I'm a huge college football fan. Much more than pro football. But there is a major problem. I think the whole BCS football post season is a mess. It has been a mess since first implemented. It will probably still be a mess when the four team “playoff” goes into effect. Every time the extremely intelligent athletic directors and coaches and the even more intelligent university presidents try to tweak the rules it has had an unexpected consequence. Most of those rule changes have not been to strengthen the post season competition. They have been made to appease anti-trust, congressional or public opinion concerns. Now on to the current mess of this year's BCS bowls. Full disclosure, I'm a Florida Gator and SEC fan.
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) continues to let the fans down. The BCS is in charge of the big four bowls plus the championship game. That's five bowls, ten teams. They usually get the championship game right although some years that has not been certain. It's the other four BCS bowl games that succumb to the ridiculous rules. This wouldn't matter to me except that the BCS bowls have extremely large payouts, large TV audiences and influence the final polls. The five BCS bowls will probably have close to $200 million in payouts this year. Last year the BCS bowls had a payout of approximately $18 million per team. The next highest payout was the Capital One Bowl at $4.2 million and it drops off from there all the way down to $500K. That is one hell of a drop off. It should be quite an incentive to have an elite top ranked team. Even after sharing with the conference, $18 million is a nice payday.
So you say, the top ten college football teams in any year would play in the five BCS games. Au contraire you silly savage, there is a complicated and convoluted algorithm to decide which undeserving teams will get to play in the BCS bowls. League champions from the six BCS conferences (SEC, ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12 and PAC 12) are guaranteed a bowl spot. It doesn't matter how good or bad that team is. Then it gets even crazier. If a non-BCS conference team finishes above number 16 in the final BCS poll they get in too. So now we have undeserving BCS conference champions and even more undeserving non-BCS teams automatically in one of the top ($18 million) bowl games.
This year the wonderful BCS rules decided that #15 Northern Illinois gets to play #12 Florida State (FSU) in the Orange Bowl. It also means that #21 Louisville gets to play #3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The venerable Rose Bowl has #6 Stanford against unranked Wisconsin. That is a disservice to Florida and Stanford. As a top ten team they are in a no win situation. If they beat the opponent that's expected and not rewarded. If they struggle or lose they drop like a lead balloon in the rankings.
There are two games that have top matchups. The Fiesta Bowl has #5 K-State vs #4 Oregon. The BCS championship game has #1 Notre Dame vs #2 Alabama. Two of five bowls, that's only 40%.
So, the excellence of the SEC is punished by the BCS rules. The final pre-bowl BCS rankings had Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina in the top ten. Only the Tide and Gators are in BCS bowls. The reason? The BCS powers decided that only two schools from a conference could go to a BCS bowl. That means that four SEC teams in the top ten can not participate in an $18 million bowl game, but unranked Wisconsin, #15 Northern Illinois and #21 Louisville can. Last year the SEC could not host the Sugar Bowl (actually the January, 2012 edition) because LSU and Alabama were in the Championship game so that used up the two SEC representatives slots.
Of course the way to fix part of this mess is to have a playoff. Every professional league and every other collegiate sport has one. There are still a few inequities but not many. The Division One football leaders have blocked a playoff for years. There is a very limited playoff coming in a couple of years, but not a definitive one.
The BCS and their college presidential oversight committee is a joke. The university presidents thump their chests and tell everyone who will listen that they are in charge. They are protecting the concept of the student-athlete. The truth is that like most of us the presidents are whores. The big TV networks promise millions and Mr. or Ms. Academic Integrity decide it's OK to change a rule or two. College football teams used to play 10 games and then maybe a bowl game. They now play 12 games plus maybe a conference championship game and a bowl game. I can remember when there were fewer than ten bowl games, so it actually was an honor to play in one. There are now about 35 bowl games and it is hard for all of them to find a team that had at least a .500 season. Now if you win half your games you are rewarded with a bowl game. So, a mediocre team gets to take a bowl trip and maybe pocket some extra TV money for the school and conference. That's OK with me. What's not OK is when they hype the game as important and crow about student-athlete integrity. Until and unless there is a real Division One football playoff, hardly any of these games are meaningful. We have had years when there were three undefeated teams so one of them (Auburn) got eliminated from the BCS Championship game. We have had other years when several teams had the same record (ie. 2012, AL, FL, OR & KS) and only one gets to compete for the title.
Here's the convoluted season in the SEC. Texas A&M beat Alabama and lost to LSU & Florida. LSU lost to Alabama and beat South Carolina. Florida beat South Carolina but lost to Georgia. South Carolina demolished Georgia. So which team is the best? My point is that top ten SEC teams play each other every weekend. If the Gators lose to the Dawgs or LSU beats A&M, if the Gamecocks beat the Dawgs and so on it's just another week in the SEC. There is a reason six SEC teams are in the BCS top ten. There only loses were to other SEC teams in the top ten and the SEC is the top league in college football. Four teams have one lose. So, is Alabama the undisputed #2 team.
Although the four team playoff will be better than what we have now, it will still fall short of being definitive. I think you need at least eight teams and 16 would be better. I know, that's several extra games but only for a few teams. Now there is anywhere from three to six weeks between the last regular season game and the bowl game for a team. Plenty of time for a real playoff. A 16 team playoff would produce 15 must see games that ESPN would pay a fortune for and I would watch. It's also an opportunity for almost half of the current bowls to have a meaningful game. This year I plan to miss the Little Caesars Bowl (6-6 Central Michigan vs 7-5 Western Kentucky) and several others.
Let's get Division One college football into the 21st century. Let's also give way less credit to the BCS, NCAA, athletic directors and university presidents.
Lastly, lets hope for at least a couple of good bowl games this season. Happy bowling.