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Gopher fan offers support to Bucky

December 8, 2006

I’m about to commit the ultimate form of sports fan suicide. I’m going to be an advocate for my team’s arch rival.

There is nothing easy about this for me, but I have to do it. Here goes ... The Wisconsin Badgers football team got screwed by the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) this year. That felt so wrong to type, but it is the truth.

I’m a Gophers fan born and raised. Usually, when the Badgers lose or get jobbed in some way, shape or form, it puts a smile on my face. Not this time. Not when the real enemy, the BCS, is so vile and repugnant it makes me clench my teeth and pound the keys of my computer with a steadily increasing fury just thinking about them.

The BCS, because of a rule that doesn’t allow three teams from the same conference to get a big money game, has slighted the Badgers from a bowl game. Since fellow Big Ten Conference members Ohio State and Michigan have earned BCS game bids, poor Bucky Badger is left out.

If the Badgers would have gotten a BCS bowl bid, as the rankings say they deserved, they would have gotten a payout between $14 million and $17 million. The payout for the Capital One Bowl, the game the Badgers will be playing in on New Years Day against Arkansas, is just over $4 million.

That’s a nice way for the BCS to welcome the Badgers’ firstyear head football coach Bret Bielema, the youngest head coach in Division I-A at 36. Watch him lead a team with eight new starters on offense to the number seven ranking in the most important poll in the country, then screw his program out of at least $10 million.

Bielema has nothing to be ashamed of. But that’s not what the BCS would have us believe. The only blemish on Wisconsin’s record this year is a 27-13 loss, on the road, to third-ranked Michigan. Keep in mind that the Wolverines have a 69-9 record in the Big House during Lloyd Carr’s 12 years as Michigan head coach.

Since that Sept. 23 game, the Badgers have rattled off eight straight wins. They are one of the hottest teams in the country. Only undefeated Boise State and Ohio State have longer winning streaks among the BCS’s top ten ranked teams. Voters have taken notice of Wisconsin’s dominance. In the final regular season polls, the AP ranked the Badgers sixth and the USA Today Coaches Poll has them ranked fifth. Even the omnipotent BCS rankings have the Badgers ranked seventh.

One of the teams Wisconsin surpassed for a BCS game, Notre Dame, was beaten by the Wolverines 47-21, under the exact same circumstances as Wisconsin. Plus, the Irish are ranked eleventh (four spots lower than the Badgers) in the BCS standings and have two losses. Sure, there is the rule about too many teams from one conference getting BCS berths, but it’s an unnecessary rule made by an unnecessary committee. A committee that is too scared of change to give college football fans what they’ve been longing for - a chance to see teams settle things on the field instead of on paper.

My gripe isn’t entirely about the Badgers getting screwed out of money. It’s about them getting screwed out of a chance to play for the ultimate prize, a national championship.

They might not deserve it as much as Florida or Michigan, but you can’t tell me that a team that lost only once all season, on the road, to a top three team over two months ago, doesn’t deserve a shot.

Just remember you heard all this from a Gopher fan. A team that will likely never even sniff a shot at a college football national title in his lifetime.

Nick Sortedahl is a student at UW-River Falls.

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