Much was made of the TCU/Utah game this week. After all, it is possibly the only time top five teams are going to match up for the rest of the season, and it was a game that would eliminate one non-AQ school from a shot at the BCS altogether.
But one of the biggest stories heading into Saturday was that few people were going to get to see the game at all, no matter how much they cared.
The game was broadcast on CBS College Sports Network, a channel I and 49% of the country get but usually have to pay extra for. Turns out the Mountain West doesn’t have a television deal with any of the major networks, so it’s not like ESPN could just show the game once it turned out it was a huge matchup.
But why didn’t CBS move the game to it’s main, national network instead of this random sports channel subsidiary? That way tons of people would get to see the game and CBS could have gone back-to-back with TCU/UTah and then LSU/Alabama. Sounds like a big day for the ratings.
Or at least it did because that never happened, as we all know.
Instead, LSU/Alabama was moved some time during the week from its original 7pm ET kickoff time to 3:30 pm. This, of course, meant that TCU/Utah had to stay on CBS College Sports because it also kicked off at 3:30.
The SEC is in charge of moving game times around for whatever reason, and they seemed more than happy “to accommodate the CBS broadcast.”
But why? A prime time game between two national powers on a national network sounds like perfect happiness for the SEC, not to mention CBS, who had a shot at airing the two biggest games of the weekend one after the other.
To borrow from Bill Clinton, it’s the BCS, stupid.
Moving the LSU/’Bama game to 3:30 means that the two big games went up against each other, further limiting the exposure for the two top-five non-AQ schools to pollsters and the nation at large. Even the Salt Lake Tribune was cynical about the time change for the LSU game:
Hey, if you’re claiming to be an expert — if you’re voting in the polls — you have an obligation to watch the game. And it won’t be that difficult.
And yet The Sporting News published a story indicating that, because so few people will be able to see the No, 3 and No. 5 teams in the latest BCS poll, it will hurt the winner’s chances of making it to the BCS title game.
The game “is on the CBS College Sports Network (good luck finding it) instead of a national network or major cable outlet. Just how many eyes will be watching? Not enough to make a difference,” The Sporting News wrote.
The article says it itself: there’s no way enough pollsters (who account for two-thirds of the BCS formula) were going to get to see this game to vote properly on it.
But doing shady things is beyond the SEC or the BCS, right? There’s just no way those two bastions of moral rectitude would work together to keep the little guys off television.
The scheme worked out too perfectly to not be orchestrated. CBS needed to move its broadcast so it could show Entertainment Tonight at 7, a repeat of NCIS at 8, and a repeat of The Defenders at 9. I wonder how long it took the SEC to agree to elbow TCU/Utah out of the way by moving LSU/Alabama up. Three seconds is the over-under.
There are, of course, believable reasons this whole mess really happened. CBS was probably contractually obligated to air those two shows in prime time at some point in the week because they didn’t air on their regular Tuesday time slot because of the elections. Maybe the SEC felt bad for the Pac-10 and decided they should have the lion’s share of prime time coverage Saturday night. Anything’s possible, really.
But people have been wondering how the BCS could keep TCU or Boise State out of the title game if Auburn or Oregon lost. This is how.
By keeping the non-AQ’s off network television late in the season, the coaches and the Harris poll voters are more likely to underrate them and overrate one-loss teams like LSU. Don’t be surprised if a one-loss conference champ sneaks in to the BCS title game over an undefeated Boise or TCU team based entirely upon the human polls.
It’s not enough that their smaller conferences’ television contracts keep them off network television most Saturdays anyway. The big guys are always looking for any advantage they can get and are merciless when it comes to getting BCS money and BCS exposure.
This is just another example of the little guy getting screwed.
Even worse, the TCU blowout works to the SEC’s advantage because the talking heads can say Utah was never as good as their top-five ranking and LSU had to “earn” their victory against Alabama. And everyone “knows” Alabama is just as good as they were last year, right?
Collusion, people. Col-fucking-lusion.
*Photo courtesy the AP