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Saturday, November 24, 2007

BC$ football

Top-ranked LSU lost its football game yesterday, meaning that the winner of today's matchup between #2 Kansas and #3 Missouri will likely be the #1 ranked team in the polls on Monday morning. The computer-weighted BCS may have a different one loss team on top -- West Virginia, maybe, or even Ohio State -- should Missouri beat Kansas.

As a fair-weather KU football fan, this is unbelievable -- and pretty clearly unfair.

In football, teams are not required to play an equal number of home and road games. Outside of their conference, teams can play all home games if they can arrange enough visiting opponents. This season, Kansas played 4 home games before the Big 12 season began.

Moreover, there's very little effort at scheduling parity. Indeed, outside of conference games, program athletic directors (likely in consultation with the head football coach) make their own schedules.

Presumably, these administrators try to maximize wins and revenues, which must be correlated. After all, Kansas-Missouri will be played at 8 pm on ABC-TV tonight. My guess is that broadcasting this particular game on national prime-time TV was not planned back in August.

Non-conference high profile program matchups like USC-Nebraska only make sense because of the revenues they generate. Otherwise, good teams have an incentive to play weaker opposition and rack up wins. The BCS computer is supposed to compensate for this by awarding teams for beating quality foes, but it still gives great weight to the voters in the polls and the 2007 Kansas record proves that, ultimately, wins are better than losses under any circumstance.

This year, Kansas played and crushed Central Michigan (7-5, first in MAC West), Southeastern Louisiana (3-8), Toledo (5-7), and Florida International (0-10).

Effectively, this schedule created few risks for Kansas (though KU did lose to Toledo last season). The team only had 8 regular season games against major conference schools -- all within the context of their regular Big 12 schedule. Due to the luck of the draw, they played Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State in their three games versus the Big 12 South.

Note that the list includes neither Texas nor Oklahoma. Luck of the draw in 2007!

Of course, to be fair, note that Texas lost to A&M and Kansas will play OU for the Big 12 championship if both teams win this weekend.

In any event, college football is obviously a big business and the idea that athletic directors of major programs can engineer their own schedules so as to maximize winning (and thus profit) is anti-competitive.

Incidentally, this same critique applies to college basketball. Through the first week of January, the local University of Louisville Cardinals will play 9 home games, one true road game, and three games on neutral courts (two in a tournament and one just up the road in Indy's John Wooden Tradition).

Through the end of December, Kansas plays 10 basketball games in Lawrence, another in KC, and two on the road. Anyone wanna bet that KU will be ranked in the top five in hoops entering the first week in January?

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