The Mess that is the BCS

Alright everyone, I’ve been chomping at the bit to write this ever since I saw that the BCS has created a website dedicated to documenting the problems with a playoff in college football. I found out about via the BCS Twitter feed. Both have been providing me with a daily source of entertainment since I found them.

First, I’ll mention an article that the BCS Twitter feed about how the BCS is going down the right path. It brings up the fact that there could be 5 undefeated teams at the end of the year and how it is nice that TCU, Boise State and Cincinnati are at least in the conversation of a national championship and how pre-BCS they never would have been. OK, I’ll grant the BCS that, but with a true playoff, not only would they be in the conversation for a championship, they’d be in a playoff that would determine one. The best quote from the article which really doesn’t help the BCS’ cause is this:

That simple truth hasn’t changed in the BCS which, for all its flaws, is largely a product of human whim.

For those unsure of the definition of whim, it is this (from an odd or capricious notion or desire; a sudden or freakish fancy. With that definition in mind, the article that BCS uses to stump its case brings up the fact that the team’s playing in the championship are decided by humans that really aren’t giving a ton of thought to the votes. I’ve heard many mentions in the press that coaches really don’t have time to fill out their polls in a meaningful way, they are busy figuring out how to win their next game. Press members really don’t have the time either. Between the conclusion of games on Saturday and Sunday afternoon when the polls are released they need to thoughtfully evaluate all of the games from the previous day while writing their various articles for the local paper they work for or whatever media outlet they work for. They don’t have the time.
Now back to their new website…
On the front page of they list off 7 questions with the intent being they’d dissuade you from wanting a playoff. I’ll go through those one by one now…
1) Who would participate?
I’ll just flat out say a 16-team playoff is necessary. Checking the college football schedule on I found that there are 12 football conferences. You can’t have a bracket that doesn’t have at least one spot for each conference champion. If winning your conference doesn’t allow you to play for the national championship, it just isn’t right.
2) How many automatic qualifiers?
I’d award each conference champion (however a conference decides it) and any undefeated team an automatic bid. If you want to open an extra at-large spot or two, you could put the caveat in that the conference champion would have to have 2 or fewer losses to earn an automatic bid. (I would personally lean to have the automatic berth require 2 or fewer losses). This would typically open another 2 or 3 spots (for example, this year, Conference USA, Sun Belt and possibly MAC conferences would not earn automatic bids because their champions have too many losses.) Each year there would typically be 4 to 7 at large berths.
3) What would would be the criteria to qualify?
I’ve already answered this question in my answer for how many automatic qualifiers. Look to my answer for the next question for filling the at-large berths.
4) What would be the criteria for seeding?
For the at-large berths and the seeding, I’d do what the NCAA does for their exciting basketball tournament. They sequester some people intimately involved in the sport (conference commissioners and athletic directors) to select teams for the at-large berths and seed them accordingly. They seem to do a good job for basketball.  I’d personally put a heavy preference on undefeated teams getting top seeds, followed by conference champions with at-large’s getting the last spots.
5) Where would the games be played?
In the first round of 8 games, I’d play them at the the higher seeds stadium. Give them a reward for a well down season. Second round games, I’d play them at a neutral stadium that can handle the demand of the two teams that is a fairly equal distant for traveling purposes for the teams/fans. Semi-final and championship could be played at traditional bowl locations.
6) When would they be played?
I’d play the first game the week after the regular season is done and then every two weeks thereafter. This would provide a break for finals at most universities between the 1st and 2nd round games and the 2 weeks between the 2nd round, semifinal and championship would provided adequate time for fans to arrange travel, etc. This would have games on the 2nd and 4th weekends of December and January. People may say this stretches it out too long, but that would only get really long for 2 schools and sort of long for 4 schools.
7) Would everyone be satisfied?
The BCS website says no, but I’d beg to difer. Maybe teams 17, 18 and 19 aren’t too happy about not getting in, but guess what, they probably have 2, 3, or 4 losses and if they have that many, should they really have a reason to complain. No. The way things are today, there could be 3 undefeated teams on Sunday that don’t get to play for the National Championship and I think they would have a lot more right to complain than team 17, 18 and 19.
Some other notes about how to get in and what nots…
  • No limits on how many teams from a single conference. If a conference has 2 undefeated teams, they’d both get in, one via the conference championship, one via going undefeated. (This could happen in the Big Ten for example.)
  • No special rules for any independent teams. They’d need to earn an at-large berth or go undefeated to get an automatic entry.
Finally, after digging deeper on the BCS website, they pose the question Why would a playoff diminish the regular season? Here is their answer:

Playoffs would weaken the regular season. It has happened in every other sport. Once a team has clinched a playoff berth, subsequent regular-season games often become meaningless. The interest of fans, sponsors, television viewers and others is redirected from the regular season into the playoff.

I take offense to their answer. The only way to clinch a berth is to win your conference. Many conferences have a championship game which is the last game of the year for those teams. They need to win it to get an automatic berth. If there is a maximum loss to keep the automatic bid, they’d also have reason to keep winning. I don’t thin this will water down the regular season.
When they talk about about watering down an experience, I think they’ve successfully watered down the bowl experience. They say 68 teams get to go to a bowl game. Yes, some bowl games are rich with tradition (Fiesta, Rose, Sugar, Orange, etc) that every year have a quality match up. Now there is the Little Ceaser’s Bowl. Yay, I’m the Little Ceaser’s Bowl Champion… we defeated a 7-5 team and got some free pizza. (no offense to Little Ceaser’s… I eat their pizza weekly.) I’d chalk that up as one of my great college experiences…. err, maybe not. Yeah, it would be fun. But playing for a true championship would be way more fun.
Finally, just because there is a playoff, doesn’t mean the bowls can’t go on. If 68 teams go to bowls today, why can’t 52 teams go to bowls while the others play in De-January Madness.
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2 thoughts on “The Mess that is the BCS

  1. I like your line of thinking with a 16-team playoff. I would not, however, put in a two or three loss maximum for automaic qulifiers. This, is, I presume, to prevent, however unlikely, an undeserving turd of a team to get into the playoff. I will give you that for the first four or five years of the playoff. However, you might be overlooking the possibility that an all-conferences-are-eligible bracket will even out (though not completely) the talent gap among the second-class (as they are treated currently) conferences. Simply put, teams can recruit better players if they can pitch a chance to play for all the marbles. I would even throw the BCS a bone or two by 1. letting them use some variant of their formula to pick the at-large teams. 2. playing the last 2 rounds at BCS bowl sites. Hell, it could be called the Tostitos national semifinal Fiesta Bowl. They can smear corporate logos all over the place as long as I get to see some MEANINGFUL post-season college football. By the way, I am an Auburn graduate, still bitter about ’04. Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown, and co. were much better than Oklahoma that year. My wife is a Tulane graduate. Remember ’98? Quick recap: top 10 ranking, and the only undefeated team in the country playing in the , wait for it, Liberty Bowl.


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