Florida State-Miami 2000 Sowed the Seeds of BCS Discontent

Samuel Chi@@ThePlayoffGuruCollege Football Playoff GuruNovember 1, 2013

December 4, 2011; Tampa, FL, USA;  Carolina Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey (80) during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Carolina Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-19. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Blame Jeremy Shockey and Ken Dorsey.

When Shockey caught a 13-yard pass from Dorsey with 46 seconds remaining, it cemented Miami's 27-24 victory over Florida State in that 2000 showdown. The outcome of that game also ended up creating a hailstorm of criticism for the nascent BCS and, as a result, four years of constant tinkering that arguably made the system worse.

So it's a bit ironic that in the final year of the BCS era we'll have the first meaningful Miami-FSU game since that fateful tussle in 2000. And as both the Seminoles and Hurricanes are currently on the sidelines of the BCS title race entering Saturday's game, they can look back and blame their predicament on what transpired 13 years ago.

The first two seasons of the BCS (1998 and '99) largely went off without a hitch. The consensus Top Two teams faced each other in the BCS title games, with Florida State taking part in both—losing to Tennessee in '98 and beating Virginia Tech in '99.

The BCS standings formula, concocted by former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, was a hodge-podge of ordinal numbers interspersed with math jargons such as "quartile rank." Quantitative evaluations, with computers and strength of schedule accounting for two-thirds of the standings, had the upper hand over the human polls in this setup.

But the 2000 season—hinged on this single game—would dramatically change how the BCS was viewed. At the end of the season, both Florida State and Miami finished 11-1, with the Hurricanes ranked second in the polls, ahead of No. 3 Florida State, doubtlessly because of their head-to-head victory.

When the final BCS standings were unveiled, however, FSU edged Miami by .22 points, completely on the strength of superior computer ratings. The fans and media predictably howled over this "travesty," neglecting to consider that there's a more-than-reasonable argument in favor of the Seminoles—if not the Washington Huskies, who also had just one loss and defeated Miami head-to-head.

Stung by the criticism, Kramer and his BCS cohorts caved and began a series of knee-jerk changes that in effect made the BCS selection methods worse. The BCS would alter the format for the standings in four of the next five years, and in the process reducing the standings to mere affirmation of the human polls.

The long-range result of these changes is the near-total neutering of the computer rankings. Since 2004, the human polls have accounted for two-thirds of the standings, effectively shutting out the computers in terms of determining the 1-vs.-2 matchup. Furthermore, margin of victory was de-emphasized starting in 2001 and then completely removed in 2002 as a component in all computer rankings.

BCS Standings Format Changes
2001"Quality Win" component added; Margin of victory de-emphasized
2002"Quality Win" de-emphasized; MOV removed from all computer formulas
2004Current standings formula adopted, tilting balance toward polls
2005Associated Press Poll replaced by Harris Interactive Poll
<a href="http://www.bcsguru.com/bcs_resource_center.htm">BCS Resource Center</a>

A couple of computer operators dropped out as a result, and some of the remaining ones fashioned separate non-MOV rankings, though under protest. Jeff Sagarin, whose rankings have been with the BCS since its inception, still maintains a disclaimer that his BCS version of rankings is "less accurate."

While the BCS removed MOV from the computers, making those rankings less accurate, it neglected to remove the eyeballs from the voters of the two polls, who continue to make distinctions between 1-point and 21-point victories—as they should. With that being the case, the BCS standings over the past nine seasons can be uncharitably described as a farce, as the polls have picked each one of the BCS title matchups without any influence from the computers.

This is the fate facing the winner of Saturday's Florida State-Miami game, who will not be playing in Pasadena come Jan. 6 without a loss by either Alabama or Oregon. These two teams are 1-2 in the polls and will not cede any ground without losing a game.

You might as well chuck all the computers into the swamps of Florida—it won't make a damn bit of difference.

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