might gain an edge if they knew what a coach thought about them before a game.
Teaff is more concerned with avoiding last year's embarrassment, when USC - the coaches' No. 1 pick - didn't make the title game. Coaches who vote are obligated to name the winner of the BCS title game the national champion. Writers in the AP poll are under no such obligation.
``The important thing for us is we never want what happened last year to happen again,'' he said.
The new system lessens the chance of a repeat, but it doesn't eliminate it. But what happens if three teams finish the regular season undefeated, or one team is unbeaten and there are two or three once-beatens, or there are three once-beaten teams?
``We generated some interest in tweaking the system and trying to find a better way,'' USC coach Pete Carroll said. ``Whether it is a better way or not, we'll just have to wait and see how it works. Without a playoff system, there's always going to be some kind of a formula, so there's going to be scrutiny about the selection process.''
Had the new system been in place last year, USC and LSU would have played in the title game, and in 2001 Miami would have played Oregon instead of Nebraska. In 2000, Miami still would have been left out of the game that matched Oklahoma against Florida State despite handing the Seminoles their only loss of the season.
In the other three years of the BCS format, there were true title games: Tennessee beat Florida State for the 1998 championship, Florida State beat Virginia Tech in 1999, and Ohio State beat Miami for the 2002 title.
Under the new system, a team will have a percentage score for each of three components. These percentages will be averaged to determine a team's BCS ranking. For both the AP and coaches' polls, the total points received in the balloting divided by the maximum points possible will yield the percentage.
Six computer rankings are in the mix: Jeff Sagarin, Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey and Dr. Peter Wolfe. The highest and lowest ranking will be tossed out each week. The poll average will be figured based on 25 points for first, 24 for second, and so forth. The scores will be averaged and the total calculated as a percentage of 100.
The percentages will be added and divided by three to come up with the team's BCS ranking.
For example, if Team X receives 1,760 of 1,800 points from the AP poll, its percentage would be .978; with 1,440 out of 1,500 in the coaches poll, its percentage would be .960; and with 94 of a possible 100 points from the computers, its percentage would be .940 for a BCS average of .959.
``It was apparent to us that just using the average rankings of the polls was not an adequate comparison of the level of voting support for each team,'' BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg said. ``A top-ranked team could be one point ahead of the second-ranked team, or it could be 200 points ahead. Using the actual voting points in the formula allows for a more accurate ranking in the BCS poll. This is especially important when there is marginal separation between a No. 2 and No. 3 team.''
Of course, things could change after the 2005 season, when the BCS contract expires. Beginning in 2006, a fifth game will be added to the BCS, with the championship game played a week later at the site of one of the BCS bowls.
Stay tuned. The first BCS rankings are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 18.
Louisiana Tech May Use Two Quarterback System
Aug 12, 2004
RUSTON, La. (AP) - How hard will it be for Louisiana Tech to replace Luke McCown, the starter at quarterback for the past four years? Hard enough that coach Jack Bicknell is considering a two-quarterback platoon system.
Matt Kubik and Donald Allen are considered the front runners to run the Bulldogs' offense. But redshirt freshman Zac Champion and junior college transfer Andre Daniel could also push for the quarterbacking job.
``I'm open for anything, but if we played today, both Kubik and Allen would see action,'' Bicknell said. ``Both of them are leaders and I would like to see one of them separate himself from the other in the 29 practice opportunities we have ... but that may not happen.''
Kubik, who has been in Ruston for three years, said he hopes to display what he learned from McCown and Maxie Causey over the past three seasons. But he would not be crushed if he had to share game time.
``Using two quarterbacks has worked for some schools and sometimes it's good to break up the rhythm of the defense,'' Kubik said. ``Without a doubt, Donald and I help each other. He's faster than I am and throws the ball harder, but I've been around here longer.''
No matter who is at quarterback, having a veteran offensive line and running back Ryan Moats will help him. Moats led the WAC in rushing last season with a career-high 1,300 yards.
``Having Moats back there is a huge relief for a new quarterback because he will bring us a sense of ball control,'' Kubik said. ``The offensive line is a bunch of great guys, who have been together for an entire year. I believe they're ready to open some holes.''
