Time for BCS to re-think its use of computer polls

New York–I’m up here for a few days doing some work for The CBS College Sports Network and getting ready for the College Football Hall of Fame dinner tonight.

It’s a great event and just about everybody who works in the sport  is in attendance. We should be talking about another great college football season and the anticipation of what looks to be an incredible BCS championship game between No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon.

But what are we talking about today during this large gathering of college football people? We’re talking about a damned computer that wasn’t programmed right.

The problem is simple: One of the computers (Wes Colley’s rankings) that is used in the BCS formula did not properly update its information. The formula was missing one game. As a result LSU  was No. 10 and Boise State was No. 11 in Sunday’s final standings. The error was caught, corrected, and new standings were released on Monday with the position of  the teams reversed.

The error did not have an impact on the bowl lineup.  But I promise you that it sent a shiver down the collective spine of the BCS commissioners. What if this error had happened near the top of the standings? I’m not talking about the top two. That disaster would be obvious.

But what about this? Wisconsin was No. 5 and Ohio State No. 6 in the final  BCS standings. If those two spots had been reversed, Ohio State would have gone to the Rose Bowl instead of the Badgers.

What if your job was to tell Ohio State that a mistake was made and that they, after the invitation was extended on Sunday, were not going to the Rose Bowl after all? What kind of storm would that cause? A big one.

Give Wes Colley (brother of former Georgia player Will Colley) some credit. He caught the error and fixed it. But Colley is the only one of the six computer polls who release his formula so that others can check the math and the methodology. The people who run the other five computers simply say “trust us. We got it right.”

But if they don’t get it right, who will know?

If you already hate the BCS, this just solidifies your opinion and throws another log on the fire of disdain you have for the process. If you’re not quite sure this certainly undermines your belief in the system. Transparency remains a major problem in the BCS . The coaches vote in secret until the final ballot. The computers, except for Colley’s, work in secret and ask us all to trust them.

Sorry. That’s not good enough.

This is a problem for the BCS, which is already being hammered on a lot of different sides. People are writing books called “Death to the BCS.” People feel passionately about this issue.

This needs to get fixed. Now.

 Tell the computer guys that they have to release their formulas or allow an independent person to double check their math each week. There have to be more checks and balances in the system if it is going to remain credible.

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465 comments Add your comment

Da Wild Rebel

December 7th, 2010
6:58 am

Tony, why don’t they just get rid of such an obviously flawed system and go ahead and move to a playoff? It’s not rocket science. It’s people like you who continue to give the BCS the benefit of the doubt that keep it alive, you big fat cracker.

GT Mike

December 7th, 2010
7:06 am

Rebel…it’s all about da money…$$$$$$$$$$$$$…they think the BCS yields the most money to the power conferences between the BCS game itself and the other bowl games, and they think a playoff will yield less money to the power conferences. The SEC, Big Ten, etc (BCS conferences) control college football, not the NCAA

Jake

December 7th, 2010
7:06 am

We need a play-off system. Until this happens we are only having conversations.

Davey Boy Smith

December 7th, 2010
7:12 am

Yeah Tony, the Computers are way worse than the Coaches’ secretaries turning in votes.

Why don’t you look at the votes that the coaches turned in and come back and talk about what is REALLY wrong.

College football is becoming a sham, and if not careful, it is going to go the way of NASCAR. When the fans see blatant cheating that is allowed to go unchecked, they get turned off and begin watching something else. CFB is chitting in its nest with the decisions made the last 18 months, and it is going to hurt them in the long run.

While people continue to stupidly argue about playoffs, the real debate should be about the myth of “amateurism” which is still accepted as truth, when in reality, any notion of amateurism is long gone. At this point, they might-as-well call it a minor-league and run it that way.

Da Wild Rebel

December 7th, 2010
7:16 am

I’m sick of it. The end of every season, no matter how good or how bad the season was, is so anticlimactic. Only one bowl game, the national championship, means anything at all. The rest are pointless.

