Despite BCS snub, Cal finishes season smelling like a rose |

Despite BCS snub, Cal finishes season smelling like a rose

Paul Andrew

Despite BCS snub, Cal finishes season smelling like a rose

By now, everyone who follows college football knows that the California Golden Bears were served a grave injustice by being excluded from their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1959.

The Bears finished 10-1, losing only to top-ranked USC by a close six points, a game in which Cal outgained the Trojans by more than 200 yards.

“What more do they have to do?” baffled Cal fans throughout the country are asking.

When the bowl selections were released last week, it was Texas, also at 10-1, who was selected for the Rose Bowl. Cal was relegated to the Holiday Bowl against a 7-4 Texas Tech team. One of the flaws in the BCS system allows a team like Pittsburgh, which finished 9-3, to play in a major bowl, while Cal is relegated to a second-tier game.

How could the system possibly drop Cal in the rankings when they won on the road against a bowl-bound Southern Miss 26-16 in their final game? Meanwhile, the Longhorns jumped the Bears in the computer rankings after that weekend, even though they didn’t play. The Bears are still ranked fourth in both the AP and USA polls, both voted by humans, though it is the BCS computer rankings that determine the bowl selections.

Being excluded from Pasadena hurt all those associated with the Cal program, especially the players who worked so hard this year, although the long-term benefits that Cal is receiving based on the attention and positive notoriety could help the program in the long run.

Since the bowls were selected, the injustice laid on Cal has been a main subject on sports radio talk shows and sports Web sites. Throughout the country (except, obviously, in the Lone Star State), the consensus was that Cal got a raw deal and the BCS should be revamped.

One radio personality humorously compared the much-maligned BCS to Michael Jackson’s face. “The more they work on it, the worse it gets!”

Cal’s situation may be the catalyst in getting the system changed, which would help all of college football.

Talk has also been centered around the class that Cal and coach Jeff Tedford showed in their final game. Rather than run up the score to attempt to persuade voters, Tedford ordered quarterback Aaron Rodgers to “take a knee,” thus running out the clock. This rare display of sportsmanship is a sign of the quality program that Tedford is building in Berkeley. Any top recruit may be strongly swayed to consider playing for Cal with the added positive attention they have received.

Conversely, when Texas coach Mack Brown was seen begging for votes for his team on national TV, it showed a lack of class on his part. Politicking doesn’t have a place in sports, where results should be decided by these hardworking kids on the field. Even though the Longhorns did get the bowl game they wanted, Brown’s “whining” for votes was generally viewed as a very poor example of leadership.

As much as anything, Cal’s snub has unified “Bear Backers” like never before. As recently as 2001 Cal was 1-10 and barely noticed outside of the East Bay. Now, Cal people throughout the country have rallied together in this “Bash the BCS” campaign. Spirit and ticket sales in Berkeley are at an all-time high.

If Cal can beat Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl, the Bears could end the season as high as second or third in the country, their best finish in more than half a century. For the Cal program and Tedford, who signed a five-year contract to stay in Berkeley the day after the bowls were selected, the future is extremely bright.

With the great season the Bears enjoyed, and the direction that the program is headed, the “smell of roses” could be in the very near future.

– Paul Andrew is a Tribune

correspondent and a longtime resident of the South Shore.

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