Once upon a time, the last day of the college football season was also the very best. On one day, the average fan could watch all the best teams in the country play in a handful of games, lead by the five major bowls of the past, the Rose, the Sugar, the Cotton, the Orange, and the upstart Fiesta.
There was no better day in sports.
In a typical year, say in the 1988 season, the Fiesta Bowl matched up two independent teams, No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 3 West Virginia, the Rose Bowl had Big Ten champ No. 11 Michigan vs. Pac-10 champ No. 5 USC, the Orange hosted No. 2 Miami vs. Big 8 champ No. 6 Nebraska, the Sugar Bowl had SEC champ No. 7 Auburn against No. 4 Florida State, and the Cotton hosted SWC champ No. 8 Arkansas against No. 9 UCLA.
Also on January 2nd (New Year's Day fell on a Sunday in 1989) was the Florida Citrus Bowl (with No. 10 Oklahoma vs. ACC Champ No. 13 Clemson) and the Hall of Fame Bowl with No. 17 Syracuse and No. 16 LSU).
As such, 14 of the top 17 teams in the nation played on one day. No one told us which game was for the national title. The only two undefeated teams met in the Fiesta Bowl, while all the one-loss teams had a shot at the title if the Irish had lost. As such, four games had a direct role in determining the mythical national champion.
Of course, instead of 35 bowl games, there were only 17, so there were only 10 bowl games before the final day of the season. And these bowls were not full of six-win teams with only five wins over FBS schools as we find today.
With the BCS, we now have 13 bowl games after New Year's Eve. On New Year's Day we still have six bowl games, including the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, as well as Cap One Bowl (the Florida Citrus Bowl), the Gator Bowl (which traditionally happened on New Year's Eve), and a game in the Cotton Bowl, but which is not the Cotton Bowl game and a poor substitute called the TicketCity Bowl.
Other post-New Year's Eve bowls include the GoDaddy Bowl, the BBVA Compass Bowl, and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, none of which bring memories of great January bowl games of yesteryear.
Imagine for a moment that the BCS died and a playoff was not introduced. While this is not my preferred post-BCS world, it has some very appealing aspects.
Of course, some of the traditional bowl tie-ins are gone due to conference changes and other factors, but we can roughly approximate the games.
Rose: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Sugar: Auburn vs. Ohio State
Orange: Oklahoma vs.Virginia Tech
Cotton: TCU vs. Arkansas
Fiesta: Stanford vs. Boise State
While we would have the three undefeated teams going to different bowl games, we would also have the potential for a lot of drama.
If the three undefeated teams went down, the Big Ten would likely end up with the top two teams in the country (or even three if Michigan State also won its bowl game).
And while we would still have a chance for a split mythical national championship, it would make New Year's Day the most important day in college football once again and family and friends could once again have a glorious day full of football, a day for debate and argument and where fans could make up their own minds which team deserved the title of mythical national champion.
Instead, we are told that the winner of the Auburn-Oregon game will be BCS champion, even if Oregon only played one team with a pulse all season and even if only teams to beat the Big Three of the Big Ten are other Big Ten teams.
Do we really have anything other than this messed-up BCS system, this beauty pageant, to really justify that Auburn and Oregon are better than Ohio State and Wisconsin, let alone TCU.
Auburn may have played one of the best schedules among these teams, but Auburn also struggled and had to come from behind in most of its games. Oregon also struggled in many of its games and could only pull out victories in the second half, even over weak teams like Tennessee and Arizona State.
The death of the BCS, even if we did not get a playoff system, would be better than the fraudulent national championship system we have today. It not only has excluded non-AQ teams such as TCU from having a shot at the title, but also punished the champions of the Big Ten and Big 12.
So, I would rather have a bunch of meaningful games on New Year's Day than be told that only these two teams are worthy to be called champions. And while the BCS provided us with four good match-ups this year, so what? It destroyed the drama and excitement (and TV ratings) of what was a beautiful day.