This post is related to something for which I am almost as passionate as I am about water-skiing: my raging, burning, seething, gnashing, grating hatred of the evil, evil, BCS. My wife and I collaberated on a manifesto concerning said plague on soceity, so here goes. Libby (my aforementioned wife)is also posting it on her blog, knit tidbits
So, it is with great despair that we discuss a topic for which we are passionate: the ridiculous BCS "System" . It is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous thing. Ever. Libby and I have a solution (that has also been proposed by others) - a NCAA Basketball play-off type system which would incorporate the bowls, even the playing the field, and allow the big sponsors (Allstate, Tostinos, etc) to still make their millions.
Why, you may ask, am I passionate about this? Well, Libby went to school at one of the little guys, a non-BCS Conference school with a fledgling Division I football team. You see, each of the six BCS conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Pac 10, and Big East) are guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS bowls. One automatic berth is given to the highest ranked champion of a non-BCS Conference IF (and only if) (1) it is ranked in the top 12 or (2) ranked in the top 16 and higher than one of the BCS Conference champions. This is crazy, right? So, with the Conference Champions of the top six conferences taking up 6 of the 10 spots there's little room for the rest.
My sophomore year, 1998, Libby's Greenies actually achieved the seemingly impossible, and went undefeated. (Insert your arguments about the lack of competiveness of Conference USA here.) Yet, despite their extraordinary season, the 1998 Green Wave was given no access to a major bowl game (and the national exposure that would come with it) or the National Championship. If you play your season, and you win out, then you should have equal opprtunity to play for all of the marbles. See Boise State last year or Hawaii this year. The current system relies on computers and polls, preseason rankings and "strength of schedule" to determine the top two teams. There is never a clear and undisputed National Champion. The year of Tulane's perfect season there was only one other undefeated team, University of Tennessee. Their opponent, Florida State, was beaten once in the regular season. Tennessee ended up winning the Mythical National Championship. And Tulane's Tommy Bowden, left for the greener pastures of Clemson where he would actually have the opportunity to play for a national championship under the current system. While recent "tweaks" to the BCS have marginally increased the odds of a Non-BCS school being included in a BCS bowl (Utah 2004, Boise State 2006, Hawai'i 2007), no non-BCS school has ever competed for the National Champoinship under the current system, even when being one of only 1 or 2 undefeated teams in the country. The current system practically assures that this will continue into perpetuity.
This year has been very competitive as far as college football games with lots of flipping around in the polls (for whatever that is worth), overtime games, and general parity among teams. No clear number 1 has emerged and clearly dominated its opponents. LSU suffered two losses by unranked opponents; Ohio State got beat by Illinois who even Iowa, having a rebuilding year, managed to beat. I'm somehow unsurprised that the coordinator of the BCS is also the head of the SEC, representing what I would call a significant conflict of interest. I mean even Tulane played with LSU for 3 quarters of a game. The score on the LSU/ Tulane game was farther apart than the actual game. A Number 1 or 2 team should have dominated Tulane this season.
The BCS System is, at best, a corrupt and ridiculous system. It is, at worst, completely anti-competitive and a violation of Anti-Trust laws. Why does it matter? Well, it matters because if you are a little guy in a non-BCS conference like Tulane, the only chance you have to capitalize on an extraordinary season is to get the exposure and monetary compensation (yes schools make money for playing in bowl games the teams that play in the BCS shared like $150+ million last year) that comes with playing in a BCS game - it's imperative for recruiting and sustainability. Yet, those schools do not have equal access to compete in those games.
My distate for the system boiled over in 2004 when my beloved Auburn Tigers were aced out of a shot at the Mythical National Championship, though undefeated, by USC and Oklahoma. That year, Auburn defeated a top-25 team in Tennessee to win the SEC championship, while Oklahoma beat un unranked Colorado Team in The Big 12 championship game. Clearly undermanned, USC trounced Oklahoma 55-19 in the B(silent C)S championship game. Auburn defeated a top-10 Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl 16-13. By the way, non-BCS Utah finished that season undefeated as well.
