It's been a college football season were no win can be assured, no poll position can be defended and no one can agree on anything. Thanks to the wonderful system college football has kludged together, a bunch of voters will pick two names out of a hat, following which we'll be subjected to a month of debate over who should have been put where, and whether the criteria should be best season performance or best team right now, and calls for playoffs, and diatribes about how playoffs will ruin the sancity of college football, America, and talking heads everywhere. And through all of this babble, bickering and bile there will be only one thing everybody agrees on. Just one indisputable belief that everyone trying to fix college football will hold sacrosanct:
The only undefeated team in the country has no business playing for the national championship.
The voters thinks so. The computer formula think so. The guys getting paid in 800-word chunks think so. Even the team itself isn't aiming that high -Brennan's highest hope is a Rose Bowl appearance. Folks are casting around a collection of two-loss also-rans to find championship contenders while the only team with an unblemished record is barely cracking the Top 10.
Put aside what you know about Hawaii for a moment. Think about every sport, every league, every way of awarding a trophy in existence on this planet, and find one where you can defeat every opponent put in front of you and not get a chance to play for the championship. College football and maybe the games six year-olds with over protective parents play - those are the only placesthis can happen. Hawaii never lost. Only two teams in the country came within one game of accomplishing that (and one of them won't be sniffing the end-of-year hardware either). Instead, we're going to the collection of two-loss teams to find our champion.
Hawaii puts to lie the most traditional reason for excluding undefeated teams from the BCS, the schedule. Who wants to play Hawaii? Michigan State backed out of their game at a cost of $250,000. The Warriors are a member of the only conference that will have them; the Pac-10 isn't knocking on any doors in Manoa. Half of their conference left in 1999 in no small part because of the expense of travelling across three time zones. Another five schools have left since then - Hawaii is the oldest member of the conference by seventeen years.
Let me make this perfectly clear. No one will play this team. Michigan turned them down. So did USC. Urban Meyer at Florida went on record about ho little he wanted to play this team:
Florida has aready scheduled a Colt Brennan-less team to fly to Gainesville next year. Folks can complain about the expense of travelling to Hawaii all they want, but they'll still play the Hawaii Bowl and they'll still line up for the Maui Invitational in basketball. They just won't play June Jones' team.
The fix was in from the day the schedules were released; Hawaii wasn't going to be playing for a national championship. This is absolutely the best outcome the Warriors could have hoped for, with no other undefeated teams and only two one-loss squads, one of which did not even get the chance to play for its conference championship. This is the best season ever for a team outside the BCS conferences to make the championship game, and as recently as yesterday is was in doubt if the team would make a major bowl.
Before Hawaii took the first snap of the 2007 football season, it had already been decided they were out of championship contention. It's not right and it's not fair.
It's college football.