Sooners Set to Make National Title Run
Associated Press Writer, Aug 11, 2004
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - For Jason White, it wasn't that tough of a decision to play one more year with the Oklahoma Sooners.
His first full season as starter for the Sooners took the team to the brink of the 2003 national championship and earned him the Heisman Trophy. But even with that success, coupled with injuries to his throwing hand and left foot, White didn't make a run for an NFL payday.
White, who stumbled badly at the end of the season in losses to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game and Louisiana State in the Sugar Bowl, decided to remain a Sooner after coach Bob Stoops came to his home for a sit-down discussion about the future.
``I got to thinking about it, and there's not many people that get to play six years of college football,'' White said. ``It's not a job and you don't get fined for things. You might as well stick around.''
It didn't hurt that the Sooners have a slew of returning starters from a team that dominated opponents over the first 12 games spent the entire regular season at No. 1. Oklahoma needs only to replace two starters on offense and four on defense.
And even at those positions, the Sooners expect to still be strong.
Top-rated high-school recruit Adrian Peterson figures to take over for running back Renaldo Works and former starting linebacker Lance Mitchell will be back from a knee injury to replace Teddy Lehman, who won the Butkus and Bednarik awards last year.
On defense, new co-coordinator Bo Pelini must also account for the loss of all-Americans Derrick Strait at cornerback and tackle Tommie Harris.
Pelini comes to the Sooners from Big 12 rival Nebraska and will share the coordinating duties with Brent Venables. Stoops said Pelini has been sharing ideas with the Oklahoma staff for years.
``There will be different wrinkles that will fit us well, but the defense won't be noticeably different,'' Stoops said.
Stoops, who won the national championship in 2000, is counting on the wealth of experienced players to lead the Sooners to another national title run this season.
Dan Cody and Dusty Dvoracek lead four seniors on the defensive front. Four more seniors and three juniors make up the rest of the defensive unit. On offense, seven seniors are expected to start, including three on an offensive line that returns all five starters.
``We've got more senior leadership, more seniors in the starting lineup than at any time that we've been here,'' Stoops said.
All of them certainly remember how last season came to a crashing halt.
The Sooners, who previously seemed unbeatable, were thrashed by Kansas State 35-7 in the Big 12 championship. Then, a month later, LSU handed them another defeat in the national title game.
It was a stunning turn for a team that had annihilated its previous 12 opponents by a collective 580-158 score.
``We accomplished more than most teams last season ...,'' Cody said. ``Granted, we didn't finish the way we wanted to, but it gives us something to build on for this year.''
Expectations will be high for the Sooners. They're the preseason pick to win the Big 12 South and appear in their third straight conference championship and fourth in the past five years.
Beyond that, they figure to be a factor in the national championship race as well.
A crucial part to Oklahoma's championship hopes will be White's health. The 24-year-old, who already had two seasons cut short by serious knee injuries, was healthy enough to start all 14 games and threw for 3,846 yards and a school-record 40 touchdown passes last season.
With his improved mobility, White said he thinks he can do even better this season.
After all, he's got to make the return trip worth it.
By Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com
I'm college football, and I'm reporting for duty.
My fellow Americans, this is the most important season of our lifetime.
We come together today because a new season is upon us. Not just a new season, but a new era. From the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Pacific-10, from the Big East to the Western Athletic, we are ready to embark on a journey to new places.
We have changed our leagues, we have changed our rules and we have changed our recruiting of the next generation of student-athletes, the young men who provide us with hope and, if we are head coaches, seven-figure incomes.
But we cannot go forward without being firmly grounded.
When we closed the doors on the college football season, it was Nick Saban and LSU who were celebrating a national championship.
We can never forget the traditions that brought us to this time and place. So it is that when we closed the door of the Superdome last January, the top three teams in the nation were LSU, USC and Oklahoma. And so it is that when our coaches exercised their democratic right in the preseason poll, the top three teams were USC, Oklahoma and LSU.
My friends, I am honored to share this day with Tigers coach Nick Saban and Trojans coach Pete Carroll, who are the living embodiment that every vote counts, unless you vote in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
To those who say the same teams will forever be at the top of college football, I say, opportunity exists for everyone. It is part of the American birthright. Any university that takes the opportunity of raising $45 million for an athletic budget can compete for the national championship.
