BCS is going, but a year too late

Do you remember 1998? Life was good and simple then.

Michael Jordan was still a Chicago Bull, Tommy Pickles influenced toddlers everywhere, a kid could walk around town with his Pikachu and the Bowl Championship Series was created.

You’re right — maybe that last one wasn’t so great. The Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, made its debut in 1998. After a somewhat questionable tenure, the BCS will be no more come the end of the 2013-14 college football season.

Unfortunately it’s coming a season too late. Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, Clemson and Florida State are the top five teams in college football. Florida State and Clemson play this week, so assuming everyone else holds firm, we’ll have four undefeated championship candidates. One could make a strong case that every one of those teams are playing just as well as any other on that list; however, as college football’s current playoff system is structured, the BCS, these top teams will not have the chance to battle one another to vie for the crown if the season were to end today.

The BCS is a system designed to pit 10 of the top-ranked college football teams in five bowl matchups. The top two compete for the National Championship.

The selection process is done through polls and computer calculations. Seem legit?

It reeks of subjectivity.

The goal of the BCS is to crown an undisputed national champion and eliminate the controversy of split titleholders.

Naming a game the BCS National Championship Game pretty much clears up any confusion.

The problem with the BCS boils down to two issues.

What if three of four teams are comparable to one another? How do you decide which two are worthy of competing for a national championship? What about the other one or two teams? There is no consolation prize for being denied the opportunity to ingrain your team into college football history.

As it stands now, there are at least two worthy teams that will be left out of the big game. More than likely, if the season ended today, the championship game would include Alabama and Oregon. How do you justify excluding Ohio State, Clemson or Florida State, who are playing at just as high a level as anyone?

You can’t.

College football is the only major team sport in America where just two teams have the chance to compete in the postseason for a title.

Some would argue that it makes the regular season that much more important.

That’s true, but that argument has holes.

The most obvious hole is the structure of the postseason in other levels of football. High school and the NFL have made a playoff system work since the dawn of time. Why should college be any different?

Another hole, a bit subtler, is the ego of big-time college programs. Polls make a world of difference when deciding who will play in which BCS game. The easiest way to move up the poll as a lesser ranked or unranked team is to defeat a team ranked higher than your own.

If your team is not fortunate enough to play in one of the power six conferences where these higher ranked foes reside, you must schedule a nonconference game with these opponents.

Programs like Alabama and Oregon can’t schedule everyone in America and won’t schedule just anyone. Also, these schools will not schedule a true road game against a nonconference opponent on the road because it provides an advantage to a lesser school and these big time programs have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

As a result some teams play an entire season knowing they will never have a chance to win a championship no matter how well they play.

So why has the BCS sustained such a long run?


As currently constructed, sponsors tend to make an untold number of millions by attaching their logo to every piece of paraphernalia associated with the bowl game they are sponsoring. The student-athletes, of course, will never see a dime of these millions. But that’s another story for another day.

A more traditional playoff format eliminates the predictability of the matchups through the course of the playoffs. From a marketing standpoint, it is a lot easier to promote a predetermined matchup such as an Alabama versus Oregon. Those are two big programs with hefty fan bases. The BCS eliminates the dark horse or Cinderella of the postseason like a Butler or George Mason. You eliminate that factor, then you don’t have a strategic marketing nightmare on your hands.

These bowl games are also set in predetermined venues. Usually they are somewhere where the weather is nice and the arena is large, another plus for those sponsoring. Again, eliminating the Cinderella with the smaller fan base and lack of popularity is a great thing for the sponsors.

But what is a great thing for football?

Ultimately money alone could not overshadow logic and fairness. Those attributes come in the form of the college football playoff.

The college football playoff will take two bowl games, from a group of six, and have them serve as semifinals to the championship game. It will be on a three-year cycle. The first year will be the Rose and Sugar bowls as the semifinals. The next year will be Orange and Cotton, then Fiesta and Chick-fil-A.

Not quite the spectacle of the college basketball 68-team March Madness festival, but it’s a baby step in the right direction.

Sponsors keep making money and more teams get an opportunity at greatness.

It’s a shame that, in the event those top teams stay undefeated, we must deal with one more year of scrutiny and exclusion.

Beginning with the 2014-15 season, we will be heading back to the good and simple life. Just like 1998.

Spencer is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]