I don’t know why it has taken me so long to address this topic since I’ve been an outspoken critic of the BcS almost since its inception. After doing hours of research reading dozens of articles, I have integrated the ideas of others with some of my own to develop 10 ways that I would tweak the BcS.
First, one key assumption: I am not a fan of a full blown college playoff system, and it’s not because of the bs that is spewed from the mouths of conservative college presidents interested in protecting the golden calf. College football to me is what it is because every single game each week matters. I have grown increasingly disinterested in the NFL model which consistently rewards mediocrity; win a bad division or earn a wild card, and a team with seven losses can theoretically be crowned champions primarily because their quarterback stayed healthy into January and they played one good month of football. Simply put, a true champion should not lose five games or more over the course of the season, period.
That said, the BcS has completely failed college football fans in those seasons in which only two obvious undefeated powers are not left standing at season’s end. In an era of parity due in large part because of scholarship limits and increased television coverage for all schools, the BcS functions poorly when it must select two teams from a pile of one and two loss combatants (see 2007 BCS Championship Game between the Ohio State University and Louisiana State). Furthermore, the BcS system is not quite sure what to do with the mid majors like Boise State that continue to make the case that, at least theoretically, they deserve a shot to play for a championship. Finally, I have grown tired of teams that have figured out how to “game the system” to increase their chances of playing in the BcS CG by playing soft out of conference schedules (OOC hereafter), which often comprise of games against FCS teams. These lopsided games offer the college football fan very little in terms of meaningful entertainment, and if nothing else, the system should be revamped to do away with this crap. With that in mind, here are my suggests for reworking, rather than scrapping, the BcS system:
1) No preseason polls until the fifth week of the season. One unfortunate consequence of the system is that unless you are ranked in the top 15 going into the season, you likely have no shot at playing in the BcS title game. This is just plain ridiculous as it represents flawed circular reasoning. Teams eligible for playing in the BcS championship game are those teams that the pollsters thought were probably the best before the season even started. But what if the pollsters are simply wrong? Why should a team be disqualified before the season even starts simply because the pollsters thought that they weren’t any good? The answer is, they shouldn’t. Another Internet poster captured my sentiments exactly:
Polls probably don’t need collecting until Week 5, when most teams at least have four games — one third of the season — under their belt. Otherwise, after one week of games, you’ll have ranked 0-1 teams. After two games you might still have Auburn in the top 10, just because they dismantled two weak teams. And after three games you might say, “Well, Ohio State has two unimpressive wins over pissbucket schools, and got clobbered by USC. We’ll put them all the way down to 14th, ahead of several undefeated teams who probably got a lucky start to the season.”
I also think that this will give teams incentives to schedule better games, as part of your ranking would not just be your record, but who you beat. Teams that historically are good each year know that a favorable preseason ranking can be protected by simply winning your games, regardless of who you beat. This would not be the case if everyone started on an even footing until week five.
2) The coaches shouldn’t vote in a poll and all polls should be open so that everyone knows exactly who voted for whom. Mack Brown said this years ago; the coaches simply should not be voting as they have a vested interest when casting their ballots. It’s silly when you think about how easy it is for a coach to sabotage a competitor to benefit his own team. And realistically, what does a coach know about most of the other teams anyway? At last count, there were 120 FBS teams. Exactly how many of these other teams has any one coach seen either personally or on TV while spending countless hours in practice and watching game films to ready his team for action each Saturday?
I would eliminate the coaches poll and utilize a selection committee much like the NCAA uses for basketball to create the polls each week. Whatever process you use, it needs to be open so that those who cast their votes can not hide behind this process. Opening one’s vote for criticism has a way of self-policing those who cast the vote; exposing yourself to criticism will force one to think twice before casting a ridiculous ballot. Also, open voting and the criticism that would follow would make it easier to remove those voters consistently doing a poor job.
I’ve heard an interesting proposal of making a panel of Vegas odds makers the ones in charge of ranking the various teams. I have mixed feelings on this; while I think they have their pulse on the game in a way that the rest of us do not (their very livelihood depends on accurately reflecting the various strengths of the teams), this idea that “big money” would somehow become intertwined in college athletics concerns me. While the selection committee is the best model in my opinion, allowing Las Vegas to do the polls is still an upgrade over the coaches poll.
