BCS Enters Ash Heap of History: College Football Might Miss It

Samuel ChiCollege Football Playoff GuruDecember 11, 2013

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For all intents and purposes, the BCS era is over. There is still the championship game and so-called BCS bowls to be played, but as a mechanism to set up postseason play, it's already a museum piece.

The BCS will be missed.

For all its flaws, the BCS' biggest contribution to college football is that it made the sport national. After the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Rose Bowl grudgingly signed on in 1998, the attraction of No. 1 vs. No. 2 forced fans (and the media) to care about games outside of their own region. For powerhouse programs, it was no longer good enough just to win the conference championship.

Of course, the BCS had its problems and underwent constant tinkering that bordered on "making up stuff as we go" at times. It still gave us a split national championship (in 2003), a highly questionable title-game rematch (in 2011) and a few bogus bowl pairings. But overall, the BCS did its job probably better than could have been expected 16 years ago.

As someone who's followed the BCS from its inception and actively blogged about it since 2006, I have plenty to say about the good, bad and ugly of the era. In fact, I'll be writing a series that covers each of the BCS' 16 seasons, with retrospectives and how things might have worked out had there been a four-team playoff.

And as a tease, here is my view on the best and worst things of the BCS era.

What was good:

1. USC-Texas 2006 Rose Bowl: This still might go down as the greatest college football game ever, with Vince Young and the Longhorns ending the USC dynasty 19 seconds short of its destiny. It had star power and was played at the most perfect setting in all of college football. The game's TV rating of 21.7 is still four points higher than the next-closest game and probably will never be surpassed. There was no need to have Nos. 3 and 4 (Penn State and Ohio State) to muck up the proceedings, as the one game was all we needed. 


2. The rise of "mid-majors": The BCS was originally designed to match the top two teams, but the creation of the "BCS bowls" necessitated a move to allow non-power-conference teams greater access to these marquee games. Thanks to spectacular wins by Boise State, TCU and Utah, we were treated to some of college football's most memorable upsets. And the Utes, Horned Frogs and Chris Petersen have parlayed those successes and gotten themselves into the major conferences.


3. Transparency of BCS standings: I won't brag (too much), but I had gotten very good at projecting the standings—as they were no great mystery. The latest formula, adopted in 2004, was simple enough, and the rule that forced every voter to reveal his final ballot made things fairly predictable. There was not the kind of suspense that surely will surround the selection committee's final decision as we move into the College Football Playoff era.

Most Watched Title Games in BCS Era
SeasonGameScoreTV Rating
2005Rose BowlTexas 41, USC 3821.7
2000Orange BowlOklahoma 13, Florida St. 217.8
1999Sugar BowlFlorida St. 46, Va. Tech 2917.5
2006BCS ChampionshipFlorida 41, Ohio St. 1417.4
1998Fiesta BowlTennessee 23, Florida St. 1617.2
2002Fiesta BowlOhio St. 31, Miami 24 (2OT)17.2
2009BCS ChampionshipAlabama 37, Texas 2117.2
2011BCS ChampionshipAlabama 21, LSU 016.2
2008BCS ChampionshipFlorida 24, Oklahoma 1415.8
2010BCS ChampionshipAuburn 22, Oregon 1915.3


What was bad:

1. Neutral computers: For every action, there's usually an overreaction. That happened in 2001 after the BCS forced the computers to remove margin of victory as a component. The inclusion of Nebraska in the 2001 title game and the 2003 split national titles were both direct results of it. The edict also sometimes made computer rankings a source of derision, as Jeff Sagarin had Northern Illinois as high as No. 2 this November in his BCS version of the rankings when the Huskies never moved into the Top 30 in his more reliable ratings. 


2. Ignorant voters: The change in the BCS formula following the 2003 split title bestowed too much clout in the hands of the voters, who basically ordained the title-game matchup in the BCS' final 10 seasons. The Coaches Poll, notoriously fraught with conflict of interest, and the retirement home-friendly Harris Poll were certainly undeserving of such responsibility. As a whole, this collection of 170-plus voters became the non-elected kings of college football, powerful yet unaccountable. And overall, they exhibited little ability to move past the groupthink usually espoused by the talking heads on ESPN (or CBS).


3. LSU-Alabama 2012 BCS Championship Game: The confluence of bad formula and bad decision gave us the biggest dud of a title game and an undeserving champion. That year's Bayou Tigers defeated five 10-win teams (three of which played in BCS games) and remain the only team in history that finished with a perfect 1.000 score in the final BCS standings. Yet they were forced to face an Alabama team they'd already beaten and that played a pedestrian schedule that didn't include a conference-title game. It must be counted among the BCS' biggest failures and something to avoid by the incoming committee.

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