Bowls 2001-02
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Friday, June 21
Updated: June 22, 4:12 PM ET
Several pollsters expected to leave BCS

Scripps Howard News Service

The Bowl Championship Series -- college football's lightning rod for controversy since its inception in 1998 -- is veering off in yet another direction on its elusive search for the perfect formula to provide a No. 1-vs-No. 2 national title game.

BCS coordinator Mike Tranghese (also commissioner of the Big East Conference) has notified the founders of the eight computer rankings that make up one fourth of the BCS formula that in order to be included in this year's rankings, the computers must no longer use margin of victory in their formulas.

At least one of the computer experts -- David Rothman -- has already declined to change his formula. Herman Matthews, founder of the Matthews/Scripps Howard rankings -- has followed suit.

And according to Matthews, two others -- Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and Peter Wolfe of the Los Angeles Times -- are unlikely to change their formulas as well.

"I just don't think I'm going to change my rankings,'' Matthews said Thursday after receiving the following e-mail from Tranghese:

"My apologies for the informality of this writing, but I am in San Francisco at the CCA (Collegiate Commissioners Association) Meetings and wanted to get this to you in a timely manner.

"The BCS Board has asked me to extend to you the opportunity to continue as part of the BCS poll.

"One condition of your continuance in the BCS will be the elimination of Margin of Victory in your calculations.

"Please inform me by no later than 3:00 p.m. on Monday, June 24 of your willingness to continue with the BCS without the use of Margin of Victory as a component ... '

Rothman was less than diplomatic in his response.

"Sorry, but I don't sign my name to something which isn't the very best I can do. Not only do I use margin of victory to some extent, but the BCS should accept no computer system that would give a tie in the case of:

A 10, B 6.

B 9, C 6.

C 7, A 6.'

"Since most humans polled would agree that the correct ranking is A, B, C in this test. The current efforts to remove margin of victory are only going to degrade the computer's image, as human participants will continue to do the best they can, utilizing all information that can be ascertained, including margins.''

Three computer rankings do not take into account margin of victory -- Seattle Times, Richard Billingsley and Wes Colley -- while Ken Massey has agreed to change his formula to eliminate margin of victory. All four will apparently remain in the BCS formula.

Started in 1998 by SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, the BCS has produced four consecutive undefeated national champions (Tennessee, Florida State, Oklahoma and Miami). But the last two years the system has been mired in chaos over who should be playing the top-ranked team in the BCS 1-2 national title game.

In 2000, Florida State (11-1) got the nod to play Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl despite Miami (10-1) beating the Seminoles during the season. The Sooners' 13-2 victory did little to quell the controversy, fueled by many coaches who believed the Seminoles' larger margin of victory landed them in the title game.

Last year a string of late-season upsets led to the closest final BCS standings ever. Nebraska (11-1) got an invitation to the Rose Bowl by a tiny margin over Pac-10 champion Oregon (10-1) and Colorado (10-2), a team that routed the Cornhuskers, 62-36, in the regular season and claimed the Big 12 championship.

Miami's 37-14 romp over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl only solidified the opinion of critics who said the 'Huskers had no business playing in a national title game when they couldn't even win the Big 12.

Matthews said removing margin of victory from his rankings produced even more statistical nightmares. He ran his formula -- minus margin of victory -- after this year's bowl games. Miami remained No. 1 but Tennessee, No. 2 prior to the bowls, fell to No. 3 despite a 45-17 victory over Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. The bowl loss actually moved Michigan up in the amended rankings from 20th to 18th.

"It is clear that such a move lowers the accuracy of the rankings as well as predictions,'' Matthews wrote in a response to Tranghese. "It is surprising that you would bow to the demands of a public that knows so little about these matters and has reacted to a great extent on emotions fueled by perceived injustices.

"The concern of coaches who wish to avoid running up scores is commendable but unnecessary. Virtually all systems using MOV also use a diminishing returns principle that prevents excessive increase of ratings in such cases.''

Matthews later pulled out of the BCS rankings.

Contact John Lindsay at lindsayj(at) On the Web at

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