Nowhere is the story of the underdog better displayed than in college athletics. Basketball makes the underdog bit seem almost routine, but in college football there is a mark stark contrast between the haves and the have nots, thanks to the BCS. With the BCS, your favorite program is either in the club, or it isn’t. The benefits of being in the club are many, but the cost of entry is high and the pathway toward inclusion difficult.
The majority of that pathway is now in the review mirror of the Boise State Broncos. With a win on Monday night over a nationally respected and highly ranked team, the Broncos legitimized their presence on the national stage. But a single win does not prove a team belongs in the discussion about the national championship game. Other factors come into play, which is where the debate about including a team from the WAC in the BCS national championship game really picks up steam.
Babe Ruthless is correct that the WAC doesn’t get a lot of national exposure – a vital factor necessary to prove worth. But, six of Boise State’s final regular season games are on one of the ESPN networks, often on Tuesday or Friday nights – days when there are few competing games on television. If a team or a matchup doesn’t automatically draw ESPN’s College Gameday each week, another time and channel must be found. Boise State has been effective at getting enough national exposure with its schedule through creative means. With quarterback Kellen Moore under center also – a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender after the first week of games – the team will draw a lot of eyeballs and intrigue. While Babe Ruthless makes solid points about a seeming lack of exposure, the program has been effective at mitigating those issues that do at times plague the conference. Thus, a team in the WAC has proven its ability to break the mold, therefore others can follow if they so choose.
Babe Ruthless lost his convincing hold on me when talking about the Smurf Turf as a gimmick only, reducing a very talented team that has won major bowl games in recent seasons to a small team with a gimmick begging for attention. The truth is that the Boise State program has been building for the last ten years, and is just now finally beginning to reap national rewards for a whole lot of hard work.
I also believe that while Alabama’s pathway to the title game last season is obviously effective, As Babe Ruthless noted, it is not the only way to skin the national championship game cat. A stroll down memory lane reveals some very good programs – like Florida State, for example – that were not always on the national stage. It took time and talent to build the program, but it happened. And plenty of national title appearances came along that journey. It was a journey that is not dissimilar from Boise State’s recent sojourn.
I completely agree with Babe Ruthless that style points matter. And Boise State is no stranger to style. However, that point alone isn’t enough to convince me that a WAC team does not deserve a shot at the national title game. The basic conditions for BCS title inclusion are known. It is up to a team and program if they choose to meet those conditions.
Optimist Prime’s selection to argue in favor of a WAC team was a challenge, no doubt. The challenge, however, was apparently perfect for our newest contributor.
The best point on either side of this debate, and consequently the victory, is awarded to Optimist Prime for pointing out that television timeslot is no longer a truly important metric for evaluating how well a team can be judged and voted on. DVR, ESPN3, and myriad other online sports media outlets provide voters with a ton of information on demand. Although the voting tallies are due soon after the games are complete, there still is no excuse for not being able to view a team and cast an educated vote.
Despite Babe Ruthless’ entertaining and hilarious points about the WAC’s general incompetence, it was clear to me watching the game on Monday night that talent and great football is not specific to any conference. As Optimist Prime points out, ask Ole Miss.
It is strange that in this age of conference reshuffling and jockeying, conferences seem to matter less and less. It is possible to build a great football program the right way and not be in a major conference. I liken it to beginning a startup business versus managing an existing one. Some entrepreneurs are really good at building companies and poor at managing them, just as some coaches are good at building programs but not managing them. Some coaches, like Boise State’s Chris Peterson, have shown the rare ability to do both. That coaching ability isn’t conference specific, so why should title opportunities be?
Sure, Boise State is in the WAC. But, Boise State deserves to be on the national stage. The program only proves that point every single time it gets an opportunity. Boise State makes the WAC legitimate because of the path the program and its leaders have chosen. Sure the WAC doesn’t have the toughest schedule. But it has one of the best teams. That alone makes the WAC worthwhile.