Improving the BCS National Championship

Peter RCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2008

How did we get here?

Bowl games are a great use of otherwise idle football stadiums and provide an excellent opportunity for cold weather teams fans to vacation in warmer weather. It started out innocently enough.

Before long people complained that the national ranking polls stopped before the last games of the year. Eventually a group of teams and the powerful "in the money" conferences got together to rig national significance to the final game of the season. The Bowl Championship Series was born.

Right now, in most years teams from seven or eight member conferences split the big payout from the bowls they picked as top bowls. It pays to remember that these bowls had alliances with the conferences prior to the BCS.

Also recall that the BCS was a step towards sanity in the mythical national championship. Most people will recognize the BCS was an improvement over the previous system, in which the top teams had frequently not met due to conference/bowl ties or because coaches might have wanted to schedule an easier game.


What do the conferences, bowl organizing committees, and University Presidents think?

The ones in the BCS organization think the current system is great. They benefit from big payouts from the current system.

Why would they want to take a risk of reducing the financial payout and status the current system rewards them with?


What solutions are people suggesting?

There are many ideas out there on how to fix the problems the beneficiaries of the system do not perceive they have.

Some people prefer rigidly organizing conferences and teams with rules on how many games they could play and how to structure conference championship games. Following the proscribed formula, a playoff would ensue to crown the champions.

Other fans like the current system but want to take over bowl games to create a four, eight, or 16-team playoff.

Another interesting suggestion is to keep the current system with no playoff, complete with the controversy of having two teams voted national champions after not playing each other.


We could just sue

Few people are foolish enough to litigate to solve a problem that there is no clear solution to. The fact that many people do not see a problem compounds the problem of litigating it. There is the additional problem of determining who has standing to sue.

Whoever sues will alienate everyone who supports the current system or does not support the goals of the litigation. Who wants to be hated by almost everyone?


What could happen to create an NCAA National Champion?

One issue with a playoff is the money issue. The current system feeds large amounts of money into league coffers, which trickles down to every team in the conferences. There is a natural constituency for receiving money. There are probably a few teams who have never been to a BCS bowl that have collected millions of dollars of BCS money over the years due to league revenue sharing rules.

In order for colleges to agree to anything else, it would have to provide additional new money. University Presidents have expressed a desire to keep the season from getting any longer.

In most other major college sports there is an NCAA Tournament. The winner is crowned champion. Currently the football "championship" system is run by the BCS. The NCAA could institute a national championship game that picked the two best teams to emerge from the BCS bowls. The status of the current bowls would not be diminished. The only institution to lose just a little luster would be the BCS.

Rather than a few big conferences usurping the national championship process, the NCAA would have input into the NCAA Champion. With the NCAA making this unprecedented step, the BCS organization could choose how to structure their bowls to produce the most interest in all of them. Interest translates to money.


How would the BCS bowls seed their games?

They could have the number one seeded team play the number four seeded team and the two and three seeds meet. They could choose a different combination with the bowl committees allowed to pick in order, similar to the current system, except the first and second seeded team might not be allowed to meet in one bowl.

The beauty of it is by just sponsoring a National Championship game, the NCAA would not stomp on the current system. In what other sport do the host sites of "insignificant" games have such pageantry and so much fun?

Destroying the stature of bowls would undermine the vacation spirit and parades that surround bowl games today. To destroy the good things that have come from the lack of organization just to get a playoff would be a bad thing.



As unsatisfying as a split national title is, the cost of implementing a playoff is too great. If the site of the Rose Bowl were just a semifinal site, how long would the Rose Bowl Parade persist? Ditto Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Fiesta Bowl. By allowing what is great about the current system to continue and just adding to it, fans, host sites, and colleges can all gain.

By adding one additional game, the money that is generated by the current system would continue, and new money could be used to fund a new championship.