Sports your connection to The Boston Globe

This just does not compute

BCS ratings add up to inhumane treatment

This guy bashes the BCS. That guy bashes the BCS. I've been sitting around here saying, "When's my turn?"

Oh, boy, today's the day!

OK, here it is: I hate the Bowl Championship Series, otherwise known as the BCS. I hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it.

What? You want more?

I hate it because it avoids the obvious, which is a properly run tournament to decide the championship of college football's most important and competitive grouping, 1-A.

That's enough reason, no?

I also hate it because it is the product of computers, which are fine as a tool to help someone arrive at a decision, but which should never be the actual entity making that decision.

What? You want more?

Well, have I mentioned that I hate the BCS?

Let's talk about some of those computers. The data that gets fed into the BCS computer comes from information supplied by seven computers, plus the weekly polls run by USA Today/ESPN (coaches) and the Associated Press (writers and broadcasters).

Of those seven computers, six DO NOT FACTOR IN HOME FIELD when evaluating the results of a game.



Nah, no way, man.

But it's true. Only Jeff Sagarin among the seven computer folk involved in this process takes into consideration the location of any given game.

Let me ask you something. Somebody comes up to you and says, "Who do you like Saturday? State U or ITT Tech?" Assuming he's hitting you cold, what's the first thing that always, always, always comes out of your mouth?

"I dunno. Where's the game?"

Where is the (censored) game going to be played? It matters. It matters a lot. Always did. Always will. I can tell you it matters to Jeff Sagarin.

"Everything I do in football or basketball factors home/road in," he reports. "I would never do a set of ratings that are illogical."

So why does everyone else? One of the computer participants is a man named Wes Colley, who teaches at the University of Virginia and holds a PhD in astrophysical sciences from Princeton. In explaining why he eschews utilizing game location in his computations, he writes on his website: ". . . Can having home games at Wallace-Wade Stadium really have the same advantage as having home games at the Swamp?"

For the uninitiated, Wallace-Wade Stadium is the home of Duke, which last won an ACC game before they perfected color TV. The "Swamp" is the nickname for Ben Griffin Stadium at the University of Florida. This reference is what is euphemistically known in the business, as in many others, as "cheap shot." (This whole piece is a cheap shot at the BCS, but try not to dwell on that.)

So where were we? Oh, right, Duke isn't the issue in this discussion, Mr. Astrophysics. Florida is always an issue.

Or try this one. Suppose someone told you there was a circumstance in which two teams are generally regarded as equal, but that one, which we shall call Team A, has compiled a 10-1 record by playing eight home games and three road games, while the other, which we shall call Team B, has compiled its record by playing four home games and six road games. If you were looking for a tiebreaker, wouldn't you, you know, kinda, sorta, hafta give the benefit of your doubt to Team B? Wouldn't you have more empathy for the team playing 60 percent of its games on the road, as opposed to the one playing 27 percent of its games on the road?

In real life, Team A is Ohio State, and Team B is USC, just in case you were wondering.

It is very interesting to note that in the polls, which, we'd like to think, are voted on by human beings, USC is ranked No. 2 while Ohio State is ranked No. 4. Right, 4, not 3. That honor belongs to Louisiana State. But in the official BCS rankings, Ohio State is No. 2, and would be playing Oklahoma for the national championship if the game were being played tonight.

Have I mentioned lately that I hate the BCS?

It's obvious that the human beings in question have indeed taken note of the way the respective schedules have broken down. I can't speak for every member of the two electorates (no one, actually), but I'd like to think that among the considerations people have factored into their thinking is the fact that USC has done what it's done while playing twice as many road games as Ohio State. That's not the whole deal, of course, but it matters.

So, is your question what will I say when, or if, Ohio State defeats Michigan in Ann Arbor tomorrow? If that's your question, the answer will be "Congratulations." And, yes, if I were voting in the AP poll, I would be looking at the Buckeyes with increased respect. Depending on what USC had done with UCLA, or what LSU had done with Ole Miss, I could see myself moving Ohio State up more readily than if it had defeated Michigan at Ohio Stadium. But to Wes Colley and his ilk, a win is a win is a win, which is ridiculous.

To me, not considering where any of these games are played renders the entire findings bogus. And I'd like to think that's not just me.

Is it? And have I mentioned that I hate the BCS?

There is no perfect system, short of a playoff, and you might as well get it into your head that a proper playoff is not imminent. I just know that even the best computer can't make judgments a human can. A computer doesn't deal with injuries or a muddy field or a freak play or a bad call. A human can evaluate all the above when attempting to make judgments about who is more deserving than whom.

We're going to have arguments, no matter what. But let's have arguments about judgments made by people who can speak for themselves, not arguments generated by computers which AREN'T EVEN SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HOME AND ROAD!

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

Globe Archives Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months