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December 5, 2011

HURT: Don't expect Alabama to apologize

Anyone waiting on Nick Saban to wade into the BCS Championship debate is going to have a long wait.

"We are not going to apologize for being in the game," Saban said Sunday night after the University of Alabama's football banquet concluded. "Our players created this opportunity, and they deserve it. That's the system, and according to the system, we should be there."

Alabama will get its second chance.

It will play LSU in New Orleans on Jan. 9. Their inclusion will be controversial in some circles, just as their exclusion would have been controversial in others.

Those who want to debate the system going forward should do so. Perhaps other conferences will want to revisit the plus-one proposal that the SEC put forward (and the Big 12 rejected) three years ago. Perhaps there a other, better formats.

But once this season began, the rules were in place. No one at Alabama wrote the rules.

With the exception of Saban's vote in the coaches poll, no one at Alabama had any say-so in the process that put the Crimson Tide ahead of Oklahoma State and into the Jan. 9 championship game.

The polls included voters from all over the country. The computer programs weren't written in a lab at Bidgood Hall.

The result of the system was, by the rules agreed upon by all the universities involved, the correct one. Not the most popular one, perhaps, but the right one in terms of identifying the best two teams.

The debate will rage on, of course, but Saban and his team have no reason to engage it.

Their mission is not to explain why they are the No. 2 team. It is to find a way to beat an amazing LSU team and become the No. 1 team in the country.

That's what this game will settle, rematch or not.

It's curious that North Carolina and Duke can play twice in the regular basketball season, meet each other again in the ACC Tournament, then square off in the Final Four without the previous three meetings being hung around anyone's neck like an albatross. "But that's the system we have," basketball fans will say.

And it's a good system. But the BCS is the system we have in college football. Is it flawed? Perhaps. But it is what every team has agreed upon as the championship format.

It was a long day for Alabama, which had to have heard the disparagement from some quarters who did not, for whatever reason, want this match-up.

The fact is that Alabama had a great season and so did Oklahoma State.

The difference was narrow, and at times the level of discourse in the comparison wasn't elevated.

But the Alabama players who found out that they would get a second chance did it by winning as many games as any other contender, losing only to the No. 1 team and rebounding from that loss.

Did they benefit when other contenders faltered? Yes.

Does that somehow make them undeserving?

Not at all.

Cecil Hurt is the sports editor of The Tuscaloosa News. Reach him at cecil.hurt@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0225.

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