And the month off between the last regular season games and the big bowl games totally takes away the momentum of the season. It’s December 7th. I’ve really got to wait until January 11th to find out who the national champion is? And we don’t have time for a 16 or even an 8 team playoff in the intervening four weeks? Give me a break.

As big as March Madness is in basketball, the “power conferences” are complete morons if they can’t see that a legitimate college football playoff would probably make more money than even the NFL playoffs and Superbowl. It would be the biggest sports event of the year, every year. No question.

I hate to be one of those people who says congress should bust up the BCS, as I know we face a lot more serious issues as a nation, but for those of us who derive a lot of enjoyment from college football, the BCS is nothing more than a slap in the face.

And it’s enablers like Tony who allow it to continue. You’ve got a big soapbox, Tony. You’re a big ol’ boy, but you can still get up on your soapbox and use it for the common good. Convince yourself that the BCS and everything about it stinks and start advocating its demise. Seriously.

The old argument of “it’s better than the old bowl system” is completely played out. That’s like saying we should have stuck with 8-track tapes because they were better than the vinyl LPs that came before.

Enough!

Sorry if I’m a bit riled up today. Ole Miss didn’t have such a great year. Changed the mascot to a stupid bear and went 4-8 under supposed program savior Houston Nutt and watched rival Miss. State actually have a decent year.

dawgfan

December 7th, 2010
7:16 am

REMAIN credible Tony? That’s an interesting choice of words. At what point did this craptastic system have a shred of credibility to begin with? Tony, WHAT IF Auburn goes undefeated but doesn’t get to play for the BCS Title? Do you want to be the person that has to tell them that? You’re little doom and gloom scenario about Ohio State and the Rose Bowl pales in comparison to that nightmare, which actually happened.

That is all.

dave

December 7th, 2010
7:20 am

The computers are bad, but coaches who don’t watch all the games (because its not realistic) that vote for their in conference teams is okay? The computers may have a few strange ranking, but if all the coaches ballets were all published the real problem would be relieved.

Les W. Moore

December 7th, 2010
7:22 am

I have bigger problem with lazy coaches and sports writers. It’s your fraternity, Tony, who seem to make the mistakes on purpose like Urban Meyer voting Auburn #2.

ARdawg

December 7th, 2010
7:24 am

Tony Barnhart is a Gomer

Russ, the temporary mascot

December 7th, 2010
7:25 am

Tony, your support of this system is insane. I know that Mark Bradley voted the BCS “the best way to determine a national championship that doesn’t work” but that doesn’t mean you have to sell out. Dawgfan said it best just above. We already know the voters screw it up, why should the computers be any different.

pops

December 7th, 2010
7:33 am

playoffs will not make the money that the bcs does O PLEASE

chris

December 7th, 2010
7:35 am

Boring tony… why not write an article on a playoff

Fire Paul Johnson

December 7th, 2010
7:41 am

People always find a reason to whine about the BCS or the bowl system, but what they don’t realize is that all the controversy and discussion it creates is actually good for college football. Even a tiny glitch in a computer ranking which was corrected a day later is deemed worthy of a 1,000 word essay.

One thing nobody talks about however is the inordinate amount of influence being exercised by the four-letter network in the college football world. Now that it has control of the BCS, ESPN’s perfect monopoly of televised college football coverage is nearly complete, a very dangerous prospect indeed. Why can you not write an article on this Tony? Is it because of your employment by that same network?

More at firepauljohnson.blogspot.com

Mike

December 7th, 2010
7:45 am

Stop hating, the BCS worked this year. Under the old system Auburn and Oregon wouldn’t be playing. The BCS was set up ONLY to make sure #1 and #2 meet on the field and that’s what it accomplished. Without it, Oregon would be playing Wisconsin in the Rose and Auburn would be playing Ohio State in the Sugar and we probably would have another split national title.

matt r

December 7th, 2010
7:47 am

Do we know if anyone caught it other than Colley? I think Brad Edwards at ESPN keeps a pretty good eye on these things, he would catch it if it was a big error.

