Bret Bielema, EDSBS Man of the Year 2006, takes on the most controversial assumptions of the 20th century in an AP interview earlier this week. Say what you will about him--he's a man of range and intellectual depth.
"I understand why certain teams get exemptions.
I understand the theory of relativity, too, and think it's got serious holes that even superstring theory doesn't explain adequately. I've published several impressive peer-reviewed papers on this, too.*
But on getting football exemptions? I don't understand why Notre Dame does," Bielema said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. "If they want to play by conference rules, join a conference.
It's like the Laffer curve. Everyone just assumes it works. Not this coach. Show me the empirical data, and I'll show you a believer. 'Till then it's dogma on a cocktail napkin. **
But yeah, Notre Dame. They don't take, maybe, into consideration past bowl history. Notre Dame hasn't won in the last nine bowl appearances, or whatever it is. And to me, we've proven over time that we deserve the opportunity.
Oh, and Fermat's Last Theorem? Someone's solving that bitch someday, and that someone is gonna be me."***
Most anyone paying attention to college football tends to get postmodernish about Notre Dame. They're football Russia: once great, hit by a long, long, long slide, and now building for a comeback using their single natural resource (the brand) with a skilled despot at the helm. (Unfamiliar with Russian petrochemical diplomacy? Good on ya for having a life.)
Bashing them for easy ins to the BCS, though...that's so 1999, no?
We know why Notre Dame gets in--Lucini, lucre, loot, simoleons, yuan. That's passe, given. Kevin's got the valid points re: Wisconsin's weak in-conference schedule and their worse out-of-conference slate, but we're far more interested in why people still get furious about this when nothing changes without a playoff.
And getting even more postmodern, hasn't the richest postmodernish storyline of post-2000 football been the perpetual comeback/death/comeback of zombie Notre Dame football? For the fan, it may be better to have Notre Dame continually on the cusp of return, since the annual Irish Bowl Game sponsored by "When Animals Attack!!!" and the Discovery Channel's Huge Predators Toying With Prey in Sick Slow-Motion Fashion makes for some of the more extreme viewing of the largely irrelevant postseason.
Barring a sensible system, a fan has to mine absurdity for entertainment. We actually fault the BCS for setting up such poor matchups for Notre Dame. After all, they're working on it. Improving facilities. Upgrading coaches. Going to counseling. Attending 12-step meetings. Installing a whole new CRM system. Not cheating on you at the convention by giving a sales rep from Kokomo the Shaky Fireman after seven Long Island Iced Teas. They're really, really trying here.
But you keep setting them up against teams they cannot possibly beat for the amusement of the masses, which is...awfully and horribly entertaining at times. We got no joy from OSU/Notre Dame last year. Yet we would be lying if we said we did not enjoy watching huge, fast SEC overlords LSU run Notre Dame off the field, most notably because we love watching predation done right.
(Apologies to Big Daddy Drew for moving in on his "kill kill kill" territory.)
It's just an excuse to work them in because people will watch, and the absurd system allows them in the front door. And that's just fine, because people know what they're getting. We predict the introduction of the 2nd seed in the AFC playoffs into the BCS equation any day now just to boost the ratings. (Notre Dame versus the Patriots! Now that's entertainment! Is that young man broken in half? Get that fucking Dr. Pepper challenge asshole now before someone zooms in...)
Therefore: until the playoff Leviathan arrives and the absurd quotient ramps down a bit, long live the Irish exception. The only thing more entertaining than watching public schools run vert routes with impunity on them in bowl games would be watching them irk the universe by actually winning a bowl game. This is an idea which after nine straight losses seems just as absurd as any.
*Bret Bielema did not say this.
**And he definitely did NOT say this.
***Have you seen his hair? No way he said this.