In Defense of the BCS: Why the System Works, and How to Find a Compromise

Reuben CohenContributor IJanuary 7, 2009

One of the largest current controversies in sports right now is college football's Bowl Championship Series system. As MLB's Roger Clemens scandal and the NFL's Spygate died down, the BCS debate has taken over the country, with "pundits" and "experts" taking sides in a gruesome war of words and ideas.

The already red-hot issue escalated further in October when President-elect Barack Obama advocated for a playoff system. I'd hate to go against the President-elect, but when it all comes down to it, the BCS is the best we can get.

While the National Championship game often turns out to be a dud, there is nothing to suggest that different teams should have been in it. Take the last two years. Is there anything to suggest that any other team would have done better than Ohio State against Florida and LSU, even though they got routed in both games? No.

Had there been a tournament in 2006, Ohio State would have beaten Michigan and USC and any other contenders just as soundly as they had in every game of their undefeated regular season.

This year is a good example as well, although you still can make cases for USC and Utah (pictured above after winning Allstate Sugar Bowl). Oklahoma dominated teams all year except for one misstep to Texas. Florida showed excellent poise in the quarterback position and across the team, coming back from a bad loss better than ever. Both teams had Heisman candidates, with Oklahoma's Sam Bradford eventually winning the award.

When the National Championship was first announced, many were concerned about Texas not getting a chance to play for the prestigious title. But now it seems that the selection committee got it right. Texas, selected to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, pretty much laid a goose egg against a previously struggling Ohio State team. The Longhorns only won by three points. I can only imagine how much worse they would do against Oklahoma or Florida.

I'm not going to make the arguments "with the BCS the entire season's a playoff" and "the kids have so much fun going to the bowls." You've heard those before. I am trying to show you that the BCS gets the games right, something that they have quite a good record with, actually.

While I have been a much stauncher defender of the BCS in the past, my faith in the system did waver slightly this year after I saw the team that I root for, USC, rout Penn State in the Rose Bowl and not get a chance to contend for the National Championship. This got me thinking about possible compromises between a bowl system and a playoff system.

I promised I wouldn't mention that the players enjoy the bowl experience, but it is widely accepted as fact now. So in my plans I incorporated that issue.

My rough plan includes an eight-team playoff in place of the major BCS bowls. When the tournament is concluded, there will be a first place game, a third place game, a fifth place game, and a seventh place game to determine the final order. These would be the BCS bowls, but they would serve as conclusions to the tournament.

This plan would include all minor bowls continuing as they do currently.

There are issues with that plan. The most notable one that I would be quick to point out is the same problem as we have now, with snubs. How could one choose eight teams to vie for a championship any better than one could choose two now? Originally, I advocated for a 16-game playoff, but this would only push more into a season already shortened by a four-round tournament.

There is no right answer to this question. Every possibility has its own advantages and its own flaws. But I believe that we need to keep some semblance of the BCS system in place, because that was what college football was built upon and, as they say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."