If they need to make any changes it is to drop stupid Richard Billingsley’s rating… his includes a starting ranking, so in other words pre-conceived notions other than 2010 results play a part in his rating. That’s no better than a biased human poll!

And of course the most important change should be to have a playoff, but then Tony Barnhart wouldn’t get to decide who plays who and make his life a little less fun.

maroonseedymon

December 7th, 2010
7:48 am

“…remain credible.” WHAAAAATTTT? REMAIN CREDIBLE! the BCS Credible! what an oxymoron!

EVERY other division of college football has a playoff. there can be no argument against one in Div I-A, save for greed!

pceasy

December 7th, 2010
7:49 am

Da Wild Rebel is right. Who gives an a S about the other bowl games? The only one that matters is the NC game. Ok for some it’s the Rose Bowl, but it means nothing in the end. I guess these bowls bring in money for schools. I heard an TV reporter say that while Cal’s Jeff Tedford has had some bad seasons, at least his team has been bowl eligible in the past 5 seasons or something like that (I can’t remember what it was exactly.) Who cares??

tiger7_88

December 7th, 2010
7:53 am

Oh and the human polls are better Tony? You know? The one that the COACHES vote in and use their own inherent biases and agendas instead of voting for who is the BEST TEAM? I give you as example Number One that pi$$y little whining baby, Urban Cryer, the head coach of the Florida Gators. As long as you have the kind of total crap he pulls and the Stoops brothers pull and others time and again, etc. etc. etc. the entire system is a joke, BCS or not.

Polls themselves, computer or human, are the root of the ENTIRE problem. Until we get a playoff system wherein teams play for their CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP for the right for entry into those playoffs and take the “human factor” (be it opinion or computer alrorithm) out of it, then all we have got in college football at the very highest level is glorified gymnastics. And that’s pathetic.

Paul

December 7th, 2010
7:57 am

I hate to tell you that I liked the old time system of independent bowls and multiple polls better. Argue forever about who was the 1966 National Champion….

But we all know the decision will eventually be made based on money.

Georgia Peach

December 7th, 2010
7:59 am

OMG!!!

A single glitch in a single computer poll that lasted a single day! The sky is falling!

Look Tony, we know who the best teams are. That’s not the problem. This may be a good straw-man argument for agitating the loser fans of loser programs. As they moan and groan about how a playoff system would magically propel their loser football team into the #1 spot, we can all just ignore the NCAA and the SEC sweeping blatant cheating under the rug in order to maximize television revenue. If we’re gonna have a new rule, how about one that insists that the existing rules be enforced?

JPHurricane

December 7th, 2010
8:00 am

Time for a playoff has arrived. The argument that it is too disruptive to the “student-athlete” doesn’t fly anymore. Auburn starts class the day of the NC game.

KidRay

December 7th, 2010
8:00 am

I hate the BCS but wish to go back to the old days. Specific Conferences go to specfic bowls and the big ones are all on Jan 1. Forgotten in all this is the fact that the BCS has also ruined New Years Day.
SEC – Sugar
ACC – Orange
B12 – Fiesta
B10/Pac10 – Rose

Stan

December 7th, 2010
8:03 am

That is definitely a problem. I do hate the BCS. Case in point: UConn sits at 8-4, not even ranked and they will get to play OU, sitting at 11-2 and ranked #7, in the Fiesta Bowl. That is the biggest joke I have ever heard. While Michigan State & Boise State both sit in the top 10, with records of 11-1 and they don’t get a BCS bowl. Not to mention all the other Top 25 teams that don’t get a BCS berth, but UConn does; not ranked, 8-4, but they did win the Big East. LAME!

Georgia Peach

December 7th, 2010
8:06 am

@KidRay

I’d like to go back to the old bowl system and then let the BCS take the top 2 teams after bowl season for a CFB Superbowl. About half of these junk bowls should be done away with and no team with less than 7 wins in a 12 game season should sniff a post-season bowl.

