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Northern Illinois is in the BCS: Deal with it

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For the first time ever, a MAC team has made the BCS. And now we're all super mad about it! But should we be?


Northern Illinois earned a BCS bowl berth. The outrage!

There was so much piling on during the ESPN show unveiling the BCS bowl selections that it could've easily been mistaken for a post-election program dissecting the Romney campaign. The vitriol directed toward Northern Illinois was overflowing to the point that it became must-see TV when Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch was then invited to address the esteemed panel. Luckily, as the only adult among all involved, Lynch bit his tongue and took the high road.

So what exactly did Northern Illinois do wrong? Were the Huskies the lowest-ranked BCS team among this year's 10-team field?

No, that would be Big Ten champ Wisconsin, which was out of the official standings but checked in at No. 26 in the complete final standings.

Picks and Watchability ratings for every bowl game || NIU fans celebrate

Did Northern Illinois get in on some technicality?

That depends on what you'd consider technicality. But consider this also: The Huskies needed only to be in the top 16 to qualify because not just one, but two, AQ conference champions were ranked below them. The aforementioned Wisconsin and No. 21 Louisville, the Big East champion.

Is this going to kill the Orange Bowl's TV ratings? Is that why ESPN was mad?

Well, actually, there might be more eyeballs on the game now than had NIU not qualified for the BCS. You think Florida State-Louisville was going to smash M*A*S*H's record? At least the game now has some intrigue.

So who's really the loser in all this?

The Sugar Bowl, naturally. It would've had a marquee matchup between Florida and Oklahoma, two traditional powerhouses. But now it's just Florida-Louisville, which would make for a fine basketball game, as it was last year in the West Regional final of the NCAA Tournament.

And who made out from it?

Jerryworld and the Cotton Bowl. Thanks to the BCS's myriad rules governing and restricting access, the venerable old game has regained its luster despite being left out of the BCS some 15 years ago. Now it usually gets the pick of the litter. This year, it'll have Big 12 co-champ OU against Texas A&M, with its presumptive Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Let's just say the Sugar and the Orange would kill for that matchup.

Finally, who's to blame for this fiasco?

Well, you can first consider the Justice Department, whose threat to investigate the BCS for antitrust violations caused the creation of a fifth bowl in 2006 and greater accessibility for non-AQ conference schools. As a result, at least one non-AQ team has crashed the BCS party each year except last year, and overall, non-AQ teams have a 4-1 record against AQ teams in six previous appearances, aside from the separate-but-equal Fiesta Bowl after the 2009 season that pitted non-AQ teams Boise State and TCU against each other.

You can also blame the voters, who solidly placed Northern Illinois at No. 16 in both the Coaches and Harris polls, ensuring the Huskies' safe passage into the final top 16. Maybe it's the threat of transparency, as all voters must reveal their final ballots to the public. Or maybe because the voters - especially the coaches - have such competing agendas that at the end they cancel each other out.

The most absurd spectacle of the BCS has always been its inclusion of and dependence on the Coaches Poll. That's conflict of interest with a capital I. Can you imagine executives voting themselves extra bonuses at the end of the year? (OK, Congress does that, but I digress.) But essentially, that's what the BCS asks the coaches to decide each year.

Is there any surprise that the Big 12 coaches voted Northern Illinois much lower than its final placement across the board, with Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen each putting the Huskies at No. 24? That the fact Stoops' team was in direct competition with NIU for the final BCS spot wouldn't have anything to do with it, would it?

Now, the Harris poll, which mercifully might be going away after another season, is harder to crack because of the assortment of crackpots who vote in this poll. You would think that due to the nature of the panel they might be less affected by the rampant influence peddling in college football. But by the same token, because many of them are retired and are no longer in the industry, they're in many ways less accountable. Ask former UConn AD Jack Toner, who's pushing 90, why he left Northern Illinois off his ballot.

At the end, though, the BCS worked out splendidly, the apoplectic ESPN talking heads not withstanding. There were two substandard conference champions and they helped yield a non-AQ entry. And this provided the only interesting talking point on an otherwise ho-hum night of bowl revelations. Also keep in mind: In the brave new world in 2014, NIU would've gotten a BCS 2.0 invitation too because it's the highest-ranked of the Group of Five conference champ.

Oh, by the way, Notre Dame will be playing Alabama in the BCS title game. Just wanted to mention that.

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