3) Fix the financial inequalities of the BcS. Here, a few suggestions, and for these ideas, I give a shout out to a CBS Sportsline poster who uses the handle Badams. As things stand right now, the non Automatic Qualifying schools are forced to split their BcS money with all of the remaining Non AQ schools. This is ridiculous. If U.S.C. makes a BcS game, they split their proceeds evenly with all the members of their conference only. So why shouldn’t this be the same for all of the non-AQ schools? I also think that it is time for the ND gravy train to come to an end. As things stand right now, ND gets a cut of the BcS money whether they make a BcS game or not. This makes no sense to me. If ND wants to be Independent, that’s fine. Those years that they make a BcS game, they can split the money one way. Those years that they do not, then, no cash for you. Evening out the proceeds from the BcS games will have the effect of leveling the playing field so that the mid majors have a more realistic shot to compete (more cash means better facilities, etc.)
From the 2008 season, one pollster noted the following inequities:
The University of Washington was the only one of the 120 bowl system schools not to win a single game. As it turns out, they didn’t really need to win anything to receive bowl kickbacks. The Pacific-10 Conference gets a $17.5 million payout just because of the Rose Bowl, and that windfall is divided evenly among all teams. Washington will get $1.75 million as a reward for losing every game. Iowa State, who went 2-10 and didn’t win a single Big XII Conference game, will get double that ($3.5 million), since two Big XII teams are in the BCS. Meanwhile, undefeated Boise State will play in a very fun Poinsettia Bowl game against 10-2 TCU, and 12-1 Ball State gets the GMAC Bowl in January, but each team will only get $750,000 for their troubles.
This is ridiculous. Money from the BcS matchups needs to distributed based on what teams actually do on the field. If criteria to become BcS eligible is tightened, and the access to the BcS is opened to more schools, there should be less objection to redistributing BcS monies to reflect actual performance on the field. This may be the toughest sell, but it makes sense just the same.
While all teams do it, Florida’s 2009 out of conference schedule which featured Charleston Southern, Troy, and Florida International frustrated many college football fans.
4) Tweak the BcS formula a bit. I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of “cupcake week.” As far as I’m concerned, this term should be reserved for preteen girls that bake the desert for their classmates. Teams do this because they know that it increases their chance of getting to the BcS game because the formula places too much of an emphasis on avoiding losses rather than rewarding quality wins. This problem can be solved by changing the formula. From now on, games against FCS opponents should not count toward the wins necessary to become bowl eligible (presently a school can use one of these wins) and should actually count against a team in the formula (a loss to one such team should automatically disqualify a team officially). Conversely, additional weight should be given in the actual formula for beating opponents that were ranked in the top 25 when you played them (and even more weight given to those ranked in the final 25 when the season ends). Adding extra weight to “quality wins” would have the effect of strongly encouraging teams to schedule these types of games because they would be rewarded for playing and winning them. Conversely, the formula could be tweaked even more so that losses against teams ranked in the top 25 at seasons end would have less of an impact (as things stand now, a certain number of points is simply deducted from the BcS equation for each loss, regardless of the quality of the opponent). Playing more of these games head to head will function to better sort out the contenders from the pretenders, and simply put, would create more games that the fans actually want to see.
I also would bring back margin of victory to the formula. You know that people are taking this into consideration, so why not officially make this part of the formula? I am sick and tired of this “every kid must get a trophy” approach to collegiate sports that has lead to bitching and moaning because a team tries to score late possibly hurting someone else’s feelings. If you don’t like the score being run up, then stop them on field. We all know that a three point win just isn’t the same thing as a 35 point win, and it’s a farce to pretend otherwise.
5) Raise the qualifying criteria. Badams at CBS writes:
The qualifying criteria needs to be raised. IE: a team must play at least 1/3 of their games vs BCS AQ schools. It just isn’t fair to teams like Duke, Baylor, Indiana and others alike to have to play against 8 AQ’s each year in the form of Texas, OU, Nebraska, Miami of Fla., FSU, Bama, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Va-Tech, Ga-Tech, etc……. to become eligible while teams like Boise State only have to play 1 AQ a year in order to become BCS eligible. In Both of Boise’s Fiesta Bowl appearances, they played 1 AQ in the regular season and no other ranked non AQ’s. That just isn’t fair to the rest of CFB. 5-7 Mississippi State would have had a great chance to play in a BCS bowl in ’09 if they played Boise’s schedule. Oregon @ home and then 12 patsies. I think the Bulldogs could have pulled it off.