With the onset of the 2004 season, Miami and Virginia Tech have shifted from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference. When Boston College arrives next year, it will be, as Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen put it, truly an Atlantic Coast Conference. No discussion of which conference is the best may begin without the ACC.
Earlier this year, in a summit of historic proportions, university presidents agreed to provide greater opportunity to reach the BCS. In the past, the BCS conferences believed in college football run by the right people, their people. They thought that college football should concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the powerful. With the guidance of educators such as Tulane president Scott Cowen, we no longer have a sport in which there are BCS members and non-BCS members. There are only Division I-A members.
Some of which have a greater chance of going to a BCS bowl than others.
The non-BCS, uh, mid-major, uh, historically challenged I-A conferences are the lifeblood of college football. My friends, we cannot survive without the volunteer spirit that made this sport what it is. Let us not forget that when Alabama wanted to dump Penn State out of fear of not qualifying for a bowl and the Crimson Tide needed a home game it could win, Utah State said send me.
And when Clemson needed a home game against a non-conference opponent to slide between midseason games against fellow ACC contenders Virginia and Maryland, Utah State said send me.
And when the Western Athletic Conference, having been ransacked by Conference USA, which had been pillaged by the Big East, which had been picked clean by the ACC -- when the WAC needed local members, beginning in 2005, Utah State said send me.
My friends, this season will have its share of innuendo and half-truths. We do not live by the bulletin board. I say to all coaches, let's be optimists, not just opponents. I am also honored to share this day with Texas coach Mack Brown, who has withstood a campaign of negativity and pessimism, and that's just from the Texas Exes.
We will not allow rumor to go uncontested, untruth to go unchecked. It is simply not true that when faced with the challenge of playing Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 9, Brown said send Utah State.
No longer will we see Joe Paterno yelling or racing after referees in this new era of instant replay.
In an age of technological wonder, the truth is easier to see than ever. We must recognize today the Big Ten, the conference that represents the heartland of the sport. The Big Ten will boldly examine the use of instant replay on an experimental basis this season.
The NFL has achieved this milestone with the possibility of eight camera angles on every play, and a system in which the coach on the sideline must weigh the risk and reward of challenging the call on the field.
The Big Ten will not employ the NFL system. The Big Ten will not have eight cameras at each game. The Big Ten will not leave the decision to the coach on the field. The Big Ten will put a guy in a booth with a TiVo, and have him watch replays of whatever is televised.
Skeptics say that the Big Ten replay rules are to the NFL what black-and-white is to HD, and that the conference's instant replay wouldn't be alive if the Grant's Appliance up the street from commissioner Jim Delany's house hadn't run a sale last month.
But referees can do better, and help is on the way.
In this information age, no longer will college football fans in the great stadiums and in their homes across this land have to look up from the stack of bills on their kitchen tables and wonder, who is the dumb @#$%$# who nullified that 25-yard gain by getting called for holding five yards behind the play?
This season, officials will announce the player who committed the infraction. If you do the crime, you do the TV time.
Referees can do better, and help is on the way.
In this information age, no longer will college football fans have to employ slide rules and a gaggle of computer scientists to determine who will qualify for the BCS championship game. The BCS formula has been simplified and made more precise, an indication of what Americans can achieve when we work together -- after we get the postseason horribly wrong for the second time in the three years.
The BCS can do better, and help is on the way.
Soon the rules of recruiting visits, which have gone relatively unchanged since Barry Switzer first flouted them, will be tougher. The time when the flow of prospective tailbacks -- and private planes and lobster dinners and strip-club visits and keg parties -- across the borders of our campuses is past.
Recruiting can do better, and help is on the way.
The spin masters who embrace the analysis of anything goes say that the rules of college football have gotten too restrictive. Well, I say to them today, that college football is fairer and more competitive than it has ever been. The pundits like to slice-and-dice college football into BCS schools and non-BCS schools. But I've got news for them. We are one division, all of us, and even the worst among us will one day challenge the best.
Even Buffalo can do better, and help is on the way. Thank you! God bless you and God bless college football!
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.