Solution to BCS Debate: Add Playoff With Minimum Changes to Bowl Format

SECLiveNews.comContributor IMay 4, 2009

Here at SEC Live News we’ve come up with the perfect solution to the BCS problem. It rewards play on the field, gives eight teams a shot at the National Championship in a playoff format, and still keeps the bowl system intact to keep tradition and money flowing to as many teams as before.

Here’s how the system works:

The regular season plays out as normal, including the conference championship games. The last conference championship games are the first weekend in December, at which time the final regular season BCS rankings are released.

First round of playoffs:

At this time the top eight teams according to the BCS are entered into a playoff system for the national championship. According to the rankings the games are as follows (and had the system been in place last year these are the games we would have seen):

#1 Oklahoma vs #8 Penn State

#2 Florida vs #7 Texas Tech

#3 Texas vs #6 Utah

#4 Alabama vs #5 USC

These games are played the second weekend of December at the site of the higher ranked team. So for instance Florida would have played at home in The Swamp against Texas Tech.

This rewards the top four teams in the nation by giving them home field advantage, and makes the AD’s of those schools happy with the extra revenue. Sure, teams #5-8 have to play at a slight disadvantage on the road, but they won’t complain since they now get an actual shot at the National Championship.

And it’s not like home field edges don’t already exist in bowl games as they currently are played, even in the big BCS games. USC routinely plays in the Rose Bowl against teams that have to travel across the country. LSU played in the Sugar Bowl a couple years ago against Notre Dame. With our system, however, the home field edge is based off performance instead of bowl tie-ins or a committee selection process.

After the first round of the playoff is played the teams are reseeded if any upsets occur so the highest seed always plays the lowest remaining seed. So for instance, if Oklahoma, Florida, Utah, and USC won in the first round, in the second round No. 1 Oklahoma would play No. 6 Utah and No. 2 Florida would play No. 5 USC. This again is a reward for being the higher seed and makes the regular season that much more important as teams scrap and claw to get the highest seed as possible.

Second round of playoffs:

The second round of the playoffs, with four teams remaining in the national championship hunt, is played in a Final Four type atmosphere. The location would be a domed stadium and the would change each year. Some examples would be St. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit, etc. The games would be played two weeks after the first round game, which accomplishes a few things:

1) The players have ample time to study for and finish finals.

2) Coaches have time to prepare for the games, fans have time to make travel plans, and marketers have time to promote the games

3) With only a two week layoff, teams don’t get out of the football routine and mindset, which often occurs when a team finishes their season in late November/early December and don’t play again  until January.

Depending on scheduling preferences of the networks airing the games, the Final Four match-ups could be played both on Saturday as an afternoon game and a prime-time game, or you could have one game played Friday night in prime-time and one on Saturday. Just imagine the hype that would have come this year from a USC/Florida match-up in prime-time—a game many would rather have seen than Oklahoma/Florida.

National Championship

The winners of the Final Four will obviously play in the national championship game, which as currently played, will be held around January 8th. The sites for the game will stay the way they currently are: rotating between the Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. This minimizes the changes to the current system and keeps the locations of the four major bowls happy as they still are getting the revenue from the national championship game every four years.

Our system is better, however, because instead of solely being determined by the BCS rankings, the national championship is decided by teams on the field. No longer will you have a team like Auburn from 2004 who went undefeated but was denied the chance to play for a national championship.

As stated before, this system will also keep teams in game mode since the longest layoff they have from the end of the regular season is two weeks. Ohio State had to wait over 40 days to play in the Fiesta Bowl after their regular season-ending victory over Michigan! Bottom line is shorter layoffs equal better games, and better games equal higher TV ratings and more money.


The top 16 BCS teams are guaranteed at least $17 million each. Each of the eight teams in the first round of the playoffs get $17 mil. and each of the eight teams in the BCS bowls get $17 mil. For the playoff teams, however, as they advance they have a right to earn more money. The four semi-finals participants get $5 million each in addition to the $17 they already received. In the National Championship game, the winner gets $10 million and the loser gets $5 million.

So the winner of the National title game has the potential to make $32 million ($17 million first round, $5 million semi finals, $10 million national title winner.) The loser of the national title game has the potential to make $27 million. The losers in the semi-final round have the potential to take home $22 million. And the four teams that were eliminated in the first round go home with $17 million each. These first round payouts are equal to what the other teams will earn in the four remaining BCS Bowls—Fiesta, Rose, Sugar, Orange.

