A few days after the Bowl Championship Series selections were handed out, some MU fans are still wondering why the Orange Bowl arrived at the conclusion that Kansas was the more deserving team than the Tigers, even though MU beat the Jayhawks on the field and won the Big 12 North division title. Plus, the No. 6 Tigers ended up ranked two spots higher in the final BCS rankings than Kansas.
The controversy is merely the latest in a system that has produced them every year. Disagreements between human voters and computer rankings, which each contribute to the overall rankings, are the main cause. The most obvious example this year involved the Tigers and Big 12 champion Oklahoma. Despite the Sooners’ two victories over the Tigers, three of the six BCS computers still believe that MU is the better team, which led to the Tigers being ranked higher overall than the Sooners in the computer portion of the BCS.
According to Orange Bowl vice president of media and public relations Larry Wahl, the 36-28 win over KU and the Tigers’ North Division title weighed in MU’s favor. But the biggest reason that the Jayhawks are heading to Miami while the Tigers trek to Dallas was that MU had two losses and KU had just one.
“You could make a case for either one, it was a very difficult decision for us,” he said. “With Kansas, we had an opportunity to take one of only two one-loss teams. That worked in Kansas’s favor. The other thing was as we watched things unfold in the (Big 12) championship game, the fact that Missouri lost fairly convincingly to Oklahoma was certainly a factor.”
After the Tigers’ loss, most bowl projections had Big East champion West Virginia going to the Orange Bowl, with Kansas heading to the Fiesta Bowl. But Wahl said that the Orange Bowl’s final decision of who to pair with Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia Tech came down to Missouri and Kansas, with both teams preferred over West Virginia.
“Both Missouri and Kansas were ahead of West Virginia in the rankings,” he said. “The other thing is, the Orange Bowl’s had a long history with the old Big Eight Conference, and those relationships came in. That pretty much knocked West Virginia beyond Missouri and Kansas.”
MU athletic department spokesman Chad Moller said that he was unaware of contacts between the athletic department and any bowl games on Sunday until shortly after 6 p.m. when word became official that MU was heading to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl.
“It’s my understanding that you’re not allowed to directly lobby bowls on your behalf,” he said. “That’s where the Big 12 Conference comes in. They don’t position one team over another. What they do to the bowls is present the case why (each) team would be a great choice.”
In his justification for Kansas’s selection to battle Virginia Tech, Wahl pointed to a history of conference title games serving as a springboard for teams that win them, and the game becoming a hindrance to teams that lose. In the previous two seasons, wins in the SEC title game allowed Louisiana State and Florida to vault into the top two over teams that did not play in a conference championship game.
At the other end of the spectrum, a loss by No. 2 Kansas State in the 1998 Big 12 Championship Game to Texas A&M knocked the Wildcats out of the BCS altogether, despite a No. 3 final ranking. Kansas State then became a victim of quick invitations that the Cotton and Holiday Bowls gave to Texas and Nebraska, respectively. The Wildcats were forced to settle for the Alamo Bowl, normally reserved for the fourth selection from the Big 12.
In the wake of that situation, the BCS passed what is known as the “Kansas State Rule”, which guarantees an at-large bid to any BCS conference team ranked either third or fourth that does not win its conference. But with other controversies surrounding the rest of the BCS, Wahl isn’t sure that a “Missouri Rule” will be created if the BCS is tweaked.
“Certainly, I’m sure they’ll take a look at it,” he said. “I don’t know that us taking Kansas would be the factor. In our world, this is a significant story, but in the overall BCS, it’s probably the third national story, the first one being the two teams in the national championship game. I think the other story is the Rose Bowl bypassing Georgia to stay with their Big Ten-Pac-10 alliance.”
If it was created, such a rule would most likely either expand on the Kansas State Rule or eliminate the restriction that prevents a conference from sending more than two teams to the BCS. Moller said that he had not spoken to MU athletic director Mike Alden about his opinion on such a change, but said that it was too big a problem for one person to decide.
“It would be a group, a committee decision at a level way above my head or one person’s head,” he said. “It’s certainly led to a lot of discussion nationally that I’ve seen and heard, so who knows?”
Kansas assistant athletic director Jim Marchiony said that he wasn’t sure if he would be in favor of the BCS eliminating that restriction or not.
“I’m sure there’s pros and cons to that as well,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ve come up with a definitive answer on that.”