COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Even if TCU and Boise State run the table, they still don't deserve to be in the Bowl Championship Series title game, Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee said Wednesday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the president at the university with the largest athletic program in the country said that TCU and Boise State do not face a difficult enough schedule to play in the national championship game.
"Well, I don't know enough about the X's and O's of college football," said Gee, formerly the president at West Virginia, Colorado, Brown and Vanderbilt universities. "I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it's like murderer's row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day.
"So I think until a university runs through that gantlet that there's some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to [be] in the big ballgame."
Boise State president Bob Kustra, in an interview with the Idaho Statesman, returned fire.
"The BCS has finally found someone to stand up and defend the indefensible and Gordon Gee proved it -- he not just proved that it's indefensible but he did so with facts that are simply wrong," Kustra told the newspaper.
Boise State has beaten one team in the current top 25 of the BCS standings, beating No. 16 Virginia Tech. Ohio State has played two top-25 BCS teams -- losing to No. 7 Wisconsin but beating No. 24 Iowa. TCU has beaten No. 20 Utah.
According to Jeff Sagarin's strength of schedule ratings in USA Today, Ohio State has the 59th-ranked schedule in the country, while TCU is No. 68 and Boise State is No. 73.
"Everyone in intercollegiate football knows that athletic directors of those large power conferences are scheduling more and more teams who are I-AA, who are teams at the weaker end of the [non-automatic qualifying] conferences, and for Gee to stand up and talk about murderer's row every week is just the height of folly," Kustra told the Statesman. "It's ridiculous. I think he's going to set off a firestorm he probably has no interest in creating. To say that he overstated his case is an understatement."
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte told Galloway & Company on ESPN 103.3 FM in Dallas: "To start throwing stones at your house, they must be jealous ... [when] someone starts taking shots at TCU, that means we've arrived."
Del Conte also took issue with Ohio State's nonconference schedule, which this year included Marshall from Conference USA along with Ohio and Eastern Michigan from the Mid-American Conference. The Buckeyes also played Miami, which was ranked No. 12 at the time.
"I had no idea they were going out and testing themselves week in and week out," he said.
Kustra said it was hypocritical of Ohio State and all of the major BCS conferences to demean teams like Boise State. He said most of those conferences refuse to schedule his school.
"It's easy for the presidents to talk, but ask the ADs when's the last time that they seriously entertained taking requests or inviting Boise State to [play them]," Kustra told the AP. "If you're Boise State or TCU, they're going to want to steer way clear of you."
He said he had phone records that would prove that Boise State had tried to schedule home-and-home games with Top 25 teams from the BCS conferences, but that they would not play the Broncos anywhere but at their home stadium.
Del Conte said his team would happily play Ohio State.
"Anytime. Anyplace. Anywhere," he said. "Buckeyes against the Horned Frogs. Tee it up. Let's go."
Gee, long an admirer of the BCS and the current bowl system, told the AP he was against a playoff in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"If you put a gun to my head and said, 'What are you going to do about a playoff system [if] the BCS system as it now exists goes away?' I would vote immediately to go back to the bowl system," he said.
He said the current system is better for the student-athletes.
"It's not about this incessant drive to have a national championship because I think that's a slippery slope to professionalism," he said. "I'm a fan of the bowl system and I think that by and large it's worked very, very well."
He cited Ohio State's presence in the 2007 national title game as an example.
The Buckeyes won their first 10 games that season to rise to No. 1 before losing 26-21 at home to unranked Illinois. They fell all the way to No. 8 in the BCS standings.
A series of upsets over the final weeks of the regular season and in other teams' conference championship games led to the Buckeyes climbing all the way back to the No. 1 spot in the final BCS standings. They were matched against an LSU team with two losses.
Ohio State led 10-0 early only to have LSU come back and score the next 31 points in a 38-24 victory at the Louisiana Superdome.
"You know, it's a mystery," Gee said. "We were No. 1, then No. 11, then No. 7 and we ended up playing for the national championship. I think I kind of like that mixed-up mystery."
Kustra had a different take.
"We probably need to sit down and think about a playoff system," he told the Statesman. "The only outliers are the presidents of the schools in the large conferences ... They're like puppets on a string for their conference commissioners. Once they are brought out into the open for their inaccuracies and falsehoods in their thinking, in Gee's case, the sooner I think the system falls on its own."
While he was at Vanderbilt, Gee abolished the athletic department since it was underwritten by the university's general fund anyway. He said he has no problem with an Ohio State program that fields 36 intercollegiate varsity teams and has an annual budget exceeding $120 million.
"Here, athletics pays for itself and also pays for academic programs at the institution," he said. "The other thing, of course, that I take a look at and see how well we are doing in terms of that notion of balance, which is what I was all about at Vanderbilt, which I am all about here."
He said Ohio State's eighth-ranked football team, which plays rival Michigan on Saturday, is in the top 10 in the nation not only on the field but also in terms of academic progress.
"That's the kind of balance I want to have," he said.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.