BCS Madness: How To Change the System and Get a Real National Champion

Andrew TongeAnalyst IINovember 29, 2008

One of the things that is great about college football is that every week, there are big games with national title implications, and it always stirs up more talk about how flawed the BCS system is.  

Most agree that we need a real playoff system to properly crown a national champion, but some insist that a playoff would marginalize some of the games and rivalries that mean so much now.

Others worry about the bowl games and commitments that go along with them that would be compromised as a result of a playoff as well. What we have now is the best and worst of both worlds. We are talking about the teams, the games, and the BCS rankings and how everything might play out every day, which is a good thing.

It does generate a lot of interest. On the other hand, we are also talking about how justice isn’t being done with the current system in place and everyone is clamoring for a better system. There is one major factor that will always affect getting a new system in place: money.

There are many commitments between conferences and bowl games that would be affected. Any time there is money involved, there will always be resistance to drastic change, and rightfully so. These games represent a major source of funding for these universities. 

That being said, I will present a solution to this BCS system that preserves the integrity of the conferences, and would result in a more clear cut national champion than we have now. 

One of the first things that would have to happen is that each major conference would have a four team playoff of their own to determine who would be the conference champion and qualify for a season ending eight team playoff.

For example, at the seasons conclusion, the SEC would rank the top four teams and they would play to determine who the conference champion is. Florida would play the fourth ranked team, Mississippi, and Alabama would play Georgia again. The winner of those games would play in the championship game. Both games would be at a neutral site.

This format would have benefited Georgia last year because they were playing their best ball at the end of the year but didn’t get a chance to compete for their conference title. Conferences that don’t have a title game would have to be realigned, but not in a way that would affect their regular season scheduling. 

The Big Ten would split their conference into two divisions, and maybe add another team, such as Navy, or Notre Dame,  and their four team playoff would come from that group. 

The Pac 10, and the WAC are on the same side of the country, so it would be a natural fit for those two conferences to play a four team playoff featuring the top two teams from each conference.  This year that would have been Oregon State, USC, Boise State, and Oregon.

The Big East and Sun Belt conferences would square off at season’s end, and the Mountain West and Independents would combine and split into two groups. Keep in mind that this alignment is only to determine who qualifies for the final playoff. These wouldn’t be permanent conference groupings.

Each division would have to be represented by one team. For example, the WAC and Pac 10 playoff would be between Oregon State, USC, and Oregon (Pac 10) and Boise State (WAC).

The three teams from the Pac 10 have better records and are ranked higher than the rest of the teams in the WAC except for Boise State. The only exception I would make to this is if the top team in any division has a losing record, then a team with a winning record in the other division would qualify for the conference tournament.

After the conference champions are determined, here is what you would have competing for a national title:

ACC-1 team, Big 12 - 1 team, Big East/Sunbelt - 1 team, WAC/PAC 10 - 1 team, SEC - 1 team, Mountain West/Independents - 1 team, Big Ten (plus one) - 1 team, Conference USA, 1 team.

Eight teams left to play for a national title, ranked from one to eight, where No. 1 would play No. 8, two would play seven, and so on. No team in the country would be able to claim they were left out of the equation.

The only question would be what do you do with the bowl games, and what happens to the teams that are bowl eligible, but are not part of the eight team playoff?

The playoff would require seven games total, so those should be tied to bowl games.  The other games would have to be populated by teams that did not qualify for the tournament.

The most difficult thing with this arrangement would be getting the bowls to change their agreements with the conferences to accommodate a playoff. That is where you would get a lot of resistance. Take last year for instance. 

USC played Illinois in the Rose Bowl, and Georgia played Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.  The better game and the one the public wanted badly was Georgia vs. USC, but because of the commitments of both venues, we ended up with two bowl games that weren’t competitive.

For financial reasons, none of the bowl committees want to be forced to take teams where their fanbase won’t travel to the game, and there are a lot of unsold tickets.  They would rather stick to the way things are now.

They will make deals with teams that financially make sense for them as opposed to trying to get the best game. The actual matchup is secondary to them. We as fans do have to understand that in the minds of the folks who put everything together, the financial aspect of this whole equation is most important. 

The only other flaw with this system is that you may have two teams in a conference that are better than the rest of the teams in the country, but only one of them will get a chance at the end of season tournament.

We want an undisputed champion, but if it can’t be done where everyone is happy financially it will be difficult to get the system changed.

What I have outlined is a little like the NCAA Basketball Championships. They are not as concerned with whether or not teams that have played each other during the season play again in the tournament. 

Their main concern is getting the best teams in the mix. There may be repeat games, but they will be in neutral sites and they may be needed, a la the three teams in the Big 12.

Everyone gets a shot in this system, and you only have one extra game to decide conference champions. Only four teams will play two extra games, and two teams will play three, and there would be very little doubt over who the national champions are at the end of the day.