Dec. 5, 2006
(AP) - Give Urban Meyer some credit. At least he didn't beg.
Whined a bit, yes. Got everyone's attention, sure.
Did everything, in fact, that Lloyd Carr had a chance to do to impress both his coaching brethren and whoever the people are in that other poll the BCS uses to determine who plays for its mythical national championship.
The difference then was that Meyer got it, and Carr didn't. The difference now is that Michigan is going to the Rose Bowl and Florida is playing for the national championship.
The BCS system may be flawed, but there was no great outcry outside of Ann Arbor, Mich., when the genie popped out of the bottle Sunday night and decreed that Florida would play for the national college crown.
Michigan really had little to complain about anyway. The school, after all, is part of the cabal put together to ensure that big schools will long rule college football and not have to split the millions of dollars they pocket annually with their poorer cousins.
That didn't stop Carr from pouting before Florida was selected about how Meyer had the audacity to campaign for his team's right to be in the game. What wasn't mentioned, of course, was that by doing so Carr was indirectly making a case for his own team to be in the title tilt.
Carr thought it was beneath his dignity to have to campaign for his team. Results on the field were supposed to be the only thing that counted.
Must have slipped his mind that there's no playoff in college football. Without one, the job of any good coach expands to not only winning games but to manipulating the system.
Think figure skating, if you will. Get judges to believe you deserve to be No. 2 before you get on the ice, and there's a good chance you'll end up at No. 2 when you get off the ice.
That's why you've got to admire how Meyer, proving to be every bit as much a politician as a football coach, gradually built his case for another team to play Ohio State in the days after the Buckeyes beat Michigan in the final regular-season game of the year for both teams.
The system was flawed, Meyer said. There should be a playoff in college football.
Besides, who wants to see two teams that just played each other play each other again?
"It was a discussion about the system and how they select who plays for the national championship," Meyer said. "That's all it was. You can spin that all you like. The answer is it was directed at the system."
It wasn't, of course. It was directed at his fellow coaches and the people at something called the Harris Interactive poll who decided this thing. They decided because the computer was fed so much information it regurgitated it all and incredibly decided the two teams were dead even.
Did Meyer's words matter? Hard to say, because Florida built a pretty good case of its own on the field and won arguably the toughest conference in the country.
It also helped that the team that plays last has the last chance to make a good impression and Florida played two games after Michigan put the pads away. And there wasn't a great appetite on the part of may to see Michigan and Ohio State in a rematch of the last game they played.
Call it insurance then, even though Carr and the fans at Michigan were calling it something else.
"Inappropriate," Carr huffed before learning his team's fate. "That certainly is going to stir a controversy and who knows what that's going to lead to."
Yeah, who knows where that leads. Mass rioting? Global warming? Horrors, maybe even a national playoff.
The interesting thing is, that while Carr was busy tending to his X's and O's a few years ago, Meyer was learning all he could about the BCS system. His interest was piqued in 2004, the same year his Utah team busted into the BCS and Auburn was passed over for the title game even though it went undefeated.
That was also the same year another coach did something no one had done before - talked his way into a Rose Bowl.
That would have been Mack Brown of Texas, who practically begged members of the media - this was before The Associated Press removed its poll from the process - to move his team up in the standings ahead of the University of California, which desperately wanted a Rose Bowl berth itself.
"If you've got a vote, vote for us," Brown said. "I'm asking you to do that and I'm asking everyone across the nation. This team deserves to be in the BCS. They deserve to go more than some teams that are being talked about."
Brown got his votes, and Texas got its bowl. Meyer, meanwhile, got a lesson he tucked away just in case he ever needed it.
Because he was smart enough to use it, Florida will be playing for the national championship.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org