X

Broken Championship System: Here's How To Fix It

Scott PusichCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2008

College football inspires us during the regular season and tears our hearts out at bowl time.

More specifically, FBS (former I-A) college football is full of promise each fall, and alternately crushes our dreams or deadens our hopes with the worst excuse for a postseason in American sport.

Is the denoument of this season going to be as thrilling--and yet as empty--as the ending of last season? There's no way to tell for sure, but looking at the 10 "title games" arranged so far, there should be little reason for optimism. This is because most of the time, the ARRANGED title game comes off worse than an ARRANGED marriage.

And that's pretty bad.

Never mind that eight (formerly six) additional teams have to settle for the role of bridesmaid (no "best men" here) and wear the "ugly dress" so as not to outshine the lucky couple.

Some years, the arrangement makes so little sense that there is pressure to change the "Broken Championship System". However, the tweaks and fiddling have been minor, and to the extent that they don't get to the root of the problem, merely hide the flaws under some "purty new dresses".

Enough.

Here's how to fix the Broken Championship System.

What follows is a look at the 10 years of the BCS, from the 1998 season through the 2007 season. For each year, the actual BCS bowl pairings (with final pre-bowl BCS rankings) are compared with an 8-team "BCS Playoff pairing" as explained below. Then, the "losers" (in terms of high-ranked teams missing the playoff pairings) are listed. Losers in bold are those that were in BCS bowl pairings but not in the revised BCS playoff pairings.

The playoff pairings are determined as follows:

The six champions of "BCS" conferences receive automatic berths to BCS bowls, as they do now.

This means if a team loses a conference championship game, there is no guarantee that it will receive a playoff berth, regardless of how high it is ranked. It is also possible (as it is now) that a team that doesn't participate in a championship game or otherwise win its conference may receive an playoff berth.

The only way to truly remedy this discrepancy is for conference champions to be determined by round-robin play (each team plays every other team in its conference). However, as some conferences have 12 members, that would allow for only one non-conference game for those conferences. This, however, is a more logical way of running a conference than the current way, in which most teams pad their non-conference schedule, and may also not have to play the strongest teams in their own conference in a particular year.

Until such a time as this situation is remedied, there will continue to be situations where a relatively weak team becomes conference champion. One need only look at some of the playoff pairings below to see that this is an unavoidable by-product of the way conferences determine their champions.

The two "at-large" playoff berths are determined by a team's position in the final pre-bowl BCS ranking.

Normally, the top remaining non-conference champions are taken; however, an exception is made when a champion of a "non-BCS" conference and/or Notre Dame are ranked no lower than 8th. This is a stricter measure than was the case in 2007 (for example), in which Hawaii was eligible by finishing 10th. And the existing bowls are free to continue inviting eligible (non-playoff) teams.

Finally, playoff berths are assigned to the four bowls according to traditional conference affiliations.

First of all, this means that the Rose Bowl is "locked in" with the Pac 10 and Big 10 champions as opponents in one quarterfinal. Also, as currently structured, the other three bowls have one "locked in" affiliation each: The Fiesta Bowl has the Big 12 champion; the Sugar Bowl has the SEC champion; and the Orange Bowl has the ACC champion. The Big East champion has generally been a "free agent" of sorts.

The matchups of the three "open slots" have been determined to (a) avoid conference opponent rematches in the quarterfinals and (b) allow the team with a higher BCS ranking to play an opponent with a lower BCS ranking. However, (a) takes precedence over (b). There is no "seeding" per se because of the traditional conference affiliations.

The winners advance to the "Football Final Four".

The winners of the four quarterfinals (as indicated below in the revised pairings) would then advance to a "Football Final Four". Ideally this would be at a fifth, neutral site, in a domed stadium. This would be due to both the probable outdoor weather conditions, given the probable dates of Jan. 8-15, and the ability to stage consecutive semifinals without impacting the playing surface (for a domed stadium, this would be artificial FieldTurf or something similar).

The site could either (a) change each year, as the NCAA basketball "Final Four" and the NFL Super Bowl do; or (b) be set permanently in a currently existing or purpose-built domed stadium. If the site changes each year, care would need to be taken for it to shift from region to region, much in the way the BCS title game currently shifts among the four BCS bowl sites. However, if only domes can be considered, certain areas of the country (the Pacific Coast, most of the Southeast) would be left out.

In terms of geographic centrality for a permanent site, the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis is about as close as it comes. First, it's relatively close to the intersection of the three "interior" conferences: the Big 10, Big 12, and SEC. Second, it's relatively equidistant for the three "coastal" conferences: the ACC, Big East, and Pac-10.

Of course, if the Rams are involved in the NFL playoffs, then the games would be shifted to mid-week... or to Hawaii...

