Maybe I got it wrong last week. Maybe it wasn't the old white guys who run the BCS who called up their grandkids and said, "How do we get on that MyFace? And what about that Tweetie?"
Maybe the disastrous foray by the BCS into social media was the work of its PR firm, Ari Fleischer Communications. Yes, that Ari Fleischer.
For those whose remotes skip CNN and Fox News and go straight to ESPN, Fleischer was President George W. Bush's press secretary from 2001 until July 2003. Fleischer has since hung out his own shingle. Unfortunately for him, he'll find the BCS a tougher sell than the war in Iraq.
If Fleischer's firm is behind this Facebook page and this Twitter feed, new BCS executive director Bill Hancock should call the bank and try to stop payment on Fleischer's check. The Facebook page immediately caught our attention last week at SI.com. It led with a terribly out-of-context quote from our own Stewart Mandel about the importance of the regular season (since removed). The Twitter feed was even more entertaining; within a few hours of the launch, people like myself and Yahoo! columnist Dan Wetzel had alerted our Twitter minions that the BCS had established a (semi) two-way communication channel.
The flames flew almost immediately. My favorite post came from Andrew MackNair of Burlington, Vt., who tweets under the Ben-and-Jerry-tastic handle "TheVermonster." "Look at the teeth come out for @InsideTheBCS," MackNair wrote. "Would @TheTaliban garner more vitriol? I doubt it."
Ad Age writers Jeremy Mullman and Ken Wheaton chimed in with a blog post that compared the BCS social media plan with Notre Dame's game plan for its two recent BCS bowl appearances. "If you know your product is universally loathed," they wrote, "Twitter is not the place for you.
While this is highly entertaining for us, it can't be fun for BCS leaders to read just how much the fans (consumers) hate their system. It also can't be fun for the intern in charge of deleting all the hatespeech from the Facebook page.
The BCS should stop wasting money on Fleischer's firm. For no charge, I can tell BCS leaders exactly what they need to do to endear themselves to the fans.
The BCS isn't like Target or Burger King. Those companies must use extensive market research to determine exactly what customers desire. Then they tweak their operations to deliver exactly what those customers want in the most profitable manner for the company. The BCS doesn't have to worry about that. It doesn't directly serve college football consumers. It serves university presidents and bowl officials, neither of whom need overwhelming approval from the consumer base.
Plus, the folks at the BCS should consider basic economics. Demand for college football is similar to the demand for milk. It's inelastic. No matter how people feel about the price or the administration, they'll keep consuming it in ever greater numbers.
In that way, the BCS is more like the neighborhood crack dealer. The customers don't like either one, but they always come back for more. The government hates both but can't eliminate either in a macro sense.
Make no mistake, this is all about the government. A lot of you laughed when I wrote in May that government pressure wouldn't fade away this time. It's not fading. That's why the BCS is trying to sway public opinion with the worst PR campaign since Fleischer's counterpart, Iraqi information minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, looked over his shoulder during a 2003 interview and said "What tanks?"
For BCS officials, government pressure shouldn't matter. They swear they've vetted their scheme thoroughly to ensure it doesn't violate the Sherman Antitrust Act, and the Sherman Act is the only effective tool the government has to force a change. If the BCS really is impervious to a challenge on antitrust grounds -- and all this nervous posturing suggests it isn't -- then BCS honchos don't need to explain squat.
Fans will continue to consume college football whether BCS leaders communicate with them or not. When BCS folks try to talk to the fans, they come off sounding like Lily Tomlin in the old Saturday Night Live phone company skit. That's something they should try to avoid.
Remember what the government did to the phone company?