College Football 2012: Fixing the BCS and Instituting a Playoff
There haven’t been any changes to the BCS formula since 2004, yet it seems like at least every other year there is a controversy that threatens to shake the already cracked foundations of the BCS. And now, we have meetings going on, with conference commissioners and bowl reps playing footsies with each other in the media.
Changes are coming, and it could be in the form of some semblance of a "playoff."
We don't even have to look to far in the past to look at how the BCS only goes so far towards what every American football fan really wants—settling things on the field. Yes 'Bama you got yourself a national title—congrats on that.
The reality, though, is that a team that didn't even win its own division within its league, got to play for all the sugar in the Big Easy in a rematch that it lost in the first place. Yup, it's a case of computer calculations gone rogue almost every year as teams get snubbed by R2D2 and Wall-E instead of being rewarded with a shot outside of the Matrix.
So let's fix this mess right while we are tinkering underneath the hood, shall we? Here is a look at some changes—under the current format that need to occur—yesterday, and a look at how it would have looked if implemented this past year.
Read on Bill Hancock, Jim Delany and Mike Slive...
Change No. 1: Teams Must Win Their League to Be Eligible for the BCS Championship Game
Yes, this is the most glaring, and quite honestly, this should have been instituted long ago when Nebraska got to the BCS Championship in 2001.
It’s easy to look at how teams play on the field and think you absolutely know which teams are the best, but we can use 2006 as an example. The media fully believed that Michigan and Ohio State were the two best teams but voters revolted and Florida got in.
We know the ending to the story as Florida threw OSU’s carcass into a cactus in the desert. It’s just impossible to know for certain if the second best team in a conference is better than the best team in another conference, and that principle should be settled on the field, not by a vote.
And before you make the argument that Alabama threw that little principle into the garbage can this year, tell me with all certainty that Oklahoma State or Stanford couldn't have gone toe-to-toe with the champ of the SEC.
If teams from the same conference finish ranked No. 1 and No. 2, the selection process should go to the highest ranked conference champion, not a team that doesn't even get a trophy for participation in its own league.
You'd obviously have to account for an independent in the model, but it would be easy to simply state that an independent, if ranked in the right spot, would get in.
Change No. 2: A Rematch Shall not Occur in any of the BCS Bowl Games
This subtle little change needs put in to take care of the off chance that earlier non-conference opponents finish as the top two rated teams at the end of the year to avoid any rematch from earlier in the year.
It would also keep those dreaded re-matches in other BCS games. Sequels need not apply in any game—let alone a national title game. It didn't work with Hangover 2 on the silver-screen, and it doesn't work in football either.
Change No. 3: Do Away With the Automatic Qualifiers and Conference Tie-ins
Let’s call this the Big East rule. There is absolutely no reason why a conference champion should get an automatic spot in the BCS if it's not deserving. The Big East is seemingly the poster child for why this is all wrong.
This year, West Virginia—barely even ranked in the Top 25 got to snake its way into a big-money bowl. Never mind how well it did in the Orange Bowl, it didn't deserve to be there in the first place if you're taking into account the body of work.
And it's not the first time, as the same played out in 2010, and in 2008—Cincinnati was the Big East champ at No. 17. Still, the 'Cats were told to pack their bags because the price was right—or at least written in the contract.
Quite simply put: If your league is not good enough to have a team that is in the upper echelon of the sport, then a spot should be opened up for a conference, and a team that is deserving.
Change No. 4: Utilize the BCS Rankings for all BCS Bowls
Here’s a novel idea: How about utilizing all of the BCS rankings and not just the top two for the entire population of BCS games. After all, what are they there for?
We can fix most of all of the issues with bowls picking teams based on its ability to sell tickets, and the injustice of how deserving it is by simply using the BCS rankings that are already in place. Right now, there are simply more asterisks involved in the selection process of the BCS bowls than a credit card terms and condition notice—and that needs to change.
Why don’t we save some ink and confusion and just go with the rankings from one to 10. If a team finishes in the Top 10, it’s in—period. Forget about tradition. That went out the window with sponsorships and the whole inspector gadget BCS formula in 1998.
Forget about “relationships” and handshakes. Forget about prestige and a traveling fan base. Just do the right thing and reward teams that have put themselves in position to go to a BCS bowl because of earning it as reward (do you sense a common them here?).
