Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Just Remove the Middle Letter...

The BCS is over. Alabama wins the BCS National Championship.

Big. Deal.

This was not the story of some Cinderella underdog team coming from behind to claim a victory over a powerhouse team. No. This was the story of a team that had only one loss the entire 2011 College Football season. To the team they just played last night. A loss that resulted from a single missed field goal in overtime.

And I sincerely believe that not one single person outside the state of Alabama really gives a flying f$%&.

The whole BCS system has gotten even more ridiculous than it already was. In the 14 years since the BCS was instituted, by my count it has worked right exactly one time. At the end of the 2002 season, 2 undefeated teams existed in college football: Ohio State and Miami. These two teams met in the Fiesta Bowl, and OSU won in a dramatic Overtime. Everyone, while not exactly happy about the result, was satisfied that a clear champion had been established. And as far as I can tell, not one time since then has that ever happened.

There is so much wrong with the BCS that I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start with the fact that only certain college football conferences are even allowed to compete for spots in the coveted BCS bowls (and the huge payoffs that come with them). There are, of course, the so-called “at large” spots that the less powerful conferences can sometimes claim, but often only by virtue of going undefeated, a difficult task to accomplish in any football season. And don’t even get me started on the so-called “Notre Dame rule”.

Then there’s the whole notion of computers picking who the better teams are based on things like strength of schedule and points scored, to name a few. Not only does this encourage teams to pad their schedules with weak teams in order to boost their records, it also encourages coaches to run up the score of games, instead of giving starting players a break and letting the second and third-stringers get some much needed playing time.

And, of course, the coaches poll. Not only does this tend to be very subjective, it can end up having a profound impact on the final game. A few years ago, after Ohio State had beaten Michigan when both teams were undefeated, Michigan’s chances of getting a rematch in the BCS championship game came down to a vote by the coaches, one of whom was the coach of Florida, the other contender for the game against OSU. Guess which team wound up playing OSU? (OSU’s coach, Jim Tressel, graciously declined to vote).

So usually what happens is that no one is happy, outside of the fan base of the team that is eventually declared “the Champion”. Every year, calls are made for the system to be changed, and every year those calls fall on the deaf ears of the BCS.

Now, I understand, BCS officials are meeting to discuss changing the format. The most likely scenario is that the final pool of teams will go from 2 to 4, with a 2-round playoff. This, while slightly fairer, is not nearly enough.

The fairest solution would be to invite the champions from every FBS conference to compete in the lesser bowls. As each conference was eliminated, the winners would advance to the next bowl, until the top 8 teams could play the 4 major bowl games on New Year’s day, followed by the aforementioned 4 team 2 round playoff, winner take all. Not only would this encourage more interest in the minor bowls (which would equal more money—always a plus to bowl promoters), it would help the less powerful conferences with their recruiting, since every conference would potentially have a chance at producing the national champion. The playing field, while not completely level, would be far less tilted toward the BCS conferences. This would also leave plenty of bowl games available for non-champion teams.

Oh, and screw Notre Dame. Tell them they either join a conference or they don’t get to play in the big dance. They’d change their tune pretty quick, I think.

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