BCS: We're Stuck With It

Danny BurnhamCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2008

College football conference commissioners don't care about the fans.

At least, that's the best conclusion that can be drawn after meetings back in May of this year among the 11 Division 1A football conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director. Only two conferences voted in favor of the playoff, the SEC and ACC.

The Pac-10 and Big 10 have long been outspoken against any type of playoff that may endanger their beloved Rose Bowl. The Big East, Big 12, WAC, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and Notre Dame also announced that they wanted no part of a playoff.

Why would they? Under the current format 68 teams are selected to participate in 34 bowl games at the end of the season. That means 34 teams can call themselves "Bowl Champion" after the dust has settled in January, because somebody has to win these things.

For Conferences like the Mountain West, the Western Athletic Conference or the Sun Belt, (who will likely never participate in a BCS championship game) a few of their teams can still hang their hat on winning the Backdoor bowl sponsored by Ray's Sack 'n' Shack instead of just losing in a true National Tournament.

The question asked by many people would be, who wouldn't want a shot at the national championship via year-end tournament? Why settle of a second rate bowl in the middle of nowhere? For the teams in the smaller conferences, being a “bowl champion” is important on more than one level.

One reason, and maybe the biggest, is money.

Last season, the lowest payout that any bowl game offered was the New Orleans Bowl at $350,000, with the money to be divided between the participating conferences teams. The highest, of course, were the BCS games at $17 million each.

Schools like Utah State or Louisiana Lafayette would be more than happy to take a cut of the money from a 10th rate bowl rather than just going home at season’s end empty handed and watching the playoffs on television.

On the subject of money, TV networks would also take a hit under the playoff format. Under the current system, there are 34 games on various networks, so everybody gets a slice, while a playoff would likely be dominated by one network, cutting the rest out of their share of the revenue.

Another reason for teams settling on the Biscuit Bowl is recruiting.

For a team to be able to say we won a bowl game last year carries some weight in the war for top prospects.  Now, from the grown up point of view, more than half the teams in the country participate in bowl games, and half of those teams win. So really, how prestigious is it? But colleges aren’t recruiting “grown-ups” they are recruiting 17-year-old kids, and the bowl champion card is an easier play to make in that demographic.

The next question in this argument is, what is the alternative?

Well, we could go back to the old system where the two top ranked teams may not even meet in the post season and a clear-cut national champion is even foggier. Let’s not do that again.

Another alternative would be the plus one system. Where all the bowl games are played, then the top two teams go on to play in a championship game. Which, if you think about it really isn’t all that different from the system that we currently loathe.

The system that is probably the most widely agreed upon by fans is a tournament. There are a couple of ways to do this also. The champions of the 11 conferences could have an automatic bid, with the next five teams according to rank could be admitted. 

The money could still be split up among the teams respective conferences, so everyone could still get a cut in full Socialist fashion.

The NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) takes the top 16 ranked teams in the country and puts them in a playoff.

That way, at the end of the playoff the best team would stand alone, as undisputed champion.

The biggest problem with the current system is that it isn’t designed to find out which team comes in first place.  It’s designed to see who comes in second. The two “best” teams are put in a championship game with the winner finishing first and the loser second.  It shouldn’t matter who comes in second.

If you have ever looked at a tournament bracket, you have seen that there is only one line at the end. No matter how many teams you started out with, 16, 32, 64,128, there is only one at the end.

And that’s the way it should be.