The BCS has been one of the most criticized, loathed, and hated playoff formats in sports. Since its inception in 1998, only select conferences from around the nation have been deemed worthy to have a bid to a BCS bowl. And by extension, only teams from those conferences were considered high-caliber enough to merit those prestigious bowls, and the coveted BCS National Championship game.
So how exactly does the BCS work? Well, collgefootballpoll.com has an excellent explanation for those who are curious as to how teams climb to the top of the BCS ladder.
To see the full article and get the nitty-gritty details, here’s the link: http://www.collegefootballpoll.com/bcs_explained.html
To sum it up, in case you don’t want to make the jump, the BCS standings are decided based on three groups of data: the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, the USA Today Coaches Poll, and an average of six computer rankings. Each one of those groups count as one-third of the team’s BCS rank.
Basically, what happens is actually a lot simpler than most people think. A team is given a rank in the Harris Poll, which is then added to its rank in the Coaches poll, which is then added to the average it receives from the computers. Once all three numbers have been added together, the sum is divided by three and you’re left with the team’s BCS rank.
But what about those teams from the non-BCS conferences? Well, those teams are let into the BCS party on two terms: if they’re ranked 12 or higher in the final BCS standings, or if they’re sitting at 16 or higher, but their rank is higher than that of a champion of an automatic-qualifying conference. For example, Northern Illinois beat out Kent State in the Mid-American conference championship game, and ended up ranked 15th, ahead of Big East champ Louisville who sat at 21. NIU will play in the Orange Bowl against Florida State this year.
Some pundits and fans purport that NIU isn’t as good as their ranking says. The fact is they ranked high enough in all three factors of the BCS formula to end their season at number 15 in the final standings. And that was good enough for NIU to crash a BCS party.
Even when teams like NIU make it into a BCS bowl, there’s still beef with the system. The beef people have with the BCS is the emphasis it places on opinion. Two-thirds of a team’s BCS rank is based on polls decided by humans.
All across the nation, fans cry out that the SEC isn’t really the best conference in football, that Boise St. should’ve been included in some BCS games during the Kellen Moore years (and for that matter the Utes should’ve played Florida in 2008), and that the whole system is just a sham for the big name schools and coaches. But that’s just their opinion.
This is the sports world. Opinion lives on blogs like this in such abundance that it’s pretty much impossible to find an article about football, basketball or baseball without some kind of bias. And that’s all fine, because the sports world is designed that way. If there was no opinion, if there was only one way to look at the outcome of a game or a flop, then blogs like this wouldn’t exist.
There’s always going to be a difference of opinion among people because that’s just how life is. No matter what system is in place for college football, there’s always going to be a group of people that feel shafted or left out. That’s just how things are.
However, the BCS is by no means a perfect system to decide a winner. The move to a four-team playoff may or may not help this problem, depending on your point of view.
However, the biggest problem I have with college football isn’t the BCS. I’ve tried to show both sides of the BCS argument for the sake of presenting my own opinion. I wanted you, the reader, to have an opinion on the BCS before reading my opinion on post-season college play, because I believe that the BCS has significant bearing on that.
In the new four-team playoff format, the national champion is going to have to play 15 games to bring a title back to campus. How many games does an NFL team play? 16. The NCAA is asking college athletes to play one game shy of a full NFL season.
While fans will love more college football, the question the fans should ask themselves is this: is it right to ask college athletes to play that many games? These kids are going out there and playing all these games, just for a shot at a job in the NFL. But how many college football players will move on to the next level? How many of them will leave school early, get injured in the young years of their NFL career, and then have little education to fall back on?
And what if a college player suffers an injury in college, and their NFL career is gone? It takes just a few seconds for an ACL to tear, but in those few seconds a pro career can be literally torn away. And then what? That athlete has probably spent more than a decade perfecting his game to the point where the NFL was a legitimate opportunity and not just the dream of a 10-year old kid watching Peyton Manning.
Trying to decide what to do when a dream is taken from you isn’t easy. And herein lies my problem with the playoffs in college football: these athletes are asked to put their future careers and livelihoods on the line, just so the BCS, the schools, and TV networks can make money. Money is the driving factor behind all of this.
And I know college football is a sport. And I know sports are driven mostly by money. Without owners, arenas, equipment, and love for the game, there are no sports in this country. Those things all cost money (with the exception of love for the game, of course), and the fans and TV networks pay for them.
That’s all fine and dandy – that’s how the sports world has always been. Fans love the game and want to see it played to the highest levels possible. But owners and colleges have these teams to make money. And the playoffs in college football are set up to maximize revenue, at what I think is a cost detrimental to college athletes.
Asking a college kid to play 15 games for a national championship is too much. Asking a college kid to play 14, like Alabama will have by the time the matchup with Notre Dame rolls around, is too much.
Football is a rough sport. It’s incredibly wearing on an athlete’s body. And the concussions, as we’ve learned recently, are more serious than previously thought. For the reasons of physicality and the health of the athletes, I think anything beyond 13 games is too much for a college football season. The broken college system to me isn’t the BCS – it’s the length of the post-season that the BCS creates.
There are a lot of fans that say a longer college season only better prepares the athletes for the jump to the NFL. And there are reasons as to why a shorter season is better. There’s an opinion on both sides of this argument.
I’m not going to propose an alternate to the BCS for choosing a champion, simply because I don’t have an alternative. I talked about the BCS earlier and explained it because I wanted to show that I’m not entirely opposed to it. But I am going to stand out and say I think the athletes need to be thought of too when these post-season discussions are brought up.
However, that’s my opinion. Like I said earlier, we’ve all got different ones. Please feel free to share yours with me.