Same Time Next Year for BCS

By Christopher Gabriel,

A little over one year ago, back on Dececmber 2, 2007, I wrote a piece called BCS a Mess After Another Wild Saturday.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Sure it’s an overused, rather tired old phrase.  And so is the discussion of whether or not college football needs a playoff.  I thought last year proved that to be the case.  One year later, the evidence is even more compelling and overwhelming.

Your 2009 BCS championship game in Miami will feature the 12-1 Florida Gators and the 12-1 Oklahoma Sooners.  Great match-up, with two explosive offenses and hard-nosed defenses.  Ought to be a terrific football game.  So did the BCS system get the right match-up?  Merely asking the question illustrates the problem.  And there is a problem here.

What about Texas, which defeated Oklahoma?  What about undefeated Utah?  What about  once-beaten USC?  For that matter, what about undefeated Boise State?  Add up those teams with the Gators and Sooners and you have six.  Toss in Orange Bowl participants Cincinnati and Virginia Tech and that makes this an eight-team discussion. 

Eight teams?  Sounds like a good number for . . . say it softly . . . a playoff.

For someone like me who loves college football, it’s infuriating to see what this sport’s postseason has become.  In short, it’s a joke.

The endless rhetoric about the student-athletes and how they simply can’t be out of school several additional weeks for a playoff is ridiculous.  Apparently the student-athletes participating in the 16-team Division 1-AA (now called the FCS, for Football Championship Subdivision) playoffs,  the 24-team Division 2 playoffs or those in the 32-team Division 3 playoffs are somehow able to summon the mental discipline and physical courage to continue playing a bit longer.  In the end, they actually determine a champion on the field without the help of poll voters and computers. 

Even more incredible, the presidents of FCS institutions of higher learning are just fine with their student-athletes playing a bit longer.  But many of their Division 1, or FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision), counterparts along with a good number of their coaches and athletic directors offer up any number of reasons why a playoff would be a disaster.  My favorite is the notion the integrity of the game would be compromised.  Of course it would.  The same way the integrity of every other sport at the high school, college and professional level has its integrity compromised with, shhh . . . a playoff.

The issue here is not with Florida and Oklahoma.  The issue is with the others. 

The idea of people voting, computers analyzing and the end result being The Selection of The Most Worthy is absurd.  Can you imagine if the NFL had bowls with two teams being selected by coaches, sportswriters and power ratings from a computer? 

Year after year some broadcaster, sportswriter, coach, athletic director or university president rolls out an opinion about why the bowl system (read: lack of a playoff) is just fine the way it is.  That somehow, it makes college football unique.  It makes the sport special. 

No, it undermines the sport and makes its champion mythical.  Nothing more.

And the idea that the regular season actually means something in college football because of the bowl system is even more idiotic.  Don’t tell me the regular season would mean any less if the bowl system was still in place along with the knowledge that eight teams (or even 16), no matter what conference they were in, would earn their way into a playoff through a selection committed set up the way college basketball does it.

There is nothing unique and special about teams being left out of any chance to play for a championship because they didn’t have enough votes from pollsters thereby moving them up the rankings which translates into helping to improve their BCS ranking.  Or because they play in what amounts to a second-tier conference, according to BCS standards, which surely means they don’t have the talent or ability to match up with a team from the acceptable conferences.

Is there a college football fan anywhere that wouldn’t love to see Florida vs. Utah, Urban Meyer’s former team, in a first round game?  How would a Boise State-Oklahoma rematch from the incredible 2007 Fiesta Bowl grab you?   And what about a Final Four of Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and USC? 

There was talk for a while of a “plus-one” system, sort of a mini-playoff among the top four teams in the BCS, but it was rejected.  Both the Pac-10 and Big 10 had no interest, no doubt in large part to their long-standing relationship with the Rose Bowl.  That, and the archaic thinking that permeates the hierarchies of both conferences.

Why don’t we just have a plus-eight?  Or a plus-16?  Any type of playoff would be a plus. 

With 34 bowl games, or more than half  of the 119 Division 1 teams playing in them, where does that special magic, that uniqueness, come from?  Is it in Shreveport for the Independence Bowl?  Maybe it’s in Detroit for the Motor City Bowl.  Some would argue it’s easily found in Pasadena, New Orleans, Tempe and Miami for the traditional big ones, the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange, respectively.

Look, if you really want to find that special magic, that uniqueness that represents college football, I’m here to tell you it’ll be in Miami on January 8, 2009.  When the Florida Gators and Oklahoma Sooners hook up, thankfully you’ll know you’re watching the two best teams in college football.  Makes no difference come January 9, 2009, we could be looking at two undefeated teams (Utah and Boise State) along with one-loss USC (or Penn State), Texas and Texas Tech to go with the Florida-Oklahoma winner.

The Gators and Sooners are the two best because the BCS formula told us so.  So have all those college presidents, athletic administrators and coaches.  Shouldn’t that be good enough?  Remember, it’s not perfect but it’s the best system we have available to us. 

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Filed Under: NCAASports


About the Author: Christopher Gabriel is the host of the cleverly named Christopher Gabriel Program on AM 970 WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota. You can hear him weekdays from 9 to Noon. As a writer and humorist, his work has been been published online by the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters and publications within the Sun-Times News Group.

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