Bowl Games

We don’t want to cut out anything that already exists. Bowl games are great for the players, make money for the school, and no one wants to get rid of them. We just have a  different way to fill out the teams that are playing in each bowl.

By using the BCS rankings, bowl pairings would be rather simple. The four BCS bowls get match-ups of the teams ranked #9 through # 16 - #9 vs. #10, 11 vs. 12, 13 vs. 14, and 15 vs. 16. Using last year’s BCS rankings, those match-ups would have been #9 Boise State vs. #10 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, # 11 TCU vs. #12 Cincinnati in the Fiesta Bowl, #13 Oklahoma State vs. #14 Georgia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, and #15 Georgia vs. #16 BYU in the Orange Bowl. Each year the bowls rotate which bowl gets the higher ranked teams playing.

After that, using the BCS rankings already in place, match-ups are made for the rest of the bowl games. The bowl picking order is determined by the payout. The higher the payout, the higher ranked teams that are in your bowl game. If two bowls pay out the same amount of money, the bowl with the longer history gets the higher set of teams. If bowls want to move up in the order, they need to pay more. Simple as that. Some of the bowl game match-ups we would have seen this past year would have been:

-Capital One Bowl ($4.25 million per team): #17 Oregon vs. #18 Michigan State
-Outback Bowl ($3.2 million): #19 Virginia Tech vs. #20 Pittsburgh
-Cotton Bowl ($3 million): #21 Missouri vs. #22 Ball State
-Chick-fil-A Bowl ($3 million): #23 Northwestern vs. #24 Boston College

And so on…

Non-BCS teams

One of the big reasons we think this is the best system is that more teams are involved which means more schools making the money. If their teams play better than other teams and have winning records and are ranked by the BCS system, there is no reason that non-BCS schools should be held out of the big money games.

Currently 64 teams participate in 31 bowls and the national championship game. By adding the eight team playoff, our proposal means that 70 teams will participate, which is five more teams that qualify for the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

By last year's match-ups using this system, far more non-BCS schools would have qualified than ever before and they would have made money. Many teams would have been in better bowls than they were with higher payouts. It really opens the door for competition, hard work to lead to money for the best in the game.

We are also not using any new system to rank the teams. This uses the current BCS system which everyone follows, and even though there are complaints every year about the formula, it has not changed.

No system is gonna be perfect, so how does ours compare? Well here are the pros and cons:


  • Adds a playoff system where none of the top teams get left out and the teams get to decide the champion on the field
  • More revenue for more teams
  • Creates incentive for bowls to pay out more money—the more money they pay the better match-up they get
  • Bowls are more competitive—shorter layoff between games and more evenly matched teams
  • Keeps the BCS rankings intact so the whole system doesn’t need an entire overhaul—minimal change/maximum results
  • No bowls are eliminated


  • The system still uses a somewhat arbitrary ranking system in the BCS rankings. However, that problem is impossible to change and there will always be some debate about it.
  • The bowls don’t get to select the teams that they want and the conference tie-ins are eliminated. However, our system creates more fair match-ups and rewards on field performance. The conferences don’t have to worry about their teams not getting to a bowl, because as long as they go 6-6 they are all but guaranteed a spot, and the higher they are ranked the more money they get.
  • The BCS New Year’s games lose some luster. True to some extent, but every four years the BCS sites get the national championship and they still get quality games. This year big-name teams such as Ohio State, Georgia, and Oklahoma State would have been playing in the BCS bowl games, and great non-BCS schools like TCU and Boise State also get a crack at them. Anyway, how many times were there crappy BCS games because an undeserving Big East team or Notre Dame got added?
  • Loss of tradition. Sure the Rose Bowl will no longer be Big Ten vs Pac Ten, but this gives more teams a shot to play in this historic bowl. Who wouldn’t want to see a Notre Dame/Oklahoma match-up if those teams were ranked #9 and #10? Remember USC vs Illinois a couple years ago in the Rose Bowl? Illinois didn’t belong on the same field as USC, and that problem will be eliminated.

Now that we have come up with the perfect solution to the BCS playoff debate, tell us what you think. Leave a comment below if you are in favor or not. Let us know why. How would you change the current system? We really want to hear your ideas.

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