Long Live the BCS: Much to Fans' Chagrin

Peter RCorrespondent IOctober 23, 2008

The BCS Controversy appears to be a much-discussed topic. Comments on a couple of articles on the subject led to research for other articles on the topic. In the last month there have been around 20 articles on Bleacher Report (b/r) covering the topic from differing angles.


There are articles in which the author expresses the opinion that the BCS system is broken. This is the largest category. In this category there are two major divisions. One is pointing out problems with the system. The other includes suggestions to fix the system.


So far, only one recognizes the fact that the university presidents from BCS schools don't see any problem with the system. Comments on a few others address this fact.


In preparations for this article it became clear that one additional roadblock has risen to prevent a college football playoff.


Several years ago a couple of bowls obtained title sponsors. We had the IBM Fiesta Bowl and one or two others. The following year saw the FedEx Orange Bowl and many others. Now every bowl has a title sponsor. The money and facilities provided by the title sponsors fund most of the cost associated with staging a bowl event.


A playoff is a great solution to a problem that bowl sponsors, bowl organizers, and university presidents don't seem to perceive they have. If companies were lining up to sponsor the Mega Computer Company Sweet 16 Southwest Regional, we would already see that in other competitions such as college hoops and pro football. It appears that naming rights to a field is a higher priority.


While everyone slept, the problem became more difficult to solve. Because the current system injects so much money into an "amateur" sport, those benefiting from the current system don't want to consider change until they see a solution that increases their payout.


The current structure of the BCS has larger conferences dictating the system and keeping the payouts corralled for themselves as much as possible without completely denying any money to the mid-major and independent schools in up years.


It appears the only way to force a change in the short run to a serious playoff system would be to socialize it. If the roughly 120 I-A schools were to split the money so everyone got a piece of the money, then the BCS schools would be robbed of the power they granted themselves.


At that time the little guys could take the money that is generated by schools like Notre Dame, USC, and Texas. They could then share the wealth.


Because the sport and postseason play are so infused with advertising dollars, there may be no way short of socialization to change the system rapidly.


In the first category


Donald Fincher wrote "Are We About to Witness the Demise of the BCS?" in which he covers the angle of a one-conference championship and/or the voter collusion necessary to prevent it. He hypothesizes that it could be the final nail.


Joe Burgett wrote "BCS System, Fair or CR..?" Joe discusses the system and some flaws.


Christopher Williams, in his article "The broken BCS,” asks some tough questions about who is "better" than whom.


Top Five Things Wrong With the BCS Rankings” by Michael Inglis investigates what he feels are some anomalous results in the early BCS rankings.


Derek Horner writes about a concern that the BCS system is unfair. See “Broken and Tacitly Unfair: The BCS and Antitrust.” One almost gets the image that BCS schools are discriminating and using their power to keep outsiders down. Derek continues with an attempt to apply antitrust laws to a perceived oligopolistic cabal.


(My warning to those on this logic track: Be careful what you wish for. A busted NCAA might not be able to limit the number of scholarships allowed, thus the top programs will dominate by the law of hoarding all the talent.)


David Singleton wrote in his article, "Pigskin Punditry No. 11: Let The Fraudulent System Run Its Course First," "Let me make it abundantly clear that I am anti-BCS. I am a pro-playoff person." He continues to discourse on the BCS not really solving the national championship puzzle.


J. Michael Morris' humor piece "Does the BCS Need a Bailout After the Collapse of USC?" pokes fun at the mindset that drives university presidents to maintain the BCS system.


Aubrey Clark in "Haven't We Had Enough Of The BCS Yet?" starts from socializing the system perspective and works from that to how to force BCS schools to use capitalistic ideals of winner takes the spoils.


Break down this year


One of B/R's favorite authors, Lisa Horne, discusses the problems of the current system using this year's potential outcomes to highlight some of the weaknesses induced by it. Her article, “The Nightmare BCS Scenario That No One Wants Is Starting to Take Shape” uses some examples from the past to point out flaws in the current system.


Another great breakdown of the potential outcome for the current year was written by Daniel Malkin in “Who Will Play for the BCS Championship?” In it he does an excellent job of covering the Big 12, Alabama, USC, BYU, and Penn State. He finishes with his prediction of the BCS National Championship contenders.


Kyle Flanagan, in "To B(CS) or Not to B(CS): That Is the Question," spins the current situation from a BCS-busting conference's perspective. As a fan of Mountain West teams, he would like to see one from his conference teams playing the last college football game of this season.



What does the BCS group think?

Before we go too far, it is useful to note the position of the BCS itself. Anthony Marietti posted a link to "Officials: BCS too healthy to change." Here are some excerpts.


“...we have decided that because we feel at this time the BCS is in an unprecedented state of health, we feel it's never been healthier during its first decade, we have made a decision to move forward in the next cycle with the current format..."

“...the leaders of the Big East, Big 12, Pac-10 and Big Ten made it clear they did not want to move the BCS toward a playoff in any way.”

"There's a strong sense in that room of the slippery slope view that there's never been a collegiate or professional playoff that's stopped at four teams," Delany said.


As Anthony and several others have noted, as long as it is providing big bucks to their budgets, it is exactly what the budget doctor ordered.

Proposed Solutions


Several frustrated writers have proposed solutions to the "problem" posed by the latest fix for the BCS. 


Cody Dockens, in his article, “A Solution to the BCS: A Division One College Football Playoff,” gives a couple recent examples of problems not solved by the BCS system. He proposes using current bowls to institute a playoff system and even proposes cutting the regular season back down to 10 games to take the academic argument out of the equation.


Thomas Cogliano starts out, "The BCS system is very broken" in his article "Reforming the System: My Proposal for Postseason Division I College Football." He continues to provide evidence to support this thesis. Thomas's solution is for a specific larger format playoff.


A more authoritarian fix was proposed by Jeffrey McDaniel in his "A Modest Proposal For The BCS Playoff" article. He would like to force conferences and teams to conform to a set of rules to make their teams eligible for a small format playoff.


Another authoritarian solution was proposed in "You Can Have Your BCS and Eat It Too...“ by Frank Sanchez. He would like to force the conferences to adhere to scheduling and opponent list rules.


In a more realistic suggestion for what the money-hungry university presidents might accept, I put forth a proposal for a small format playoff in "What's Next After the BCS?" The problem is that they don’t want to inhabit the slippery slope proposed in this article.




Tweak the BCS


In a unique perspective, Gail Hall shares some ideas for tweaking the BCS in "How to Fix the BCS" rather than forcing college teams to rest starters after they have secured a playoff berth. She uses some recent examples to demonstrate her points.



A wise man once said, “Whatever the question, the answer is always money.” As long as an oligopoly of currently upper tier conferences are allowed to control the system, they will try to skew the results to ensure they capture most of the money.


Only when they see a system that will generate more money for them will they submit willingly to changes.


If a playoff format is proposed that pads the pockets of football programs, the various straw man arguments will be dropped. Examples of straw man arguments: “It is amateur athletics”; “We have to protect players”; “it would make football a two-semester sport.”


It appears the largest obstacle to a postseason playoff are the current advertising sponsorships tied to each bowl. So much money as been injected into each bowl game that each has its own constituency. It would be difficult to replicate the financial payout under a playoff system.