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An Opportunity Lost

Earlier this week, the Big 12 coaches decided at their annual golf outing meeting in Phoenix not to change the much-discussed tiebreaker rule.  That would be the fifth tiebreaker in the case of a three-way divisional tie, mind you.  Who knew so much ink, cyber and otherwise, would be spilled over such an obscure rule?

But when you're the University of Texas and something doesn't go your way, it must change and everyone must know it.  After perusing some of the comments around various sites on the interwebs, I really do believe that some UT fans don't have a clue what it means to take losing graciously.  Of course, as my good friend TXHNY would remind me, UT fans just don't get enough practice at losing to know how to handle it.  Maybe if you played K-State a little more often... 

Anyway, as most of you who read this site regularly know, I was, and am, a staunch opponent of changing the tiebreaker in the manner that UT officials suggest.  Currently, we break a three-way tie by taking the highest-ranked team in the BCS standings.  Texas fans and officials, led by CEO Mack Brown, would change to the SEC's system, which drops the team ranked lowest in the BCS standings and then resorts to head-to-head between the two reamining teams, unless the lower of the two teams is more than five spots behind.

I find this proposal completely disingenuous, because it proposes replacing one tiebreaker system that uses a flawed system -- the BCS -- with a different tiebreaker that also uses that flawed system.  Hearing UT officials and fans suggest this as a better tiebreaker reeks of reasoning from a desired conclusion to a system that reaches that conclusion, rather than finding a better system no matter the outcome.

My opposition to the change UT suggested should not suggest to anyone that I think the current tiebreaker is perfect.  Surely we can do better than breaking a conference tie using a flawed national poll.  I'm not sure there is a good fifth tiebreaker for a three-way tie, though.  At that point, we probably have to choose the least bad system rather than hoping for something truly good.

So while I'm happy the other coaches didn't cave to UT on this issue and choose a new tiebreaker that's just as bad as the old one, I am still disappointed that we didn't use this opportunity to improve the conference.  Texas officials had a golden opportunity to be creative and come up with a truly better way, but they instead pushed an equally bad system because it would have delivered the desired result this year.

I'm also not saying that I know the answer, because I don't.  Back in December, when we discussed this issue in depth over here, an interesting proposal was floated.  Texas reader learned hand suggested that a three-way tie should be broken by totaling the amount of time each team had a "safe" lead during the course of the year.  Here, safe would be defined as a two-score lead, so either 10 or 14 points.  Under such a system, we could compare the teams based on their relative dominance without encouraging "unsportsmanlike" tactics at the end of games.

A system like this would be based on objective criteria, rather than including subjective and secret human polls and incomprehensible computer formulas.  it would be based on readily available game statistics.  Teams like Texas Tech wouldn't be dragged down by their lack of name recognition, because they would be judged solely by what they had done on the field.

As with any system, I'm sure there are legitimate critiques of this one.  So let's hear them.  I've outlined the positives, but haven't had much time lately to consider all the angles and look at the drawbacks.  Even though we lost one opportunity for change, the conference's athletic directors will meet later this month and will undoubtedly discuss the issue.  Given the coaches' vote, they almost surely won't change the tiebreaker to the SEC rule.  They probably won't change it at all.  But it would be nice if they'd at least consider a system that doesn't use the BCS.