Exactly. I don’t know about you, but if the mid majors want to play with the big boys, then they need to start playing a big boy schedule. And if the big boys can no longer schedule their cup cake games, then many of them will see these mid majors teams as a viable option. I mean, if you were Florida, already subject to the rigors of the SEC schedule, and you were forced to leave schools like Tennessee Chattanooga South off the schedule (okay, I just made this team up, but you get my point), who would you rather play, U.S.C. or Boise State? While Boise may have to travel to the swamp (in fact they would because the size of their stadium would be a revenue loss for both teams if this was a home game for Boise), it’s my position that this requirement would open the opportunities for these types of programs.
I also want to change the qualifying criteria to be bowl eligible to 7 wins. I do realize that both eliminating the softer opponents and increasing the number of wins necessary to be bowl eligible will result in probably eliminating some of the lesser bowls. So be it. A .500 team should not be rewarded with a bowl birth, and quite frankly there are just too many bowls. Many of these bowls are less than half full, are not generating serious TV revenue, and are actually costing teams out of pocket money to play in them (a school like ND should never be in a situation where they must choose between offering their product to their fans or saving money). Simply put, scrap some of them or play them every other year when enough teams qualify to fill them.
6. Eliminate all teams from the BcS equation if they do not win their conference. As my readers know, I am not a fan of the conference championship game. It has the effect of reducing the championship to one game that often does not feature the two best teams in the conference. That said, I realize these games are here to stay. As far as I’m concerned, winning your conference needs to be a prerequisite if one is to be given a spot in the BCS CCG. Not that this happens all that often, but the farce in 2003 which allowed Oklahoma to play in the BcS CG even though they lost their CCG to Kansas State should never be allowed to happen again. This is fair because conferences that utilize the CCG get an added benefit by playing one additional meaningful game at the end of the season which favors them in the BcS formula. In my opinion, there should be an even more significant drawback for playing and losing this game (that whole late loss thing that college football has always considered as part of their formula). In other words, play the CCG and determine your conference winner this way at your own risk.
On the way to winning the national championship, the 2002-03 Buckeyes played 14 total games.
7. Mandate that all schools play 13 games. I want uniformity in college football. This one is simple; if your conference already plays a CCG, then the rest of your conference would square off in an extra game against a conference opponent (the top two teams needn’t do anything). If not, then you play an extra game. This would both give teams in a conference like the Big 10 without a CCG an opportunity to earn that seventh win. It would also allow them to play an extra game down the stretch when they are no longer relevant. What it does primarily is even things up so that everyone can be judged on a level playing field; with a conference CCG, it simply is not fair to judge some teams on a 12 game schedule and others on a 13 game schedule. Using the Big 10 example, it would allow the teams to play every team in the conference and 3 OOC games. With bigger conferences, I believe that college schedules should increase by one game so we have less of “we have a tie in part because these two teams missed each other this year.” For those that think that this can not be done for some reason, see the 2002-03 Ohio State Buckeyes who managed to play 14 total games including their bowl game. And hey, is an extra game of college football really a bad thing anyway?
8. Eliminate the Two-BCS-Team-Per-Conference Rule. Here is an example from the 2008 college football season from blogcritics.org:
Texas Tech (#7) and Boise State (#9) are not in BCS bowls, the reason being the BCS is obliged to take only one non-BCS school in the top 12, and that was Utah. Tech has their nose pressed up against the glass because two other Big XII teams are already in. Both are ranked ahead of Ohio State, which became the best de facto at-large team. Ohio State did little to earn that game, scoring a total of nine points against the Rose Bowl contestants (USC and Penn State) and allowing 48 total points.
The point of the quote above is not that my Buckeyes should have been kept from a BcS game (perish the thought), but that Tech shouldn’t have been eliminated simply because of an arbitrary two team rule. Since there is no way to know for sure which conferences will have the best teams in any given season, limiting the participants from any one conference to an arbitrary number of two risks leaving out one of the best teams in the nation. If the three best teams are from one conference, then those three teams should play in BcS games, period. And anyways, the two team rule was created when there was only eight total BcS spots, now there are ten, so it may have outlived its usefulness anyway.