Georgia Peach

December 7th, 2010
8:07 am

@Stan

You’ve nailed the very reason that a playoff system would be a joke.

m

December 7th, 2010
8:11 am

Tony, the BS—bcs is the most idiotic, asinine system ever invented by man. The only thing more asinine is your idiotic support of it.

A 16 team playoff would be the most exciting sporting event in the history of the world. It would be fun for everybody. It would be fair for everybody.

Why don’t you have the integrity to call for an end to this sham system and fake championship????

dave

December 7th, 2010
8:13 am

* The 2010 Shameless Ballot Award goes to Nebraska’s Bo Pelini, who voted his Cornhuskers 8th, which is three spots higher than any other coach had them and eight spots higher than their ranking.
* Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh had the Cardinal 3rd and ranked one-loss Wisconsin 8th, the lowest of any coach and two spots below two-loss Virginia Tech. Wilner writes, “Obviously, Harbaugh wanted to undermine Wisconsin’s chances of passing Stanford in the BCS.”
* Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema tried the same trick by voting Stanford 7th.
* Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio put the Spartans 4th, highest of any voter.
* Illinois’ Ron Zook voted Texas Christian No. 6.
* Florida’s Urban Meyer had Oregon at No. 1. Wilner: “You know they won’t forget that on The Plains. Ever.”

dave

December 7th, 2010
8:14 am

NashDawg

December 7th, 2010
8:14 am

The SEC, BCS and NCAA are all terribly flawed.

Mike

December 7th, 2010
8:14 am

The bcs wants it that way tony. that way they can tweak the puter to get the desired result. wes’s poll i guarantee you was told to NEVER have any errors by the bcs dictators. and he did. his poll is done. but they will continue with the secret computer polls as that is how they get which teams they want in which bowls.

juice sourcer

December 7th, 2010
8:15 am

The way to fix it is to destroy it. Every sport in the world has a playoff except college football…I will not watch one bowl…errr..exibition game this year just like I did not last year as well….and greogia peach is an idiot.

Whopper Dawg

December 7th, 2010
8:16 am

Why D1 football continues to base its champion on the opinions of people and computers is beyond me. Wait no it isn’t. It is about the money. I would feel a lot better if they would stop with the verbiage about the players, academics, the value of the regular season and just say:

Hey, it is how we want it because we split the money among the powers that be and we believe that maximizes our revenue. At least that would be truthful.

Don

December 7th, 2010
8:17 am

Huh ga peach? A playoff ends this idiocy. a playoff, taking the top 16, and having half as many bowls for the remaining, would put an end to the joke this sport is.
winning a conference doesn’t always mean something. taking the top 16, just like div1aa does, gives everyone a fair chance. assuming the pollsters don’t have blinders on and vote some teams higher based on their conference or past. but that will always happen so no way around it.

Barnhart is a Gomer

December 7th, 2010
8:20 am

juice sourcer

December 7th, 2010
8:20 am

DA Wild Rebel nailed it. Respond to his post Tony..and if not then stop writing this blog.

Dontavius Supremo

December 7th, 2010
8:21 am

If Division II and III can hold a play-off, why can’t Division I??? This is stupid.

mark

December 7th, 2010
8:22 am

don it’s the big 10 and pac 10 that don’t want one cause they are afraid for some strange reason their teams wouldn’t make the top 8 or 16 for a playoff. well this year they would have 3 teams in a 16 team playoff. pac 10 would have 2. acc 1 and the acc is for a playoff. big 10 and pac 10 are bad for college football and bcs shills.

ARdawg

December 7th, 2010
8:23 am

Thanks for another “non-story” Tony. Your continued support for the BCS is noted. It would appear you only penned this one only to feed your massive ego. Praise Tony and his CBS work. You are a sell out. Have you ever considered being a hooker?

