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College Football - College Football's East Coast Bias

By Piet Van Leer
Saturday, April 6th, 2002

Two things about March and April that remind us college football is just a summer away. First, the Madness of the NCAA Tournament, signaling the start of spring football and with it, preseason polls. Second, the Oscars, which serve as a precursor for the Heisman campaigns. Soon enough, large pictures of Heisman candidates will be painted on downtown Manhattan buildings or California highway billboards, reminding us who should be the most deserving recipient of the prestigious Downtown Athletic Club award, before a single game has been played. College football draws closer to the Beltway Boys and further away from the Four Horsemen every year, and the East Coast bias is to blame.

The NCAA college basketball tournament is maddening on two fronts. Once it's over, we have to wait a year for it again, which is too long. Second, it is the most invigorating, exciting playoff of all-time (possible exception to the World Cup), which makes it everything college football is not. The anticipation of the tournament is so great that they made the team's invitation to the tournament into Selection Sunday! And after the first Sunday of every tourney, I play the same conversation in my head over and over again. I think about how great a 16-team tournament would be in college football. Nevertheless, it will continue only to remain in my brain as long as the BCS holds college football prisoner with its delusional math.

The Heisman needs to be abolished, or at least revamped with rules defining how a player wins, because for the life of me, I can't figure out how these guys qualify. Can anyone name the last five Heisman winners? The importance of the event has decreased so significantly that the television rights have moved from network to cable. Of course, nobody realizes this because the syndicated Fresh Prince of Bel-Air betters the Heisman ratings.

To remind everyone, Eric Crouch won last year. In the two biggest games, Crouch's team was outscored a million to four. The last time the writers made a decision of integrity is when Charles Woodson was selected over Peyton Manning. It's the same people that voted for Gino Toretta over Marshall Faulk. Craig Erickson won a Heisman, and Craig Erickson doesn't even know who Craig Erickson is.

The Heisman is supposed to reward college football's best player. Not the Most Valuable Player of the best team as it has been delineated in the past. Last year, neither of those criteria was used, and they still didn't get it right.

Joey Harrington was a better player, but the only game sportswriters east of the Mississippi saw him in before the balloting was in the Civil War, against Oregon State.

Rex Grossman had the best year of the bunch, but he was slighted because of the system and his age. What does someone's age have to do with his performance on the field? Does it matter if the person with the best credentials has a chance to win it two more times? Is Hollywood dictating the voting requirements, where the award is given for a lifetime achievement as opposed to singular performance in a year?

If I had a Heisman vote, I would do what Dick Schaap did years ago when Jim Brown didn't win. I would tear it up and never vote again. The issue has moved from race to coast. And the victims are everyone that plays with the abbreviation P.S.T. next to their start times.

On top of all that, the Heisman has turned into college football's Oscars. The damn thing is a campaign now. The P.R. has to be strong before the season begins, or else you have no chance. Why don't we wait until the season is over before deciding who the best player is? That would reduce the need to put Joey Harrington's mug on the side of Madison Square Garden. The Heisman rewards the best campaign, as opposed to the best player.

The other maddening question is when was the last time a school on the Pacific Coast had a preseason No. 1 ranking? Was it Washington? How can people possibly distinguish between schools before the season has even begun? In college hoops, it doesn't make a difference what your preseason ranking is because if you play well enough throughout the course of the season, you will get into the tournament and prove if you deserve to be National Champs.

If basketball were football, Kansas and Duke would have met in the title game. Maryland would have been this year's Oregon, the best team with no hope of winning the championship because preseason polls had decided Duke was the better team.

If a West Coast school has any hope of winning the National Title, they better have a top-ten recruiting class, which in turn will spruce up their preseason ranking, which will give them more options if they drop a game. Tennessee and Florida had to drop two before they were ruled illegitimate heirs to No. 2. Oregon lost once, early, and they were punished for the rest of the season. Obviously, they had to be preseason No. 1, because then if they lost a game, they could rebound to capture the other spot in the final game. Unless you're from Florida or a tradition-laden program, cracking the BCS is just about impossible - just ask BYU.

So I officially don't care about college football next year. It is the most anti-climatic sport of all time. Just when the season starts to create the excitement of March, they take a month off to play the most lopsided bowl games. If they ever create a playoff, maybe I'll see a commercial for it during the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which I will be watching instead of the Heisman.

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