Listen, I’m not a HUGE fan of the BCS. I don’t think it’s anything great, but for what it is said to do (put #1 and #2 according to an agreed upon formula) it works. What I’m also NOT a huge fan of is people ******** about the BCS, and how unfair it is. I’ve called myself in to defend the system college football gives us…again.
I. The History
The BCS was created because people were sick of the college season ending in a slew of bowl games featuring top ranked teams against opponents who were clearly outclassed and probably had no business being paired with the 1st or 2nd team in the country based solely on preexisting contracts with the bowls, right? Well that’s the argument the talking heads will give you (Money played a roll too). It created controversy (much like we have today) and led to several spilt national championships (you know, to try and force a playoff and all). It started as the Bowl Coalition, put together to try and get a 1-2 matchup every January. For the most part it worked, but that was because the Big Ten and Pac-10 had nothing to give in ’92-’93. The newly created Bowl Alliance in 1994 tried to get them on board by pairing together only elite games to build television revenue. Again, the Rose Bowl (and Big Ten/Pac-10) wanted nothing to do with it. With the split title in 1997, and the ungodly amount of money being thrown around, the Big Ten and Pac-10 finally turned and agreed to become part of the newly formed Bowl Championship Series. The group would later add the remaining five conferences, without the auto-bid, forming the BCS as we have it today.
II. The Agreement
The conferences have all signed on and agreed to be governed by the bylaws of the BCS. That includes all rules for participating in their games, the rules on how teams and conferences are to be paid, and the rules determining where they will play. Some might not like the decision, but they’ll gladly take in the millions of dollars their institutions make on the system without a second thought. One can argue that, in essence, that it is created and controlled by the larger voices (meaning the biggest, most powerful schools and conferences) in the sport. There is no denying it is. But you have to consider two things. One, even with a playoff or ANY other system, those larger voices will always be louder than any of the smaller voices. Two, they’re the reason money is being thrown at the BCS.
III. The Non-Auto Bids
The big argument for the Non-Automatic Qualifying schools is that those smaller schools don’t have a choice but to join in to this agreement. To that I would respond, I didn’t see the Mountain West or WAC complaining when they got almost $20 million for putting a school in the BCS lineup. The BCS has now included a small school every year since changing the rules, and even included two once. Have some been left out under the new system? Sure. Boise State might this year. However, it is a two way street. It was just last fall that a one loss Michigan State team was left out. As was Texas Tech in 2008. It happens at both levels.
Now a team has not been to the National Championship, but none have ever really put together the resume to get there. Had either Oregon or Auburn lost last year, TCU probably would have been the first. An argument could be made for Utah in 2008, but their strength of schedule was in the 70s according to Sagarin. Again, it’s about getting the top two. Not who was left out.
IV. The “Playoff”
Sure we’d all love a playoff, and it will happen eventually, but it’s going to take time. I don’t understand why people cannot wrap their brain around that. 40 years ago the National Champion was sometimes declared before the bowl games started, It wasn’t even 20 years ago that our National Championship was decided by the AP poll and the coaches poll. It was just 13 years ago that the Big Ten and Pac-10 agreed to the BCS model. It was just 6 years ago that we expanded the lineup and included a separate championship game. It’s progressing, and while it’s slow and frustrating for some, traditions are hard to change. And by implementing a playoff, you’re asking to change as system that has been in place since the 1800s. The slow creation of the BCS in the 90s was the first step. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that it is the last.
And even when we get that playoff, and include 8, 10, 16-whatever amount of teams, there will always be that one person, complaining about who was left out, because lets face it…it’s hard to pick 8, 10, or 16 from 120 schools.
V. The Positives
Lets take a look at the positives the BCS does give us.
The regular season games. I’m not one who touts this as the ultimate argument for the BCS. Most games will still be important for a playoff. Some won’t though. For example, this past Saturday, Oregon losing to USC probably wouldn’t have been close to earth shattering. With only Oregon State left, Oregon pretty much has locked down the Pac-12 North division. The Beavers have won three games all year and managed to lose to Sacramento State. Oklahoma’s loss to Baylor would have been met in the same light because Oklahoma State lost Friday. A two loss Oklahoma would still control their own destiny to win the Big 12, and go to whatever playoff. The game that would have mattered Saturday? Virginia and FSU…
Better Bowl Games for everyone. We wouldn’t have gotten last year’s Rose Bowl without the BCS. We wouldn’t have had Boise State’s Statue of Liberty. We wouldn’t have had Utah running through Alabama. The small schools would go back to their prior existence that lasted for 100 years before the BCS changed their bylaws 6 years ago. They would have been in small bowl games, with small payouts, playing mid-tier large conference opponents or high tier small conference opponents. From a big game standpoint. How awesome was the Ohio State – Texas game two years ago? The BCS at least opens up the selection process that formerly was pegged in.
I know most people hate the BCS. I know most people want a playoff. I know a playoff is possible. People need to understand what is highlighted above though. The BCS gets it right, because this is the system that all 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision have elected to participate in, and that is all that matters RIGHT NOW. Changes will come, but it won’t be this week, or next week. Can’t we enjoy the game for what it has to offer us under the current agreement? Don’t we all tune in on Saturdays because we enjoy the sport? It’s tiring to hear people complain constantly about something that, in the end, is often done with the sole purpose of arguing because they don’t like the system. NOT because they don’t like the two teams that were selected to play in the game. The BCS accomplishes what it set out to do. Pair the #1 and #2 team together in a bowl game for all the marbles. You want to debate who should be there? That’s fine. But don’t just go saying a playoff will solve that, or make it more right. When all is said and done we have a National Champion, put into the game by the agreed upon system, and by winning that game you can’t say, “they didn’t deserve it.”