By all accounts Coach David Shaw of Stanford is well-respected, highly intelligent, and mild-mannered man. Last week, he claimed he does not understand the BCS. Yet, he cherry picked arguments to the direct benefit of his program.
“To have a one-loss Pac-12 team behind a one-loss ACC team (Virginia Tech) means that the computer values the ACC more than it values the Pac-12. Which I don’t believe is the case. I don’t think that’s accurate.”
This suggests that Coach Shaw understands that some conferences are can be valued more than others. Instead of acknowledging the possibility that the Big 12 can be valued more than the Pac-12, Coach Shaw picks the one argument that benefits his program.
“Oklahoma State is outstanding, a very good football team. Once again, we lost to a team that was in the Top 10, they lost to a team that’s not ranked. I don’t get it.”
The BCS is an easy target. The media constantly bashes it and the public favors some type of playoff system. Coach Shaw claims not to understand the BCS, but he chose his arguments very carefully. Only pointing out Oklahoma State’s losses instead of its full schedule purposely ignores what the computer polls are supposed to do. They are supposed to take each school’s resume in its entirety and give an unbiased ranking. Coach Shaw pits conference versus conference and then pits a single loss versus a single loss. Even in his argument, he clearly displays an understanding that there are a number of factors to consider to rank a team.
Yesterday on the Scott van Pelt show, he softened his stance after Stanford moved far ahead of Virginia Tech in the computer polls stating that he didn’t understand the feedback he was getting about the computers not liking Stanford and that how he does not fully understand how Stanford can be #3 in one computer ranking and #10 in another (for the record Stanford has not been simultaneously #3 and #10 in the same week in different computer rankings in almost a month).
In his argument, he brought up how Stanford has only lost 2 games in the last two seasons. Is Coach Shaw asking the BCS to consider past season performance in the formula or is he using his program’s past success to make them seem more deserving? How would Coach Shaw feel if he followed up a 0-12 season with a 12-0 season and had the 0-12 season held against him the following year?
Further in the interview, Scott van Pelt and Coach Shaw had the following exchange.
“How much do you, your staff, your school even know about the process in how the computers even work?” – SVP
“Not a lick and to be honest, I don’t necessarily want to. But at the same time, when I ask a question and to anybody and don’t get a common sense answer, I voice my displeasure.” – Coach Shaw
Coach Shaw is the head coach of a major program in contention in an auto qualifying Pac-12 conference. He is personally, financially, and professionally invested in understanding how the system works. His arguments against the BCS show that he understands a wide variety of elements need to be considered to rank the teams. Yet, Coach Shaw wants a common sense simplistic answer and will voice displeasure against the system when it does not suit his program.
Colley Matrix provides a detailed explanation of their method. Massey provides his rating description and algorithm. Wolfe provides his rating description and simplified algorithm. Jeff Sagarin explains his formula. Anderson and Hester and Richard Billingsley provide more simple explanations of their ratings, but I’m sure if Stanford’s head coach emailed, called, or contacted them, they would gladly respond to Coach Shaw just as they have gladly responded to emails throughout the years of the BCS to casual fans. If Coach Shaw can’t take the time to learn what goes into each rating system, I’m sure there are plenty of people at one of the best schools in the world who would be willing to explain it to him.
If Coach Shaw is truly willfully ignorant of how the BCS formula works, it’s professionally irresponsible for a man in his position. He has every reason to care unless he’s one of those coaches who doesn’t care about the BCS, only cares about football, and doesn’t care where his team ends up in the rankings. Coach Shaw, through his comments, has shown that he clearly does care where his team ends up in the rankings. It’s hard to believe that someone as intelligent as Coach Shaw, who has shown a rather nuanced understanding of conference strength, quality wins, quality losses, and brings up past success, does not understand the BCS far more than he is letting on.
Whether he’s lying or willfully ignorant, Coach Shaw is doing what many have done before him. He’s attacking a less popular entity that galvanises his fans and unites him with fellow detractors while taking off the glaring light of his failure to lead his team to victory over Oregon. Ironically, Coach Shaw had nothing to complain about last week and has nothing to complain about this week. An 11-1 Stanford team will be an at large team in a BCS bowl no matter what. The only advantage to being ranked higher than Oklahoma State or Virginia Tech is if Coach Shaw really wants to argue his team’s way into the national championship game despite not winning their division or conference, but that’s an argument for another day.