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Bad job, everybody

Left out of a New Year’s Six game and leapfrogged by Northwestern, Indiana is reportedly headed to play Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl

NCAA Football: Indiana at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In a sad, sterile hotel conference room at the Gaylord Texan Resort, otherwise known as the cradle of corruption, the College Football Playoff selection committee made it official on Sunday.

Indiana will not get a New Year’s Six berth this postseason.

Instead, the Hoosiers are reportedly headed to face Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl, a very good bowl — one of the best bowls to ever send an invitation to Bloomington. And yet, it still feels like an opportunity to play for something even bigger and better, an opportunity that was deserved, was taken away.

By the committee and by the Big Ten.

Indiana’s resume was deserving of more than the platter of shit sandwiches the Hoosiers were fed the last two weeks, a span that saw them booted from the Big Ten title game on an 11th-hour rule change, overtaken by a lower-ranked Northwestern program in the bowl hierarchy, and left without help from a league that should have been propping them up all along.

If you need a refresh, just know that IU enters bowl season with:

  • Three top-25 wins, including one at Camp Randall Stadium against the team that CFP chairman Gary Barta and his crew deemed the No. 16 team nationally earlier that week
  • Only one loss — a seven-point road defeat to the No. 3 team in the country
  • Placement at No. 7 in the Associated Press Top 25
  • A slot at No. 8 in the Amway Coaches Poll
  • The No. 5 strength of record nationally

But the committee is what it is, the goodest of college football’s good ol’ boys operating within a stupid, indecipherable, indefensible system of their own making without any oversight or accountability. It is unrepentant cronyism, Football Guys looking out for Football Guys — don’t think for a second that if programs like Penn State, Wisconsin or Michigan State had IU’s resume, they would be snubbed in favor of three-loss Iowa State. Wouldn’t happen!

That Barta took to ESPN to tout Iowa State’s quality wins, while yet again ignoring the three losses, is laughable. But the committee has made clear — well, as clear as this committee can actually make anything — that it didn’t care about losses. Only wins. And the Big Ten didn’t have enough of them, Ohio State excluded.

It’s maddening to try to square all of this, because all of this is unsquareable. The Ohio State game was the only blemish on Indiana’s resume, and for the past month, that game was used to bolster the Buckeyes’ body of work. At the same time, IU received no acknowledgment for doing its part in a game that saw the Hoosiers driving for a chance to tie or win in the final moments. On Sunday, Ohio State climbed to No. 3 in the playoff. Indiana, meanwhile, was left with a postseason matchup against a Southeastern Conference team with a losing record.

The Big Ten, though, similarly deserves your ire — arguably more so than the Barta Boys. Conference commissioner Kevin Warren has fumbled the fall season from start to finish, serving up a case study in incompetent leadership. That he couldn’t design a way to get two league teams onto the New Year’s Six slate is malpractice. That he allowed the third-best team to springboard the second-best team for the next best bowl opportunity outside of the New Year’s Six is a dereliction of duty. Especially after Indiana’s athletic department took the high road following the Big Ten title game debacle, a mess that Warren and his contemporaries created on their own. Make no mistake here, conferences make the calls on bowl assignments, and the Big Ten once again — in the span of two weeks — did Indiana dirty.

Northwestern is ranked eight spots lower than IU in the AP poll, five spots lower in the coaches poll, posted only one ranked win (Wisconsin), lost to a team (Michigan State) that IU shut out, and fell by 12 points to Ohio State on a neutral field. If you’re Indiana, you can understand getting screwed by the CFP. But when it’s your own conference, questions need to be asked.

Maybe Warren will come around to answering them, sitting in his home office in front of his Wall of Kevin — you know the wall, the one that is luxuriously appointed with all the awards and framed newspaper clippings that affirm to him every day that he is a smart, important and competent man.

Warren’s Big Ten should’ve been better about this, and other things of course. Because with Indiana, all of this is arbitrary and unfair. And nobody likes arbitrary unfairness, especially from the self-certified moral leaders of college athletics — the folks who should’ve been lifting up Indiana all along.