Fixing The BCS

As some (or most) of you know, I took a class in my Sophomore year at the U of O called “Information Gathering.” That was the formal name. What it was (the class no longer exists) referred to as by students and faculty alike was “Info Hell.” An intensive research paper, 100+ pages, with extremely annotated bibliography entries. I lost sleep. I lost weight. It was Hell. However, besides the academic experience, I did take away one BIG thing from this class.

I know how to fix the BCS.

University Presidents, I’m waiting for a phone call…
(For the record, I am pro-BCS. I’d rather have the current BCS than a playoff format any day. You’ll see why below.)

The topic I picked for my paper was “BCS vs Playoff.” What works? What doesn’t? Why doesn’t it work? Why will X be better than Y? I got to interview Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly, former Coach/Athletic Director Mike Bellotti, and former University President/BCS Oversight Committee President Dave Frohnmayer. I got to hear all of their insights into the BCS, their opinions on a playoff, and what they thought of everything happening in college football at the time.

At the time of these interviews, the Ducks had just appeared in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1995, losing to Ohio State. Little did we all know that 3 straight BCS games (including a National Championship) were in the future. We discussed how the BCS worked, and I was surprised to hear that all three preferred the current BCS format to a playoff system. Even Kelly, who had coached to a playoff format during his time in New Hampshire, said that a playoff wasn’t fair, not necessarily for the teams, but for the fans:

If you’re a fan, do you have enough money to go to 4 straight games and travel? Our fan base [at Oregon] is great and wanted to go to the Rose Bowl, but could they go to 4 Rose Bowl’s?

I asked Coach Bellotti what he thought should happen to College Football. His answer sparked my interest:

I would use the traditional bowl games as a forerunner for the playoffs. Make it an “And-One” system. After the BCS games have been played, play one more game if there are two undefeated teams, have them play one more National Championship game. 

Those words. “And-One.” I’ve now spent almost 2.5 years thinking about this paper and those words. That’s it. It makes so much sense. Much more so than the 4-team playoff that is set to go in place in 2 years.

Here’s how it works:

  • Bowl Season still exists. Alamo, Sun, PapaJohns.com, Music City. All of them. Allows for teams to claim that they were champions of something. Keeps the economies of those cities strong during December and January. Makes the fans happy.
  • BCS Games: Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, and COTTON. Notice how there is no BCS National Championship game. 5 BCS games still exist. You take a historic game (Cotton Bowl) and make it a BCS Game.
  • Conference Tie-In’s still exist. Rose (Pac12/Big 10), Orange (ACC), Sugar (SEC), Fiesta (Big 12). At Large bids and/or other conferences (MWC, Big East, WAC, Independents) become the other players and make up the Cotton Bowl match-up.
  • Play the Bowl Season games. People win, and are happy. People lose, and are sad.

Now here’s the kicker…

  • After all of the Bowl Game are played, there is a re-ranking. Teams ranked #1 and #2 play in the BCS National Championship game. Location would be based on the same rotational system the BCS currently uses.
  • For the re-rank at the end of the Bowl Season, NO COMPUTERS. ONLY HUMANS.

What does this solve? I’m glad you asked. Today, October 28th, 2012, there are 4 undefeated teams in college football trying to claim the #1 and #2 spots in the BCS. Alabama, Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame. In theory, at the end of this hypothetical situation’s Bowl Season, only two of those teams will still be undefeated. Those two teams play in the final “And-One” game. Winner take all.

Think about it. A few years ago, Boise State got bent out of shape because they were undefeated and deserved a shot at the championship. In this situation, they get it.

“Hey Boise, you really want to play [insert SEC team]? Here ya go. Have fun!”

Are there flaws with this system? Of course. College Football is a flawed system. What if (like this year) there are multiple undefeated teams, and they ALL win their bowl games, remaining undefeated? Thus the HUMAN re-rank. Why are computers figuring out who is a champion anyway? Let the people use what they see and chose the proper game.

It’s not perfect. Nothing is perfect when it comes to College Football. But as I see it, it’s more fair for everyone involved…until you’re team gets screwed. And that’s where the problem with the BCS and college football really lies. Everyone is happy until their team is screwed. And no matter what you think, a playoff, the BCS, an And-One, nothing is going to make it better. Someone is always going to be that 5th (or 6th or 7th) team left out of the playoffs.

So grin and bear it. You’re still going to be pissed off when the playoff comes around in 2014.

So how do you fix the BCS? You don’t. You just edit to it to try and make it a bit more fair.

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2 Responses to Fixing The BCS

  1. LeavertoBeaver says:

    There’s really not much fresh or new about this idea of a plus one. It’s been passed around for awhile.

    Here’s the issues:

    You can’t keep the same conferences in the same bowls every year. The Cotton Bowl would feel shafted being the forgotten bowl every year. They need to rotate, much like it is now where once every cycle, the bowl must pick a team outside of its commitment.

    Also, without a BCS champ game as the 5th bowl and keeping all the tie-ins, Oregon would end up playing the Big Ten Champ this year. Why should Oregon get an easier match-up than another team? They wouldn’t play each other with the current tie ins in place.

    But, let’s keep your traditional tie-ins as they are and say that was the system in place for the past ten years.

    In 2011, Oklahoma, the champion of the Big 12 played UConn and beat them pretty handily. Yet, you also have wins from Stanford in a blowout of the #13 Virginia Tech squad, Ohio State knocking out the #8 Arkansas team, TCU beating Wisconsin, and Auburn beating Oregon.