The central factor to such a "Football Final Four" occurring, of course, would be a monetary stake for the four (quarterfinal) BCS bowl sites, for the BCS conferences in general, and most importantly, for the FBS as an NCAA division. That is, the NCAA would finally be associated with the title game, and the winner would be officially recognized by the NCAA and receive an official NCAA champions' trophy (this is NOT the case now).

Here are the ten years of BCS playoffs.

1998

Actual pairings (will be listed with title game first):

  • Fiesta Bowl: (1) Tennessee (SEC) vs. (2) Florida State (ACC)
  • Orange Bowl: (8) Florida (at-large) vs. (15) Syracuse (Big East)
  • Sugar Bowl: (4) Ohio State (at-large) vs. (6) Texas A&M (Big 12)
  • Rose Bowl: (5) UCLA (Pac 10) vs. (9) Wisconsin (Big 10)

Quarterfinals (will be listed from west to east, with Rose Bowl first):

  • Rose Bowl: (5) UCLA (Pac 10) vs. (9) Wisconsin (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (6) Texas A&M (Big 12) vs. (4) Ohio State (at-large)
  • Sugar Bowl: (1) Tennessee (SEC) vs. (15) Syracuse (Big East)
  • Orange Bowl: (2) Florida State (ACC) vs. (3) Kansas State (at-large)

"Losers": (7) Arizona, (8) Florida, (10) Tulane

1999

Actual pairings:

  • Sugar Bowl: (1) Florida State (ACC) vs. (2) Virginia Tech (Big East)
  • Orange Bowl: (4) Alabama (SEC) vs. (8) Michigan (at-large)
  • Rose Bowl: (NR) Stanford (Pac 10) vs. (7) Wisconsin (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (3) Nebraska (Big 12) vs. (5) Tennessee (at-large)

Quarterfinals:

  • Rose Bowl: (NR) Stanford (Pac 10) vs. (7) Wisconsin (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (3) Nebraska (Big 12) vs. (5) Tennessee (at-large)
  • Sugar Bowl: (4) Alabama (SEC) vs. (2) Virginia Tech (Big East)
  • Orange Bowl: (1) Florida State (ACC) vs. (6) Kansas State (at-large)

"Losers": (8) Michigan, (9) Michigan State, (10) Florida, (12) Marshall

2000

Actual pairings:

  • Orange Bowl: (1) Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. (2) Florida State (ACC)
  • Rose Bowl: (4) Washington (Pac 10) vs. (NR) Purdue (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (6) Oregon State vs. (11) Notre Dame (both at-large)
  • Sugar Bowl: (3) Miami (Big East) vs. (7) Florida (SEC)

Quarterfinals:

  • Rose Bowl: (4) Washington (Pac 10) vs. (NR) Purdue (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (1) Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. (6) Oregon State (at-large)
  • Sugar Bowl: (7) Florida (SEC) vs. (3) Miami (Big East)
  • Orange Bowl: (2) Florida State (ACC) vs. (5) Virginia Tech (at-large)

"Losers": (8) Nebraska, (9) Kansas State, (10) Oregon, (11) Notre Dame

2001

Actual pairings:

  • Rose Bowl: (1) Miami (Big East) vs. (2) Nebraska (at-large)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (3) Colorado (Big 12) vs. (4) Oregon (Pac 10)
  • Sugar Bowl: (13) LSU (SEC) vs. (8) Illinois (Big 10)
  • Orange Bowl: (10) Maryland (ACC) vs. (5) Florida (at-large)

Quarterfinals:

  • Rose Bowl: (4) Oregon (Pac 10) vs. (8) Illinois (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (3) Colorado (Big 12) vs. (5) Florida (at-large)
  • Sugar Bowl: (13) LSU (SEC) vs. (1) Miami (Big East)
  • Orange Bowl: (10) Maryland (ACC) vs. (2) Nebraska (at-large)

"Losers": (6) Tennessee, (7) Texas, (9) Stanford

2002

Actual pairings:

  • Fiesta Bowl: (1) Miami (Big East) vs. (2) Ohio State (Big 10)
  • Sugar Bowl: (3) Georgia (SEC) vs. (14) Florida State (ACC)
  • Orange Bowl: (4) USC (at-large) vs. (5) Iowa (at-large)
  • Rose Bowl: (6) Washington St. (Pac 10) vs. (7) Oklahoma (Big 12)

Quarterfinals:

  • Rose Bowl: (6) Washington St. (Pac 10) vs. (2) Ohio State (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (7) Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. (4) USC (at-large)
  • Sugar Bowl: (3) Georgia (SEC) vs. (5) Iowa (at-large)
  • Orange Bowl: (14) Florida State (ACC) vs. (1) Miami (Big East)

