Mac Engel

CFP conspiracy? An expert spells it out for TCU

The BCS has been replaced by the College Football Playoff, but all of the paranoia, defeatism and conspiracy from the previous system remains safely intact.

Despite TCU qualifying for the Big 12 title game, everyone associated with and around the program knows that even if it defeats Oklahoma on Saturday there will be no invite to the BcS Plus 2.

There is no bylaw stating as much, but this is the reality for TCU and a handful of other Power 5 schools.

Few men in a position of authority have ever said it, so I found the one who did.

In 2004, then Kansas coach Mark Mangino went on an epic rant after his team lost by four points to No. 6 Texas in Lawrence, made possible by a controversial offensive pass interference call late in the game.

“It’s called BCS,” Mangino said after the game. “That’s right — BCS. That’s what was the difference today in the game.”

Mangino all but asked the reporters in the press conference to follow up and ask him about the play. He had made up his mind to pop.

“That’s what made a difference in the call in front of their bench: Dollar signs,” Mangino said. “All of America sat at home and watched the play. Ten thousand bucks? Ten thousand bucks (in fines). I’ve got a team to fight for. I’m not going to be pushed around, and I’m not going to let this university be pushed around, because we’re not the big BCS spender in the league. I’m not going to allow that.”

Texas won, and two games later defeated Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The Longhorns’ Rose Bowl win that season does not happen without their narrow win at Kansas.

The Big 12 fined Mangino, and to this day he views it as money well spent. He does, however, offer a rational explanation that every fan of a team that is not associated with a blue-blood program needs to hear.

There is a reason why TCU, Baylor and a few others struggle to break through to the other side.

“When all things are equal, it’s human nature to give the benefit of the doubt to the people who have done it better longer,” Mangino said a phone interview this week. “You want a dream house and you buy a lot and you have find two contractors. The contractors come back and they give you the exact same bid using the exact same materials. Everything is the same.

“When it’s all done you think, ‘Who should I pick?’ You ask the first contractor how long he’s been doing it and he says 30 years. You ask the second contractor the same thing and he says five years. Who do you go with? You go with the contractor who has been doing it longer.”

Oklahoma has just been doing it longer. The same for Alabama, Clemson, etc. and especially Ohio State.

The most recent College Football Playoff rankings has two-loss Ohio State at eighth and two-loss TCU 11th. Ohio State lost to Oklahoma by 15 in Columbus; TCU lost to Oklahoma lost by 18 in Norman.

Ohio State lost by 31 at 7-5 Iowa; TCU lost by 7 at 7-5 Iowa State. But, yes, the Buckeyes have two wins against Top 25 teams whereas TCU has one.

TCU’s lack of penetration into the top tier of college football is not some conference-led conspiracy to keep them out.

Even Mangino, who is now far removed from coaching the game, knows that his rant from 2004 was more for theatrics and his team.

“There is no grand conspiracy to hurt a team,” he said. “The rankings and all of that are just human nature. When push comes to shove, some of these teams have been powers for years. The other team that is coming, they’re not ready. That’s the perception.

“It’s not that anyone wants to hurt anyone. I’ve never met an official who wanted to do that. I was in the Big 12 for a long, long time and I didn’t believe it, and I never saw that. The Big 12 would not take one team over the other. Now, some teams may lobby harder, but it’s tough. And when it’s equal, you just go with the team that’s done it longer. That’s it.”

The system is pathetically flawed and the powers that be have a vested financial interest to keep it in place, so don’t expect any grand changes any time soon. Or ever.

The only way a non-traditional power can change its perception is just to not lose.

TCU coach Gary Patterson, after just missing a berth in the College Football Playoff in 2014, specifically used Oregon as the model. The Ducks had to win for more than a decade in the Pac-10/Pac-12 before they were accepted.

One year should never affect the next’s rankings, but Mangino knows his subject: Bias and favoritism toward “the names” are human nature.

The only way to be perceived to be on the same level as Oklahoma is to beat Oklahoma. Often. Then TCU will have to win the New Year’s Six bowl game against what will likely be a traditional name.

Mangino has nothing to gain by shilling for the Big 12 or college football. TCU is not a victim of a conspiracy.

The Horned Frogs are simply a “victim” of human nature’s role in a flawed system.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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