One of the eccentric charms of Jeff Van Gundy as ESPN's lead NBA analyst is his eagerness to go on bizarre tangents and rants. It could be rants about flopping, his thirst for blood, or anything else that's happening in the world. I'm waiting for the day when Van Gundy is dissecting a pick and role replay and blurts out "and what's the deal with airplane peanuts?"
Most of the time I don't mind Van Gundy's tangents because it's part of his distinctive personality as a broadcaster and shows his personality we never saw when he was on the sidelines. I'd rather have someone consistently speak their mind on random stuff than tip toe through the tulips and say nothing of interest or value.
But last night JVG just had to wander into Kirk Herbstreit territory and ripped Northern Illinois making the BCS and be just another bully trying to keep the little guy down. Via Larry Brown Sports...
“How flawed is that BCS system that Northern Illinois is in that bowl?” Van Gundy asked rhetorically. “Oklahoma — you’re telling me they’re not better? If you put Northern Illinois into the Big 12 … Louisville is in [the Sugar Bowl] … come on, that’s ridiculous.”
“I’m happy for Northern Illinois. They’ve had a great year. I’m just saying, if you want the best teams, you’ve got to give the leagues they play in … you put Northern Illinois in the SEC, you think they’re coming out unscathed?”
Do we really want 7 SEC teams in the BCS? I know that might please the corporate suits at ESPN, but I'm not sure the rest of America would sign up for it. No NIU defender in their right mind would argue for them steamrolling in a BCS league, but that, as we saw with Kirk Herbstriet's bizarre rant, is not the point. The point remains that Northern Illinois automatically qualified for their BCS bowl game. Automatically. Qualified.
And yet, because of Kirk Herbstreit setting the narrative on the BCS selection show, we still have to deal with this nonsensical, meaningless argument of whether or not NIU is "better than" Oklahoma in the "eye test." Unfortunately, instead of offering a unique perspective, JVG sounds like he's trumpeting the company line here. I'm willing to give him a break on this one because it was at the end of a Christmas Day doubleheader worked by he and Mike Breen. But, after the Herbie situation, I feel some kind of inherent duty to squash this NIU bashing no matter who goes there.
What happened to earning things on the field? Northern Illinois passed every hurdle set before them by a system that lives to keep them down and earned their spot, which because of the structure of major college football, is as high as they will ever be allowed to go. Again, why it's so horrifying that a MAC school be given a crumb from the corrupt BCS pie is something I will never understand when Cinderellas are adored everywhere else in sports. Are we that worried about the sacred integrity of the Orange Bowl?
But hey, it makes for great debate... even for NBA analysts. Next time JVG wants to rant about the BCS, he should rant about NIU only earning a BCS invite because the entire system was threatened by antitrust lawsuits. But I'm guessing you're not going to hear that debate any time soon.