"Losers": (8) Kansas State, (9) Notre Dame, (10) Texas

2003

Actual pairings:

  • Sugar Bowl: (1) Oklahoma (at-large) vs. (2) LSU (SEC)
  • Orange Bowl: (7) Florida State (ACC) vs. (9) Miami (Big East)
  • Rose Bowl: (3) USC (Pac 10) vs. (4) Michigan (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (10) Kansas State (Big 12) vs. (5) Ohio State (at-large)

Quarterfinals:

  • Rose Bowl: (3) USC (Pac 10) vs. (4) Michigan (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (10) Kansas State (Big 12) vs. (5) Ohio State (at-large)
  • Sugar Bowl: (2) LSU (SEC) vs. (9) Miami (Big East)
  • Orange Bowl: (7) Florida State (ACC) vs. (1) Oklahoma (at-large)

"Losers": (6) Texas, (8) Tennessee, (11) Miami, OH

2004

Actual pairings:

  • Orange Bowl: (1) USC (Pac 10) vs. (2) Oklahoma (Big 12)
  • Rose Bowl: (4) Texas (at-large) vs. (13) Michigan (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (6) Utah (at-large) vs. (21) Pittsburgh (Big East)
  • Sugar Bowl: (3) Auburn (SEC) vs. (8) Virginia Tech (ACC)

Quarterfinals:

  • Rose Bowl: (1) USC (Pac 10) vs. (13) Michigan (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (2) Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. (21) Pittsburgh (Big East)
  • Sugar Bowl: (3) Auburn (SEC) vs. (6) Utah (at-large)
  • Orange Bowl: (8) Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. (4) Texas (at-large)

"Losers": (5) California, (7) Georgia, (9) Boise State, (10) Louisville

2005

Actual pairings:

  • Rose Bowl: (1) USC (Pac 10) vs. (2) Texas (Big 12)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (4) Ohio State vs. (6) Notre Dame (both at-large)
  • Sugar Bowl: (7) Georgia (SEC) vs. (11) West Virginia (Big East)
  • Orange Bowl: (3) Penn State (Big 10) vs. (22) Florida State (ACC)

Quarterfinals:

  • Rose Bowl: (1) USC (Pac 10) vs. (3) Penn State (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (2) Texas (Big 12) vs. (11) West Virginia (Big East)
  • Sugar Bowl: (7) Georgia (SEC) vs. (6) Notre Dame (at-large)
  • Orange Bowl: (22) Florida State (ACC) vs. (4) Ohio State (at-large)

"Losers": (5) Oregon, (8) Miami, (9) Auburn, (10) Virginia Tech

2006

Actual pairings:

  • BCS Championship: (1) Ohio State (Big 10) vs. (2) Florida (SEC)
  • Sugar Bowl: (4) LSU vs. (11) Notre Dame (both at-large)
  • Orange Bowl: (6) Louisville (Big East) vs. (14) Wake Forest (ACC)
  • Rose Bowl: (5) USC (Pac 10) vs. (3) Michigan (at-large)
  • Fiesta Bowl*: (8) Boise State (at-large) vs. (10) Oklahoma (Big 12); *=at same site as BCS Championship

Quarterfinals:

  • Rose Bowl: (5) USC (Pac 10) vs. (1) Ohio State (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (10) Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. (6) Louisville (Big East)
  • Sugar Bowl: (2) Florida (SEC) vs. (8) Boise State (at-large)
  • Orange Bowl: (14) Wake Forest (ACC) vs. (3) Michigan (at-large)

"Losers": (4) LSU, (7) Wisconsin, (9) Auburn, (11) Notre Dame

2007

Actual pairings:

  • BCS Championship: (1) Ohio State (Big 10) vs. (2) LSU (SEC)
  • Orange Bowl: (3) Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. (8) Kansas (at-large)
  • Rose Bowl: (7) USC (Pac 10) vs. (13) Illinois (at-large)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (4) Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. (9) West Virginia (Big East)
  • Sugar Bowl*: (5) Georgia (at large) vs. (10) Hawaii (at-large);ย  *=at same site as BCS Championship

Quarterfinals:

  • Rose Bowl: (7) USC (Pac 10) vs. (1) Ohio State (Big 10)
  • Fiesta Bowl: (4) Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. (5) Georgia (at-large)
  • Sugar Bowl: (2) LSU (SEC) vs. (9) West Virginia (Big East)
  • Orange Bowl: (3) Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. (6) Missouri (at-large)

"Losers": (8) Kansas, (10) Hawaii, (13) Illinois

๐Ÿšจ SPORTS NEWS โžก๏ธ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.