September 12, 2011

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Q&A with Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the Bowl Championship Series

By: Anson Whaley

Since college football season is here, arguments about the BCS will begin before you know it. With that in mind, I went straight to the guy at the top – BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock. Bill provided his thoughts on the system, why a tournament isn’t best for college football, and conference expansion.

 

Fathead: Obviously, as the season goes on and anticipation grows about who might play in the BCS, things are pretty busy for you. But are you able to get away from it all in the offseason? What type of things do you work on during college football’s ‘off’ months?

 Bill Hancock/BCS: I love my job, but yes, I’m pretty good at getting away.  My interests are my three grandchildren, history, the outdoors, classical music and exercise.  I was lucky to have indulged in all of those during the brief “off” season.  I hiked in Colorado, went to little league games and concerts, read a great book about post-World War II Europe and ran or rode my bike every day.

 

You’ve spent a large part of your life affiliated with the media as a journalism student in college and working as an SID, media relations director, and a newspaper editor for many years.  Being out in the front defending the BCS is part of your job as the Executive Director, so is it safe to say that experience helped prepare you for your current role?

 Journalism is a great teacher.  I learned to listen, to work hard, to write and to understand others’ perspectives.  I was lucky to have grown up in the newspaper business. 

 

Lots of folks think of the BCS as a faceless system, but the fact is that you’re actually extremely visible. Even while making valid points, do you get frustrated about the amount of anger of non-BCS supporters when it comes to defending the system?

 The First Amendment is alive and well.  Thank goodness.  But I must admit that, when I took this job, I did not anticipate the nasty personal attacks.  Some of our critics are bringing slash-and-burn Washington politics to college sports, and I think that may backfire.  I don’t think sports fans appreciate those antics.

 

Many fans probably don’t realize that you were previously the Director for the NCAA’s Final Four. I find it interesting that you were the head of a tournament format championship and now, the BCS. Having seen the wild success of the NCAA tournament up close, why do you feel that the same system (or a shorter modified version of it) would not work in college football?

 Every sport is different, and it’s inappropriate to expect them to be clones of each other.  Basketball is a tournament sport; teams often play three games in a week.  The physical nature of football precludes that.  One coach told me that a football playoff would not be decided on the field, but in the training room instead.  I believe that. 

 

Just as much as you’re involved with the business-side of college football, you’re a fan. What are your thoughts on conference realignment and expansion? In addition, would you rather see the current number of conferences remain the same or fewer, larger mega conferences as have been discussed?

 Yes, I’m a huge fan.  I love college sports.  It’s important for people to remember the history: schools have been changing conferences forever.  For example, people were very frustrated in 1927 when Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri and Nebraska abandoned the Missouri Valley to create the Big Six Conference.  That was nearly 85 years ago!  Still, I was intrigued by Grant Teaff’s comment; he said he had a hard time seeing how the current speculated realignment will be good for college football.  History will give us the best perspective. 

 

If there is conference realignment, how do you think that would affect the BCS?

 The BCS has strong support from the college presidents, athletic directors, coaches and commissioners.  I don’t envision realignment changing that.

 

Regardless of the varying opinions about the BCS, most people realize that the current system is better than the previous one, which didn’t always showcase a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. Still, there have been worthy teams from non-BCS conferences on the outside looking in from time to time. While the BCS has found ways to integrate them into the bowl lineup, we haven’t yet seen one play for a championship. Do you think that can/will ever happen?

 First of all, every conference is a BCS conference.  I work for all 11 commissioners, and they all manage the BCS together.  You’re right; the BCS has provided significantly more revenue, and more access to the top-tier bowl games by the non-AQ conferences than ever before.   Those conferences definitely are on the inside!  I do think a team from a non-AQ conference will play in the championship game someday.  It nearly happened last year. 

 

I imagine that you answer this question nearly every day in some form or another, but in a nutshell, why does the BCS work?

 The BCS works because it allows the top two teams to meet in a bowl game while (1) preserving the best regular season in sports—you know, we have three months of madness and (2) preserving the bowl tradition and the bowl experience for the student-athletes.