    Who’s to say which wins were the best?

    Oklahoma and Stanford could very well have been the two best teams, but they’re punished because they were put into a bowl game against a lesser opponent.

    What if voters thought that the two best teams were still Auburn and Oregon? Do they play each other a week later?

    Also, you said that this was helpful for the small teams, but I’d argue that putting it to ANOTHER vote, rather than what happens on the field, would hurt small conference teams. Do you really think that the pollsters would take TCU over Ohio State? TCU beat the only team that beat Ohio State that season. But, the same “they didn’t play anyone” argument comes into play. They’d get shafted even harder.

    You hardly ever end up in a season with 2 undefeated teams, much less 4. While this scenario would work for this season (barring any losses to these 4 teams) it would not work for every season. Also, what about Louisville? They’re undefeated and possibly will win the Big East, a BCS conference. Yet, they’d get left out.

    There’s nothing more “fair” about what you’ve put into play. It simply favors a few teams and still gives too much power to polls instead of on-field performance. This isn’t a fix, this is a further complication.

    The only true way to determine a national champion is a playoff. There already have been NCAA football playoffs in FCS, D-2, and D-3 for 34 years, and all games are well attended. The playoffs games wouldn’t and shouldn’t be neutral site. Travel would be MUCH easier for fans. Chip’s argument fails to take into account that not EVERY team travels each week, the number gets cut in half, much like the NCAA tournament, where the fans have no problem traveling.

    You can’t fix the BCS because the BCS inherently doesn’t work.

    24 teams. All conference champions plus at-large decided by a committee. Only neutral site games would be the final four.

    The NCAA needs to cut the crap and realize that FBS football shouldn’t be the only sport without a national champion decided on the field. Bring on the playoff, and make this right.

    • Alex Horwitch says:

      Thanks for the feedback. A few things in response:

      – The 2011 Bowl Season (2010 Season), would be restructured in this format, so Oregon and Auburn would have never played each other. Oregon would have been in the Rose Bowl vs Wisconsin. Auburn would have been in the Sugar Bowl vs. At Large. But for the sake of this argument, let’s say the Bowls that happened happened. The two undefeated teams at the end of the season were Auburn and TCU. They would play each other for the Championship due to the fact that they were the only undefeated teams left. Thus, the smaller schools never have to ask the “Why don’t we get a shot” question anymore.

      – If I’m not mistaken, the only reason that the Bowls take teams outside of their contractual agreements (once per cycle as you mentioned) is when a team in that agreement is in the National Championship. Again, 2011 Rose Bowl featured Wisconsin and TCU. Why TCU? Oregon (Pac10/12) was in the Championship. Last year, there were no SEC teams in any of the 4 BCS games. Why? Two SEC schools were in the title game. 2010 Fiesta Bowl? No Big12 school. Why? Texas was in title game. In this form, the Cotton Bowl won’t be forgotten because they would figure out a conference agreement. I just wasn’t specific about it. There are many possibilities. And getting at-large bids isn’t half bad. They usually end up being the 2nd place SEC, B1G, PAC12, or Big12 teams, or an undefeated Non-AQ/Independent. Not a bad consolation.

      – Chip’s argument about fan travel is still relevant with what you said. Let’s say you’re a Oregon State fan (going by your screen name). If OSU were to make the playoffs, would you want to go to the games? There are some costs involved with that. And then lets say they go to the Final Four. Would you be able to afford to go to Pasadena for one game (tickets, travel, lodging, food), then make the trip to Miami/New Orleans/Phoenix for ANOTHER game a week later, again paying for tickets, travel, lodging, and food? If yes, then congratulations. But the average college football fan, students, can’t afford to do that. In the interview with Chip, he also spoke about fairness to fans during the playoffs without neutral locations. Imagine your team is a lower seed, and you can’t afford to travel. You can afford to see them at home, but every game they play in the playoffs is a road game. Is that fair for you? Is that fair for the players, to never play in front of their home crowds?

      – In the BCS Era, there have been multiple multi-undefeated seasons. In 2010, there were two undefeated teams in the end (Auburn and TCU). 2009 had two (Bama and Boise St). 2004 had 3 undefeated teams (Utah, Auburn, USC). 1999 had two (Florida St and Marshall). 1998 had two (Tennessee and Tulane). Then there is the case of the “National Champion” not being undefeated, while undefeated teams exist. The undefeated teams left standing in 2008 and 2006 were Non-AQ teams (Utah and Boise). I’m sure they both would have liked to play the “Champion.”

      – You mentioned that they only way to deliver a champion is a playoff. Well, think of the traditional bowls as a playoff. You still have the history (Rose/Sugar/Orange/Cotton/Fiesta Bowl Champion). But again, the re-rank after those games would be human. Not computer. Eye Test matters. And in a playoff, who do you think is making the bracket? Pollsters. The format that’s about to happen in 2014 is a 4 team playoff. Who’s the 5th team. Who decides this? Pollsters. No matter what, the pollsters we all despise don’t go away.

      Like I said, is this a perfect plan? No. When it comes down to it, college football is flawed. Why? There’s too much money at stake. Advertisers, city economies, teams, conferences, television, the Bowl’s themselves. It’s a complicated matter that everyone has a strong opinion on and even when a playoff happens, there will be errors. Then a whole new argument will start.

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