Change No. 5: Rotate the BCS Bowls
Remember—throw out tradition (I’m looking at you Rose Bowl). There's actually something to like about Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany opening his mouth recently. Playing the first round of semifinals at home sites makes a lot of sense but let be honest—it's never going there.
So, to stop the insanity of the good ‘ole boy network and relationships, let’s rotate the BCS bowls based on ranking just like the BCS National Championship game is rotated.
One year, Nos. 3 vs. 4 play in the Rose. The next year it’s Nos. 5 vs. 6 in the Rose, with the same rotation of rankings happening with the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar on a yearly basis. You’d get more first time matchups and more inter-sectional types of games than what you do today.
Each bowl would still get the national championship game, and that bowl would also play host to the less desirable 9 vs. 10 matchup for fairness. It would again be predicated on utilizing the Top 10 of the BCS rankings and give fans more opportunities to see their team in different venues and enhance the experience.
Above all It would keep things fresh and accountable—and fair.
How It All Would Have Gone Down this Year
So for fun, let’s take a look at how all of these changes would of altered the landscape of the BCS Bowls this year. We’ll get the big one out of the way first and go from there on a mock rotation:
Allstate BCS National Championship Game No. 1 LSU vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State; New Orleans.
—Alabama would be ineligible for the title since it did not win its own conference.
With the new rules in place, Oklahoma State would be the next available conference champion and would take on the Tigers. People outside of Tuscaloosa could stop wringing their hands and we all would have gotten to see a fresh matchup—one that was not a repeat of Alabama's epic failure in game one.
Discover Orange Bowl No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 4 Stanford; Miami Gardens, Fla.
Alabama slides down to the Orange Bowl for an intriguing match-up that probably wouldn’t happen otherwise against Stanford. It would be the battle of two Heisman contenders and showcase the defense of ‘Bama vs. the offense of Andrew Luck and the Cardinal.
Tostitos Fiesta No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 6 Arkansas; Glendale, Ariz.
Two teams that deserve to be rewarded get a chance to invade a locale that its fans could get excited about. The SEC gets another of its conference brethren, and the Ducks get to travel down to the desert to take on an opponent from the best conference. It would be a shoot out and offensive showcase with the first team to 70 points winning.
The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio No. 7 Boise State vs. No. 8 Kansas State; Pasedena, Calif.
This would be far from traditional and probably less than ideal for the entrenched leadership of the Rose Bowl, but we are going for fairness here (remember the rotation in years to come).
Both teams and its fans would love to invade Southern California and play in the “Grandaddy of them all.” This is again—another match up that would NEVER be put together if money were the motivation.
Allstate Sugar Bowl No. 9 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Wisconsin; New Orleans
The Sugar Bowl would host the 9 vs. 10 BCS matchup since it has the opportunity to host the national title.
The Badgers and its traveling fan base would get the opportunity to go to the Big Easy against the fourth SEC team to crash the BCS party in the South Carolina Gamecocks. It’d be another Big Ten vs. SEC showdown for bragging rights.
Some quick thoughts
- Every team in the Top 10gets in. No glaring snubs, no favoritism other than the rankings themselves.
- The SEC would get four teams. While this seems unfair, it is the state of the game right now until someone can de-thrown the king. The top ten is the top ten with no disclaimer, mulligans, or fine-print clauses.
- The Big East and ACC get shut out. Shouldn’t they? Both conferences lacked the firepower and body of work to be in the and Top 10. They would only have themselves to blame for not taking care of business on the field.
- Boise State would get in, and rightfully so. The Broncos blew one game, but by finishing as the No. 7 team in the BCS standings, they should be rewarded. End of discussion.
It’s highly unlikely that all of these changes will take merit because of the almighty dollar, but stating that the fairness of the current system is lacking would be an understatement. At the end of the day, college football is still what we all live for, and there is more to like than not.
Still, if rewarding teams is what we are going for, and the BCS is going to survive the nuclear holocaust of public opinion, then at least some things need to change out of the conversations happening now.
Let's just hope the power-brokers talking don't stop short of heavenly football bliss and put us all in college football purgatory yet again.
You can follow Phil Harrison on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
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