The League

Jason Maloni
Crisis Communications Expert

Jason Maloni

Senior Vice President with
Levick Strategic Communications
and Chair of the firm's Sports & Entertainment Practice.

Embrace transparency

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This past year can be defined countless ways. But 2009 may be one day known as the year when "transparency" jumped from sociology textbooks into the mainstream lexicon.

In business, politics and even sports, much of what the public wants is openness, over-communication, and accountability in its leaders. Sadly there were many examples of entities that failed this test last year.

The BCS has stood in stark contrast to the concept of transparency and it has done little, in recent years, to change the imbalance that exists in college football's "national championship" process (we're all now required to use air quotes when we say this) and its post-season revenue distribution.

In this regard, the BCS has much to learn from the National Football League.

• In the NFL, everyone knows the rules and processes that govern the post-season. The four division champions from each conference are seeded one through four based on their overall won-lost-tied record. Two wild card qualifiers are seeded five and six. In the event of a tie, the NFL has a formal process for determining which team goes to the playoffs. The process is public and can be replicated by anyone. Something that you hear from NFL commentators that is "Team X controls its destiny." Rarely is that true for a college football team.

• The wild card system allows teams who are not conference winners a chance to play the top seeds. While their road to the Big Game is arguably more difficult, it's not impossible. Pittsburgh swept the field in 2005 as a wild card team and won all its games on the road to win Superbowl XL.

• The NFL is free of arbitrary polls that affect the post-season. Unlike in the BCS, NFL lists such as Peter King's "Fine Fifteen" are "for-fun" rankings. The pre-season college poll alone - decided before any team even steps onto the field - does more to disrupt the process than provide a window into the BCS system. Despite having a defined post-season format, the regular season is no less -exciting.

• The regional nature of most divisions in the NFL allows regional rivalries to flourish (NFC East, AFC North) but also allows for big non-conference rivalries such as the Colts vs. Patriots game which drew more than 20 million viewers nationwide.

It is in the best interest of the BCS to create a system that the average citizen believes is as open, fair and balanced as it possibly can be.

We aren't ever going to eliminate sports arguments. But the BCS can do vastly more to repair its image and build trust with college football fans by creating a more transparent process. Until this issue is addressed, the public will continue to question the competition's legitimacy.

By Jason Maloni  |  January 7, 2010; 12:33 AM ET  | Category:  College Football , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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There is always a tendency to compare college football to the NFL, but the two couldn’t be more different. Indeed, these differences are what make each sport popular.
The biggest difference, of course, is that the current BCS system makes college football’s regular season the most exciting and meaningful in all of sports. It’s a rollercoaster ride that is well worth protecting. Since teams know they will have to fight during the regular season for a spot in a bowl game, there are no games off. One loss and a team's post-season chances are diminished. Every play and every game count every year.
Georgia head football coach Mark Richt was once asked why he supported the Bowl Championship Series instead of a playoff. "I think college football has the most exciting regular season of any sport because there is not a playoff system," he answered. "The whole season is a playoff system."
A postseason playoff would surely diminish this – just ask Indianapolis Colts fans how they felt when starters were pulled and their dream season ended last week.
As far as transparency goes, the BCS rules are online at www.bcsfootball.org for all to see. The same site includes a link entitled BCS chronology, which has a summary of the meaningful adjustments made by the BCS to make the process more open, more fair and more equitable.
College football is more popular than ever, so let’s enjoy the game.

Posted by: BillHancockBCS | January 7, 2010 2:13 PM

It's clear that Mr. Bill Hancock is a toady for the BCS. The BCS is a fraud and indefensible.

The regular season is not a "playoff"; it's the regular season. Playoffs use objective criteria and an independently established process to arrive at a winner. In the regular season, college teams make up their own schedules; most BCS schools pad their schedules against easy teams to boost their records. In genuine playoffs, teams don't choose who they play; they're assigned.

I live in Indiana and am a Colts fan. If the NFL went to a BCS-type system, I'd lose interest in the NFL because I would know that it had become corrupted.

BCS: Backward Corrupt System. America can do better.

Posted by: kennedys | January 7, 2010 3:10 PM

Even the regular season is watered down due to the non-playoff system. Essentially, a national championship candidate MUST finish undefeated, and therefor schedules some powder puffs on the schedule. Sure, those (Alabama) that play a handful of ranked teams and can win out anyway are rewarded, but think of all the much more interesting games that could happen without this mingling of top 10 teams playing some low program. They could cleverly market the playoff to make even MORE money with a short playoff. Let conference champions in, and have a 16 team playoff... then non conference games can be used to play more flashy non conference match-ups. That makes conference play essentially a playoff of its own.

Posted by: windequinox | January 7, 2010 4:19 PM

From late November through mid-December, a four-round playoff was held in the "other" half of NCAA Division 1, which is the (quite properly named) Football Championship Subdivision. Almost none of the so-called Bowl Championship Subdivision's games have come close to approaching the excitement generated by Villanova, Montana, Appalachian State, William & Mary, Southern Illinois, New Hampshire, Stephen F. Austin, and Richmond as they moved through the first round, the quarterfinals, the semi-finals, and on to the title game. I hope when President Obama invites the "National Champion" football team to the White House, the team that he invites will not be Alabama or Texas but the one that actually earned that distinction by indisputably proving themselves to be the best, namely Villanova.

Posted by: seismic-2 | January 7, 2010 5:26 PM

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