• Remarks by Bill Hancock to the Football Writers Association of America on the morning of Jan. 9, 2012. (Prepared text. Spoken remarks may differ.)
Thank you, Tommy. I feel as if I'm back with my brothers and sisters. I appreciate the kindness and respect those in this room have shown to me personally. And thanks to all of you for your coverage of college football. I know we all share one thing: the love of this game.
I want to thank John Sudsbury and the volunteers for their great work this week.
In my days as a newspaper reporter, I learned to pick one play that sums up any game. In thinking about the one play that describes this year's bowl games, I decided on Brett Baer's 50-yard field goal that gave Louisiana-Lafayette that victory right here in New Orleans. The celebration by the Ragin' Cajun players was one for the ages.
And speaking of the ages, after nearly 1,000 regular season games and 34 bowl games, we're down to one final game. And the BCS has fulfilled its mission again: matching the top two teams in a national championship game.
You know, I have the privilege of being a part of college football, just like you do. The privilege of being part of an experience that student-athletes will cherish long after the game is over, and long after we're all gone from the sport. It is a dream come true for those athletes.
One day you and I will be sitting in our rocking chairs, thinking back on all the great games we got to watch and cover this year. We'll think of Baylor-Washington. And Ohio-Utah State and Georgia-Michigan State. Maybe we'll remember the 18 bowl games that were decided by one touchdown or less, including four overtime games. We'll think of three BCS games that came down to the very last play, and the a 99-yard fumble return that astoundingly turned the Orange Bowl shootout into a score never before posted in a bowl game.
But for the more than 7,000 student-athletes who just finished participating in this year's bowl experience, they were playing for the thrill of their lives. Ask a college player what they cherish about their college careers -- they'll probably start with the time they spent with their teammates, and right behind that will be their bowl experience.
Across America, students – and please keep in mind they are college students, enthusiastic, happy, bright, engaged young people above everything else, not any different from us when we were in college -- celebrated bowl week. And bowl week celebrated them.
In Birmingham, student-athletes from SMU and Pittsburgh visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute prior to playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Think about that. How many years ago was it that minority students couldn't play in big time college football -- or even get into college? Now, as they get ready to play, these students get a chance to pay tribute and learn about those who came before them, the men and women who gave these athletes an opportunity to be students.
In Dallas, soldiers who fought for our freedoms were greeted upon their return to our country by student-athletes from Brigham Young and Tulsa who played in the Bell Helicopter Armed Services Bowl. What a beautiful reminder of loving your country, and the importance of athletes saying thanks.
I heard about a Louisville player who said, for the first time in his life, he was able to get a nice Christmas present for his mother -- he gave her one of his bowl gifts.
I read the story about the father of a young patient talking with great dignity about how much his critically ill son was moved by a visit from a bowl team.
I point those out not only because they draw inspiration from these young men, but because I'm not only a fan.
I'm also responsible, along with 11 commissioners and the Athletics Director of Notre Dame, for a sport whose heart and soul must always be about the college experience. College is not only about playing; it's about learning.
It may be tempting for some who observe the amount of money college football generates to support thousands of scholarships for athletes in all sports, or the massive number of viewers we attract, to forget that this is college football we're talking about. It's not the pros. And it should never become the pros.
You could have a post-season tournament in which students get off the plane on Friday night, play Saturday, and leave right after the game on Saturday.
Or you can have a bowl tradition in which student-athletes arrive several days before the game. They're the toast of the town that week, with parades, hospital visits, meetings with troops, and the overall awe that comes with going to a bowl. And then they get to play in a game they'll remember forever.
As Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops put it when he talked about the bowl experience, "It's a bonus. It's a feel-good, give back to you. You think a playoff is going to do that, you're going to show up the night before the game, play the game, then get on a plane at 1:00 in the morning and go home. That's not a great experience for a kid."
For many fans watching at home, armed with a remote, I understand the attraction of a tournament. As the person who used to help run the NCAA basketball tournament, I more than understand the attraction of filling out a bracket. But as someone charged with safeguarding a post-season arrangement that works for all student-athletes and the fans, the BCS works well … very well.
This championship game is remarkably popular. ESPN expects tremendous ratings tonight.
What works in basketball works in basketball - and there is no good reason to make college football a carbon copy of college basketball, just like there is no good reason to make college baseball a carbon copy of basketball. Each sport is unique and their differences should be enjoyed, not vilified.
I think that's why the people who matter most -- the student-athletes -- support the current BCS system. According to a poll taken by ESPN The Magazine, 70 percent of college football players at the BCS level support the current post-season bowl arrangement to an FCS-style playoff.
Over the next few months, the commissioners and presidents will meet to decide what changes, if any, to make to the BCS structure, beginning with the 2014 season. It will be a deliberative process and a thoughtful one. The commissioners have been talking with folks on their campuses to hear various opinions and then our charge will be to keep what we have, tweak it, or perhaps make some bigger changes.
Nothing will be decided until this spring at the earliest, but please keep this in mind. Before the BCS, there was confusion. The commissioners created a national championship game, enhanced the regular season and preserved America's bowl tradition. The BCS made order out of chaos and, in the process, college football has become a national treasure with tens of millions of fans in all 50 states. College football attendance and television ratings have skyrocketed since the BCS was created.
Obviously, the next six to eight months will be extremely important, and the commissioners are dedicated to making the BCS the best it can be. I don't know what the outcome will be, but I know it will be focused on doing what's best for the student-athletes, enhancing the marvelous regular season, and preserving the bowl tradition and experience.
I'm proud of the BCS and proud of what it has done. I'm proud of what we do every day for student-athletes.