by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

We’ve been talking about a much-overdue college football playoff for so long at TGS that we decided a few years ago that it wasn’t worth the trouble any longer. Not that our minds had changed about the bowl system and the wholly-unsatisfactory BCS. But when even then President-elect Obama suggested in 2008 that he’d like to see a playoff instituted, only to be summarily ignored (like everyone else) by the BCS head honchos, we realized all of our railing was probably in vain, too. Besides, our ideas on the subject have been well-documented, and rather than re-hash our proposals for a playoff, whatever vitriol we have spewed on the subject the past few years has been directed at the BCS and its self-serving leadership.

To the rescue, however, of us and all fans who realize what a charade is being run by the college football aristocracy, is an important new book penned by Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan with the rather alarming title of Death To The BCS. Odds are you’ve probably seen or heard reference to the book since its release last month. And we don’t advise you to just walk to your local book store or book agent to pick up a copy. Instead, we’re telling you to run, ASAP.

The idea of a college playoff is certainly nothing new. Indeed, it predates our first season of publishing THE GOLD SHEET way back in 1957. Forward-minded thinkers have long realized there is a better way to go about determining championship teams than the current bowl system, which mostly benefits the ultra-exclusive “country club” of self-serving decision-makers who pull the levers. As early as 1954, none other than Bing Crosby was trying to arrange something akin to a playoff, hoping to get UCLA and Oklahoma, two of that year’s three top teams but barred from bowl action by their respective conference’s Draconian “No Repeat” rules, paired off in a charity game, but the idea was quickly scotched by the college powers of the day. In 1965, Sports Illustrated, at the time the nation’s conscience for sport (much like ESPN is considered today), devoted a major portion of its college football preview to an argument for a playoff, complete with a proposed 16-team tourney. Interestingly, SI’s 1965 version was an all-inclusive one that also featured champion teams from the Ivy League and Big Sky competing against the “big boys” of the day. It was a fascinating read for that era, but, like all other playoff proposals through the years, it was just wishful thinking.

The Wetzel, et al. book, however, introduces some new evidence to the debate about not only the validity of a playoff, of which Death to the BCS presents a viable 16-team model, but also what a ruse the power brokers of college football continue to pull with the bowl system and BCS. Portions of the book’s material address points that we have been making on these pages and on our website over the years, some involving the deceptions regarding the most time-worn pro-BCS arguments, which are stripped bare by Wetzel & Co. As is the overriding theme of the BCS, the power of which rests with a handful of college presidents and conference commissioners all looking out for their own self-interests and making sure to never cede any power to the NCAA or other pro-playoff forces, lest they lose control over the enterprise. As Death to the BCS points out, as we have long believed, the BCS has many of the characteristics of a cartel. But rather than spike prices or cut off the oil supply like OPEC, the BCS “Cartel” controls the college football postseason and the revenue it generates while pretending a playoff would put at risk the history and traditions of the Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl.

And yet the BCS endures, with approval ratings lower than Nancy Pelosi’s or Harry Reid’s, except that college football fans are powerless to “vote in” a new agenda or chart a course that could eventually lead to the playoff most want to see. And all of it can be done while not disturbing the current bowls, which aren’t part of the national title picture in the current format anyway.

Some of the more shocking revelations from Death To The BCS regard the bowl games themselves, especially the mid and lower-level bowls, which along with the big postseason extravaganzas also have a very small cadre of administrators pocketing fabulous coin, which also often lines the pockets of coaches and athletic directors who stand to profit handsomely thanks to contractual “bonuses” for bowl appearances, despite the fact the adventure is often a big financial loser for most schools. But the sleight-of-hand involved in the much-discussed “bowl payouts” resembles the most-deceptive spin from Capitol Hill. The myth that the many “not-for-profit” bowls are charity-like (a perception the bowls and their organizers would love you to believe) is about as far from accurate as one of Charlie Rangel’s tax returns.

As Wetzel & Co. indicate, “charitable” contributions from bowl games are hard to detect; in fiscal 2007, for example, the Sugar Bowl, its coffers further swelled by $3 million in taxpayer money, gave nary a dime to Hurricane Katrina reconstruction efforts, the New Orleans after-school program, or to the Habitat for Humanity.

Wetzel & Co. further illustrated the deceptive tactics of the bowl officials by citing testimony to Congress from Alamo Bowl CEO Derrick Fox, who appeared in front of the House’s Energy and Commerce subcommittee on behalf of the BCS. “Up to one-quarter of the proceeds from the bowls are dedicated to the community,” said Fox, whose overall testimony moved Texas Rep. Joe Barton to suggest that Fox’s comments might qualify as perjury or “contempt of Congress.”

As Wetzel & Co. point out, however, in a purely semantic way, Fox might have been correct. “Up to one quarter” also includes zero. “And zero is not the impression I got,” said Rep. Barton.

Unmasking the disturbing financials of the current system are not the only emphasis in Death to the BCS, which also deals with the mechanics and deceptions within the current bowl infrastructure. As mentioned, the most time-worn pro-BCS arguments are repudiated in the book. Including the oft-mentioned “a playoff would devalue the regular season” argument, a fabrication that even some normally sharp-minded college football observers have bought. Instead, Wetzel & Co. illustrate how the BCS is doing just the opposite to the regular season, wherein once tantalizing intersectional games are disappearing like the buffalo, with big-name schools now encouraged to pad their slates with soft touches in non-conference action. As for the year-long “elimination tournament” argument, Wetzel & Co. offer 2007, when a 2-loss LSU team made the national title game. Hardly the product of a season-long “knockout” format, as some BCS apologists would suggest. Other negative byproducts of the BCS and its overbearing influence on the college sports landscape are highlighted as well.

Mostly, however, Wetzel & Co. finger the real culprits in this mess, especially Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who leads the “Cartel” of the six major conferences along with “a legion of henchmen” including executive directors of the bowls, plus some high-powered athletic directors and university presidents. This group has positioned itself to consolidate the power in the sport and never let it go, no matter how much revenue 1projected to triple or even quadruple above current BCS levels) a true playoff would generate, and no matter by how much it’s own slices of the expanded revenue pie would grow.

So, as Wetzel & Co. confirm, pay no attention to any arguments put forth by the BCS to justify its existence and forever block the sort of playoff that would not only add opportunity and excitement to the postseason but also help reinvigorate the regular season. Not to mention generate hundreds of millions of dollars in extra revenue when most schools could use it.

Rather, as Death To The BCS reminds us, the only reason the BCS exists is because Jim Delany and the rest simply want to ensure that no one else holds the knife to cut up the revenue pie

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