The problem is the system, and it is not the fault of the teams that were chosen. Schools, coaches, players, pundits, and fans should be outraged at the system as it now exists. I'm completely shocked by the mainstream football commentators who attempt to justify the system. It is inherently subjective and unfair. A play-off style system would alleviate controversy and name a single, undisputed national champion. I have never heard anyone make a convincing argument as to why there cannot be a play-off system and why the BCS System, as it currently exists, is satisfactory. The justifications for the Iraq war make more sense than those put forth about the BCS. That's a sad state of affairs. I.e., there is a better chance for the president to find Iraqi WMD under the couch in the oval office than ther is to find a pro-BCS argument that can hold up after even a half-assed attempt logical scrutiny.
If you look at other Division IA collegiate sports (Baseball and Basketball, for example), all teams are able to compete regardless of size and the classification of their conference. So a Tulane can make it to the Baseball World Series or the Final Four and play with the Tennessee's and the LSUs and the Ohio States.
One more thing, if you are going to try to argue about the "traditions" of the bowls, please spare me. The whole bowl system has gotten unbelievably ridiculous. I mean, do you remember with great nostalgia the the " Papajohns.com Bowl" or the "AutoZone Liberty Bowl" or the "Pacific Life Holiday Bowl" or the "New Mexico Bowl," which features, big surprise, the University of New Mexico, of old. We are just a season away from the Tampax Bowl. Seriously. Our all-time favorites: the Continental Tire Bowl and the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl
So here is what we suggest. Each of the 11 Division IA conferences will name a winner who will receive an automatic berth to the play-off for the National Championship. If you can't win your conference, then clearly you may not be the best team in the nation. If you aren't in a conference (I'm talking about you Notre Dame), then get over yourself and join up, or be at the mercy of the at-large selection process. No automatic bid for a single school based on record/rankings. There would be a few at-large berths to accomodate situations where a single conference is particularly competitive and to fill out the bracket. The Conference Champions and few at-large teams are then seeded and placed into a single elimination bracket culminating in a single National Championship Game. The semifinals, etc. can still be bowl games - The Fiesta Bowl Quarterfinal, etc. If corporate sponsors want to sponsor low-stakes, ridiculous bowl games ( i.e. the Tampax Bowl), then they can do so with the remaining teams. Bowl sponsors could still make their money, and fans/alumni would see more than one meaningful bowl game and several consolation games.
And now we bust some of the weak arguments that will be thrown against our plan:
As it exists now the, Schools with "traditions" i.e. major conference schools, are at an advantage to create a softer schedule (weak nonconference opponents), causing a glut of yawner blowouts throughout the course of a season. People say the regular season is like a playoff now. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong. It may indeed be like a playoff, but that is only for teams that are undefeated, so one loss means you are "eliminated." To quote ESPN's Lee Corso, "Not so fast." LSU lost twice this year. Twice-beaten (though they did not even win their division, much less their conference) Georgia was a possibility to play in the championship game until the very end, as was 2-loss Oklahoma. Ohio State lost to its only truly tough opponent (Illinois) and backed into the BCS championship by NOT PLAYING. And does anyone in Honolulu think the regular season is like a playoff? My guess is no. Where is the do or die in this scenario?
Currently, the regular season is like a playoff for a decreasing number of teams week-to-week, provided a perfect set of circumstances. In a 16 team playoff, the stakes would be raised for more teams throughout the course of the season. Teams that might have lost a shot at their conference champoinship would have everything to play for, as they still must seek an at-large berth. Instead of a decresing number of games with championship implications, as exists now, an increasing number of games would have playoff implications.
So there it is, our anti-BCS manifesto. Do I have any football fans among my readers who have an opinion on this?
Here is a link to a good article about a 16-team playoff system that allows ALL teams a fair chance to play for all the marbles.
The Wetzel Plan