BCS Rankings: Does Controversial System Really Create More Interest?

Georgia ByrdContributor INovember 13, 2011

The BCS prize: The Coaches' Trophy
The BCS prize: The Coaches' TrophyKevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Want to liven up a boring tailgate?  Bring up the Bowl Championship Series (BCS).  Otherwise known in the college-sporting world as the Sunday night rankings: this is the system fans love to hate. 

But love it or hate it, talk of the BCS will illicit some interesting banter around the pickup truck bed.  Sometimes it can even prompt a slug-fest right there in the middle of the potato salad and the fried chicken.  If you don’t believe me, listen to sports radio.  At least a dozen times a day (over a dozen different channels), some dude will call in with “a better way to determine the top 10” at the end of the season. 

Let’s face it.  The BCS rankings create interest.  And if you or I were asked to pick college football’s top 10 teams and rank them along with the bowls they would play in to determine that, we would pick our favorite teams to play the worst teams. And that method would lack fairness. Perhaps that’s why a fellow named Roy Kramer came up with the current madness we call the BCS today. 

In 1998, Kramer—the former head football coach for Central Michigan—moved up the ranks via a stint as athletic director of Vanderbilt University.  Then he became the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and better known as the father of the BCS.  One afternoon as he was sharpening pencils at his desk, he devised this system that led to divisional play and the very first Division I conference football championship. 

But Kramer did a lot more than sharpen pencils.  During his time as SEC chief, the conference won 81 national championships (in varying sports), the most ever in a decade by this league.  He was a mastermind at negotiating and inked mega television packages with CBS and ESPN.  And oh, he figured out how to come up with the strangely complicated rankings system we call the BCS today. 

The 2011 BCS National Championship hosted Auburn and Oregon with Auburn taking the No. 1 slot
The 2011 BCS National Championship hosted Auburn and Oregon with Auburn taking the No. 1 slotChristian Petersen/Getty Images


The BCS rankings as we know them come from a combination of three different voting factors:  The Harris Interactive Poll and its 115 members (former coaches, players and administrators); the Coach’s Poll, (59) FBS head coaches; and a computer ranking (an average of four of six computers with the highest and lowest numbers thrown out).  The results: a five-game bowl series that serves as a showcase for the top 10 teams in college football, including a BCS National Championship Game.

The media has glammed up the BCS rankings with a show every Sunday night on ESPN.  They air it at an odd hour when NFL watchers would rather not switch over and college fans are still hung over from Saturday’s games.  They assemble a crew of commentators that hash and thrash each week’s rankings.  And people tune in. 

This leads to further discussion during the week and by the next weekend, the buzz has reached an ear-shattering decibel.  Throughout the work week, talk escalates around the coffee station, in parks, and at gas stations. By Saturday, the tailgate conversation gets livelier and goes something like this:

“How can the coaches vote fairly when the only games they watch are their own?”

“Where are those darned computers and who is the guy who reads the data?”

“What do the administrators from the Harris Interactive Poll know about college football?” Good questions and most definitely, something to while away the hours until it’s time to claim next week’s tailgate spot, chow on the deviled eggs and place some friendly wagers on who's going to be ranked where in this week's BCS rankings.