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.

September 6, 2011

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NCAA Conference Realignment: Why Mega Conferences Could Help College Football

By: Anson Whaley

 

With recent news about the Big 12 potentially losing Texas A&M and other member schools, NCAA conference realignment got back into the news this past week in a big way. In case you’re not up to speed, the ten-team Big 12 conference could be on the ropes. Texas A&M’s planned departure isn’t the only thing to worry about, either. In recent days, additional schools have also been linked to other conferences as well – most recently, powerhouses Oklahoma and Texas have been rumored to potentially become a part of a PAC 16-conference. If the Big 12 ceases to exist, there could be a free-for-all unrivaled by anything we’ve ever seen before. Other conferences would be fighting for the remaining schools such as Missouri and Oklahoma State, which would strengthen any conference.

If the current Pac 12 expands to 16 teams, other conferences would likely follow suit. The question is, if others move towards expansion under the ‘Bigger is Better’ mantra, would that necessarily be good for college football?

My answer is yes.

Right now, there are a total of 66 teams that make up the six BCS football conferences – the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac 12. If each of those six became ‘mega’ football conferences to include 16 teams, a total of 96 programs would then fall under the BCS umbrella. If mega conferences ever became a reality, the more common scenario most discussed is that there would only be four or five of them. But if the BCS remains, I’m convinced that keeping six conferences would be a good thing.

So why would mega conferences help college football? Simply put, more college football teams would have an opportunity to play in the BCS bowls and in a national championship game. We’ve all seen it before – talented teams being left out of the national championship game or the BCS altogether. The 2004 Auburn Tigers finished their season going undefeated in the SEC, but couldn’t earn a spot in the title game. Then there were the 2006 Boise State Broncos that were the only undefeated team in college football, but still left out of the championship. While these kinds of injustices don’t occur every year, they have happened and will continue to do so.

It can also be argued that teams in smaller conferences don’t have the same opportunities as their BCS-conference brethren. By expanding the BCS conferences, though, those disadvantages would largely disappear. Not only would teams such as Boise State and BYU get their shot at winning a national championship by running the table in a more difficult schedule, but 28 more programs would get their chance as well. And while it could be argued that most non-BCS conference teams couldn’t realistically compete for a national championship, those teams could fight for spots in BCS bowl games.

Sure, mega conferences wouldn’t fix everything. Arguments from the remaining non-BCS conference participants would continue to exist. There would be cries from those left on the outside looking in just as there are every year in the NCAA basketball tournament. The difference, though, is that there’d be fewer of them and many non-BCS schools would have a difficult time putting together a strong case that they should be able to play in a BCS bowl – let alone a national championship.

Another argument against six mega conferences may be that teams wouldn’t get to face every school in their conference. But that already exists as things stand right now and with a short college season, playing every team simply isn’t realistic. Mega conferences would likely need to consist of two divisions where winners would meet in a conference championship game.

Mega conferences wouldn’t fix everything and in the eyes of some fans, the only way to go would be a playoff system. But as long as the BCS exists, finding ways to include as many teams as possible is the best thing to do.

February 2, 2010

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National Signing Day

By: Alex

Tomorrow is the NCAA National Signing Day… For the die hard College Football fans this is like the NFL Draft. National Signing Day is a very exciting time of year. It’s a time where Fans can do their own scouting for the next Heisman Trophy candidate. It’s also a time that can make or break a coach’s upcoming season. Every team has its holes, there is do doubt about that. This is a time where Coaches can go out and fill those voids with talented, intelligent young adults. This day also has a big effect on the pre-season football rankings, which are pretty much a shot in the dark anyways. If a school gets a big, talented recruiting class, that can boost them a spot or two. According to ESPN.com, the 2010 Top 10 Best Recruiting Classes are:

  1. Florida Gators
  2. Texas Longhorns
  3. Alabama Crimson Tide
  4. Georgia Bulldogs
  5. Auburn Tigers
  6. Oklahoma Sooners
  7. Penn State Nittany Lions
  8. LSU Tigers
  9. Florida State Seminoles
  10. USC Trojans

 

Coming from a HUGE NCAA Football Fan, I can’t wait to see who will end up at my favorite school. GO BLUE!