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5 Reasons to Kill the BCS

by: Howard Cosmell On  Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The reasons to drop the BCS system have been bandied about since the program was instituted. I’ve never heard a compelling argument in favor of the current system. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone except athletic administrators and BCS “officials” (whatever the hell they do) even try to validate the system. And their reasons stem entirely and transparently from self-interest. So it’s not like the reasons you’re about to read are revolutionary or even that original. But they’re pretty valid. Sure, I don’t take into account economics or university politics, but a sports fan shouldn’t have to. I find these reasons pretty difficult to argue with, and this list is hardly exhaustive. There are a million reasons why the BCS should be dragged into the street and executed. Here are five of the simplest and most important.

5. The Dead Month of December
College football essentially shuts down between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most schools have played their 10 or 11 games, and simply kill time waiting for their bowl appearances. Of course, the sponsors like this arrangement because it gets college football fans salivating over bowl season.

Football fans hate it because it’s a month without football for no good reason. Now, I understand that it’s unnecessary to expand every team’s season to 14 games to fill this gap, but a playoff system fits this dead period so well it seems like a match made in heaven. 16 teams become 8 the next week, then 4, then 2 in time for early January. College football will be alive and well during this period, though only the best teams will be “burdened” with extra playoff games.

As it is now, the dead month kills momentum and fan interest, forcing all fans to find solace in the NFL, never to return to the college game that season. I’m a diehard college fan, but by the time the BCS games get going, they feel like the Pro Bowl – too little, too late.

The BCS has actually posed the argument that the time off benefits the student-athletes in that it allows them to study for finals. Which is so insulting it makes me want to scream. Tell me you’re in it for the money, tell me you’re in it for the power, but don’t act as though you have the student’s best interest at heart. That’s the NCAA’s job, and frankly, they don’t even care that much.

4. Computers Shouldn’t Pick the National Champion
Computers shouldn’t pick the national champion, a football game should. Granted, the BCS Championship game has done a good job of picking the national champs year after year, but if you don’t think that sometime soon, we will experience a season with three or more National Championship candidates going into January, you’re fooling yourself. It’s going to happen, and people will be pissed. However, the BCS is happy that most people are taking the logically questionable approach of waiting for the dilemma to occur, then bitching about it.

Quite simply, when this happens, people will spend the whole month of December complaining about how their teams were marginalized, when that entire month could be spent further resolving who deserves to play for the trophy.

Yes, a game does ultimately decide the nation champion, but computers and people decide who plays in the game, rather than a playoff tournament. To the best of my knowledge, a tourney structure has never been regarded as “unfair” or “biased” in any sport. People, however, are accused of both all the time. Let the voters and the computers turn their brains off and let the teams play for the right to be champions.

Sure, there will be controversy in selecting the teams that make the playoffs, but I’d rather hear a 17th-place team complain about not getting a shot than a 3rd-place team, which occurs in the structure we have now.

3.The BCS Keeps the Conferences Separate (and That’s Not a Good Thing)
One of the greatest things about college football is the insular nature of the conferences. The SEC, PAC-10, Big 12, and all the rest have cultures built around their teams, schools and, fans. These unique cultures are nurtured by the fact that more than half of a team’s games are played against conference rivals. The other half are played against other opponents, some push-overs, some titans, and some out-of-conference rivals. The college football regular season seems to strike the perfect balance between the conference rivalries and the national picture.

Well, all that ends at the end of the regular season. Comparing the seasons of Auburn and Oregon is a bit of a fool’s errand, so much so that we need to computers to consider success about those teams’ opponents in common that have opponents in common. Should a playoff system be implemented, The conference championships could choose delegates to play teams from every corner of the nation. The regular season would nurture the conference aspect while the playoffs focused solely on the national picture.

The BCS as it is now actually hinders the conference aspect by forcing more national games during the regular season. Texas is forced to schedule games against USC or OSU if they feel their conference schedule won’t get them to the number one spot. Well, if a playoff existed, such pressure to schedule “prestige games” would be mitigated by postseason match-ups, allowing more teams to get a crack at the top dog in their conference.

The regular season and playoffs would be largely distinct, offering two separate experiences without diminishing the importance of either one.

2. The Regular Season Can Be Fun Again
The upside to the current system is that the regular college football season sort of acts like a bastardized single-elimination tournament, with whoever is left standing at the end of the season advancing to the BCS championship. And that’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world. Every game for your team is do-or-die, and upsets become all the more important when you take down a contender.

However, it creates a lot of undue stress on the fans, too. Schools and programs accept nothing less than perfection during the regular season. Although I appreciate the tension and the ambition such expectations entail, it would be nice if my team was still in the hunt after week two. It’s more fun for the fans and ultimately better for the sport. Teams with two losses will still make the playoffs, compelling their fan bases to pay attention throughout the season.

I understand that many will disagree with this point, but I feel that championships and seasons should be lost in the playoffs and not in week two. Similarly, this structure will end the flaw of the BCS that exists now, which is rewarding a team that loses early in the season more than a team that loses late.

1. Playoffs Would Be More Fun
Not the most complex argument, but the most compelling ones rarely are. Right now, every team heads into bowl season and not a single postseason game has any bearing on any other. The conference championship games carry far more weight and get more viewers than the Holiday Bowl does. For obvious reasons. The conference championship games matter to lots of fans. The fans of the schools involved, the fans of the conference, and the fans of the teams that the winner might play. The Holiday Bowl is only important to the two teams involved and 17 people in San Diego. The more people are affected by the game, the more people will watch. And every playoff game, to some extent, affects every other team in the playoffs.

As such, I would rather watch the 15 playoff games (assuming 16 teams) than I would the 5,497 bowl games on TV. Because the playoff games matter. 98% of the bowl games are masturbatory, existing simply to celebrate the vanity of the teams involved (many of whom aren’t deserving of much attention). HOWEVER, if you are absolutely enamored with the Music City Bowl and the Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Onion Bowl, good news: You don’t have to wave goodbye. All those stupid bowls can still exist, and they will still be exactly as important as they were in the BCS, which is to say, virtually not at all.

* * *
The inertia (read: laziness and self-interest) of the powers that be has done very little to usher in any real change. Unfortunately, this probably will be the case until public outrage reaches a fever pitch. And that won’t happen until the system fails some deserving team and the damage has already been done. While it’s hardly a national priority, it’s exciting to hear that President Obama is interested in effecting change in college football. Here’s to hoping that it happens sooner rather than later so the system can benefit the fans and college football at large, instead of just the BCS insiders.




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