WDE

December 7th, 2010
8:24 am

A playoff would ruin the passion of the sport. I was watching the Falcons yesterday, and I found myself wondering- “is it really even a big deal if they lose to Tampa? They lead the NFC and will likely play well through the rest of the year… Maybe this just isn’t our week.” You can’t ever think that way in college, which is why we are so d&&& fanatical about it.

Dawg_Mike

December 7th, 2010
8:25 am

So, the BCS is BS…
The Coaches poll is BS, as per dave’s post….

What does that leave us with ?
Nothing. Because there will not be a playoff system in the FBS errrr……Division 1.

BS !!!

Dawg_Mike

December 7th, 2010
8:26 am

I hate Auburn, but I hate Florida worse. Urb – you are an idiot.

People are computers

December 7th, 2010
8:27 am

Just more flawed than the machine type.

Wells

December 7th, 2010
8:30 am

I am one of the few people against the playoff because it would change the dynamic of the game. Case in point, when Alabama lost to USC that was monumental because there were so many ranked teams ahead of them that they were going to need a great deal of luck to get back into the hunt. Whereas with the current system that all but put them out of the big game.

Or a team like Auburn who clinched the SEC west against Georgia. While I don’t think they would have because Alabama is their interstate and biggest rival. But they could have sat their starters so that they could be prepared for the SEC championship (if that game would even exists any more). Same thing with Boise State. They may have lost “home field advantage” with their loss to Nevada, but they would still be in the playoffs.

I do not want to see teams sitting starters because they have already clinched a playoff berth. I want every game to mean something. I want the games in October to mean just as much as the game in late November. A playoff would truly change the dynamic of the game and we would lose all of the talk and chatter during the season and wondering if the BCS will get the right two teams in the big game.

Chris

December 7th, 2010
8:31 am

It’s all about money, and is a total load of crap. I thought communism was a bad thing, but everyone knows that BCS stands for BIG COMMUNIST SNAKE! The BCS is about as American as Fidel Castro.

I wish someone would explain to me how SEVENTY teams are going to a bowl……really???? Should the 70th ranked team in the country be awarded with a bowl appearance?

We need a 16 team playoff, and if your not good enough to be in the top 16, get better!!

juice sourcer

December 7th, 2010
8:33 am

Kid Ray is also dead on..the BCS has riuned New Years day. Where are you Tony…is this what you do…make a post and then vanish…respond to the damn comments.

mark

December 7th, 2010
8:34 am

they can dontavius. but stupid conference presidents from the big and pac 10 don’t want it cause they are afrid their teams won’t make it or do well once in it.

Paul in RDU

December 7th, 2010
8:34 am

I would have been more impressed with this column if Tony had written it before the season. He continues to support the BCS system without understanding the basics on how the computer polls work. Most of the people who have set up their computer rankings (Sagarin, Massey, Wolfe) say that the values used for the BCS are false because margin of victory can’t be used. According to the BCS rules if 2 teams play the same schedule and one wins every game by 1 pt and the other wins every game by 14 pts they have the same rating.
Then there is the Billingsley rankings – his formula takes into account how teams did in the previous year. What a system!

Mat"T"

December 7th, 2010
8:35 am

I can’t believe the PAC-10 and The Big East get away with not having a Conference Championship. The MAC has one for C@#%st sake. This is step one to get to a playoff system and they need to get on board now if they have a glimmer of hope of the rest of the world respecting them. We all know Oregon is going to look like Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl a couple of years ago after Auburn gets through with them.

Georgia Peach

December 7th, 2010
8:36 am

It sounds like a simple solution, but “blowing up the BCS” won’t make your lousy team any better. You’d all just start bitching about being left out of the playoffs then.

mark

December 7th, 2010
8:37 am

huh wde? ruin it? are you insane. yeah if the falcons lose and then lose to no, good bye first round bye and home field and possibly good bye playoffs all together. but you’re right, that game with sc at home against ark, before sc played fla, that game had so much meaning!! sc got blown out becuase it was meaningless! if you had a playoff, that game matters big time as sc would be trying to keep a top 16 ranking!! and there are several other games that were like this. idiot.