BCS Memo Misses the Point, Again

According to USA Today, the BCS is considering four new proposals to enhance the legitimacy of college football’s championship.

The BCS is looking at four options, according to the report. One would be tweaking its current format, and then a second would use a “plus-one” formula, which has been talked about for years, pitting two winning bowl teams against each other in one final game to determine a champion. Then there are four- and perhaps six-team playoff options, with one that would include the Big 10 and the Pac 12. In the four-team plan, the four highest-ranked teams would participate in a playoff. In the other plan, the Big 10 and Pac 12 champs would always play in the Rose Bowl, and if one or both of them is a top four team and that team wins, the BCS would select two teams from among three winners.

As I always do with the BCS, I have some questions.

First, I understand the importance of the Rose Bowl, but a National Championship is simply more important. If Ohio State and USC are in the top four, have the conference runners-up play in the Rose Bowl. And if those conferences don’t want to participate in the BCS, then don’t include them in the process, or the profits. There will be some years with controversy, but we don’t see the Big 12 Champs committed to the Orange Bowl like in olden times, or the SEC Champ committed to the Sugar Bowl. Why not be consistent, and demand that, if you’re going to have a four-team playoff, the top four BCS teams be in it?

Second, why four? Why not eight or 16? Yes, in 2011 you would have had a clean four-team playoff with Alabama, LSU, Stanford and Oklahoma State. However, in 2010, the top four BCS teams entering the bowl season were Auburn, Oregon, TCU and Stanford. I say it wouldn’t have been fair to leave Wisconsin and Ohio State (because we didn’t know about their suspensions) out of the mix that year. In most years, there will be controversy with just four teams in a playoff.

An eight-team playoff is easy and makes more sense. BCS people are going to say kids will miss too much school, but I have two points. First, Louisville’s basketball team was on the road for 12 of 15 school days during the NCAA basketball tournament, and had one week off for spring break. Second, if an eight-team tournament starts in the second weekend in December (for example, on Dec. 11 last year), most kids wouldn’t miss any school. And they’d certainly be home for finals if they were the following week. Eight just makes more sense. Take the champions of the SEC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac 12, ACC and Big East. Allow for potential stragglers like Notre Dame, BYU or a small conference power (TCU and Boise State are both moving to power conferences) with two at-large bids. Those bids could also come from power conferences.

Additionally, if a team lost before the championship, it could still play in a New Year’s Day bowl game. For those traditionalists who want to preserve the bowl system, we could get it back to the way it used to be, with all the big bowl games played on New Year’s Day.

A plus one doesn’t do anyone any good. This year was the anomaly, in that only Oklahoma State deserved that shot at Alabama. The year before, however, TCU was unbeaten against an easy schedule, while Stanford’s only loss in a tough conference was to Oregon. Both teams had strong arguments. The year before that, Alabama beat Texas in the Championship game. Florida was number three, but Boise State was unbeaten. There wasn’t a single, logical plus-one opponent.

Tweaking the current system so that more teams from the same conference make it won’t help. It’ll work with the non-championship bowl games, but why should a third place team from one conference be thought better than the champion of another power conference? That simply won’t fly with me.

With my plan, you’ve got a simple, clean, efficient playoff – and the bowl system. Nobody could complain, because if you didn’t win your conference, you don’t have a claim. The small schools have a place, just in case, and you can play the championship game just after New Year’s Day and have those student-athletes back in school. It should be noted that for the 2010 championship game, Oregon had already started back to classes when the BCS Championship was played.

I know the BCS is trying, but it’s a futile gesture. I don’t know why they won’t consider a plan like mine (which is far from unique) and take advantage of all the riches available from such a system.