While Boise State has turned into a recent media darling, many have questioned the strength of their recent schedules.
9. AQ qualifiers must win 10 games and open the BcS up to Non-AQ schools that meet the tougher criteria outlined above. This is necessary under my model because I’ve increased the number of total college football games played for everyone to 13. To me, a team needs to go at least 10-3 to get an automatic qualifier for a BcS game. If the conference winner from a traditional AQ school does not win 10, then this slot would become another at large bid. I’m personally tired of giving a spot to a Big East or ACC team simply because we have to, creating a bad BcS game that no one really wants to see. I would also give one of the 10 spots “automatically” to the best non-AQ school that meets the criteria set forth in #5 above, meaning that some seasons there might only be one at large bid when a non-AQ meets the qualifications (in most years this slot would not be filled by a non-AQ school in my opinion because few of them are going to be able to schedule and win enough quality games to qualify). I also think that doing this will address the restraint on trade type arguments that we keep hearing from Congress. I’m of the opinion that the last thing we want is Congress messing around with college football (if Pro is the opposite of Con, then what’s the opposite of Progress?)
I saved the most controversial for last.
10. Use a variable BcS equation to determine who gets to play in the BcS game. I must admit, this is not my idea, but rather, I got it from this website. It would work like this:
a) In years where there are two and only two unbeaten BCS conference teams that sit 1-2 atop the rankings, the BCS as we know it today is preserved. Good examples of this would be the BcS games in 2002 and 2005.
b) In years where there is a controversy with a group of 1-loss teams or three major unbeatens (2004), a plus one system will be invoked. The semifinal games will take place in two of the existing BCS bowls, with the final to take place a week later.
This would allow things to be played out on the field with the top 4 teams, regardless of conference affiliation.
This is how the BcS championships game would have looked since 1998:
1998 Variable Year- Three 1 Loss Teams
1) Tennessee (unbeaten) v. 4) Kansas State
2) FSU v. 3) Ohio State
1999 NORMAL YEAR – FLORIDA STATE WON CONSENSUS TITLE
1) Florida State v. 2) Virginia Tech
2000 Variable Year – Three 1 Loss Teams
1) Oklahoma (unbeaten) v. 4) Washington
2) Florida State v. 3) Miami
2001 Variable Year – Three 1 Loss Teams
1) Miami (unbeaten) v. 4) Colorado
2) Nebraska v. 3) Oregon
2002 NORMAL YEAR – OHIO STATE WON CONSENSUS TITLE
1) Miami v. 2) Ohio State
2003 Variable Year – Four 1 Loss Teams
1) Oklahoma v. 4) Michigan
2) LSU v. 3) USC
2004 Variable Year – Three Unbeaten Teams
1) USC v. 4) Texas (1 Loss)
2) Oklahoma v. 3) Auburn
2005 NORMAL YEAR – TEXAS WON CONSENSUS TITLE
1) USC v. 2)Texas
2006 Variable Year – Two 1 Loss Teams
1) Ohio State (unbeaten) v. 4) LSU (2 Losses)
2) Florida (1 Loss) v. 3) Michigan (1 Loss)
2007 Variable Year – Three 2 Loss Teams
1) Ohio State (1 loss) v. 4) Georgia
2) LSU v. 3) Oklahoma
2008 Variable Year –
1) Florida v. 4) USC
2) Oklahoma v. 3) Texas
2009 Normal Year-ALABAMA WINS CONSENSUS TITLE
1) Alabama v. 2) Texas
In the variable year where 1 plays 4 and 2 plays three, the four regular BcS bowls would rotate these games. These two games would be completed by January 1 with the BcS CG being played by the two winners approximately one week later, just as it is right now.
This system to me reflects an acknowledgment of the parity in college football. I also think it would add suspense down the stretch as meaningful games are left to decide which of the two systems would be utilized to determine the BcS opponents.
While the BcS is far from perfect, I do believe that it is here to stay. The eleven changes that I have outlined will address most of the ills that exist in this system, or at least improve it drastically.
Categories: College Football