Saturday, October 21, 2006

USC Bye Day: BCS Mashup

For the last year or so we’ve seen the creation of new fangled things called mashups, which are Web applications that seamlessly combine content from more than one source to create an integrated experience. Now, I’m certainly not a computer geek, so if this Wikipedia definition flies over your head, I’m down here with you. But suffice it to say that just like a lot of stuff out on our internets, some mashups are worthless, others are kinda cool, and a few are very useful, depending on your point of view.

One mashup that can be fun and relevant to college football fans is Map Game Day, which we found by way of the Wiz. The site uses Google maps to provide directions and photos to every Division 1A football stadium and some 1AA venues. But this week Map Game Day also posted a map that shows the location of all the BCS ranked schools.* The interesting thing about this is the different ways in which people interpret what they see.

According to the Wiz, who has one of the best college football blogs around, the dearth of schools on the western half of this BCS map refutes the existence of an east coast bias. He says:
This map … shows locations of the teams in the first Bowl Championship Series standings. The next time somebody talks to you about a bias toward West Coast teams, explain to them that there is no bias. The reality is that [the] power base in college football currently resides in the Eastern half of the country. …
Of course, we must respectfully disagree with the Wiz. Map Game Day does not illustrate a “power base” driven by performance on the field. To the contrary, the map shows us something we already know … that there are simply more Division 1A football schools in the eastern half of the country than there are in the west.

This is particularly obvious within the context of the BCS rankings, since only one of the six BCS conferences is in the western half of the U.S. Broken down by individual conference, the current BCS rankings are essentially even among the six groups, especially considering the “super-conference” format of the Big-12 and SEC, which have 12 teams each.

Pac-10: USC, Cal, Oregon
Big-10: Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa
Big-12: Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri
Big East: West Virginia, Louisville, Rutgers
ACC: Clemson, Georgia Tech, BC
SEC: Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU

Add the independents (Notre Dame) and non-BCS conference schools in the south (Tulsa/CUSA) and the west (Boise State/WAC) and it really can’t be any more balanced than that.

In other words, this BCS map doesn’t say anything about the relative performance of conferences or regions. Rather it only depicts a kind of Division IA football population distribution that is heavily unbalanced toward the east.

With more total schools for sports media to cover in the eastern half of the country, common sense says the west gets less attention. But by virtue of this distribution, any “power base” will always be in the eastern half of the country, which actually supports rather than disputes the existence of the east coast bias.

It is true that there is more (read better) Division IA football in the west than in the northeast. (Stop with the Rutgers thing, already.) But in the midwest (Big 10), southwest (Big 12), and southeast (SEC, and most of the ACC and Big East) there aren’t just more teams, but a regional culture stretching from Texas through Florida that makes football a significant priority … and thus a priority for media outlets, including those based in the northeast.

However, it’s not just football population distribution or regional culture that drive the east coast bias, because time zones have a significant impact, as well. We said this before, but we’ll restate it here. Sunday editions of "national" newspapers like the New York Times have for years neglected to fully cover west coast games because many of them end long after the paper’s deadline. Even real time media outlets find it difficult to spread the word nationally when some games in the west aren’t finished until just before the 1:00 a.m. eastern time SportsCenter.

By contrast, all of the teams in the five conferences in the eastern half of the U.S. (except Colorado) reside in the central and eastern time zones, which means the media center in New York is awake to cover them.

There are a few other elements that make up the axis of the east coast bias, including its cousin, the Domer Hype Machine. But, I digress …

This mashup up stuff is pretty good. The next time I need directions to a football stadium I’ve never been to, I will use Map Game Day. As for this BCS map, I don’t see much use for it, since it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. But again, as a USC Trojan that’s just the way I see it. The existence of the east coast bias, on the other hand … that’s just pure fact.

Fight On!

* It doesn’t look like Map Game Day is archiving each week’s map with static pages, so depending on when you read this post the map may have changed from it’s BCS Week 1 version.
east coast bias

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