The BCS Fails (Again): Why the System Needs Major Change

Sal CacciatoreContributor IIJanuary 10, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 10:   The Coaches' Trophy, awarded to head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide after defeating Louisiana State University Tigers in the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship Game during a press conference on January 10, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In the aftermath of what was frankly a dull BCS Championship game, Bowl Championship Series officials will meet today to discuss changes to the system, according to ESPN. If history is any indication, we should not hold our collective breath waiting for any major changes. After all, these officials insist that the “integrity” of the regular season be preserved. Remember, “every game matters”—just ask the 2004 Auburn Tigers or the 2009 Boise State Broncos. Still, at least in theory, a “plus-one” model—in essence a four-team tournament—will be on the docket.

With these possible changes in mind, it should be noted why they are so necessary. It is not just that the BCS has deprived us of a national tournament, which would be a fairer and more exciting alternative. This is important as well, but the main reason is that, when observing the situation with any objectivity, it is clear that the BCS has failed unequivocally throughout its history.

Consider the primary mission of the BCS: to match the nation's best teams in a single championship game. To be fair, it is a noble idea, considering the subjectivity of the first century of college football, in which polls would select their own champions, often leading to split championships that provided even less-definitive conclusions to seasons than there are today.

So with this in mind, the theory behind the BCS is a good one. In practice, however, the system has simply not worked. Since 1998, when the BCS was implemented, the system has selected its teams for the championship without notable controversy only twice, in 2002 and 2005. And perhaps fittingly, the championship battle in each of those years gave us two of the better games in college football history. In every other season, at least one team with a legitimate claim to be in the championship has been left out. A system with a 2-for-14 rate of "success" does not deserve to survive.


As for removing subjectivity and possibly splitting the championship, the BCS has failed greatly with regard to those things as well. In 2003, for example, the system actually enabled a split championship by leaving USC out of the national championship game despite being ranked No. 1 in both human polls. After its Rose Bowl victory, Southern Cal was voted as the AP champion, while the Coaches' Poll was obligated to name BCS champion LSU as its No. 1 team.

Even this season, there was speculation before and immediately after Monday's championship game over whether Oklahoma State or LSU deserved to be voted first in the AP Poll, regardless of the outcome of the championship game. Ultimately, Alabama was voted the national champion in both major polls, but the mere fact that this debate even took place highlights the flaws of the BCS.

A true championship should provide a definitive conclusion to the season. Granted, while the situations are not totally analogous, take the NFL. Is there a great national debate the Monday after the Super Bowl as to who the best team in pro football is? The answer is no. This is because the championship sorts itself out on the field, and not in computers or the minds of voters.

Until college football implements a playoff of some sort—how to structure this is a different debate for a different day—it runs the risk of leaving deserving teams out of the national title game, as has been the case in 12 of the first 14 BCS seasons. This in turn invites controversy, subjectivity, and general dissatisfaction over how the college football season ends. 

With any luck, the upcoming BCS meetings will yield positive results and represent the first steps in making the failings of the current system a thing of the past.