Busting the BCS

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Busting the BCS ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>

By Mike Ivcic

In the past week, I have read – in more than one place, mind you – that the move made by BYU to become a football independent could likely become “the wave of the future.” Really? Please explain to me how conference commissioners are going to look kindly on teams like Texas, Ohio State, Florida, USC, Michigan, Miami, Oklahoma, or any other traditional power leaving conference affiliation and playing an entirely independent schedule in order to obtain more television revenue. The thing is – they won’t. There’s just no way. Allow me to detail why.

College football is still the only collegiate sport in which the playoff format and national champion is still decided at what I would call a “local” level. Each conference develops their own way of determining a champion, and the conferences are the ones that subsequently determine where those champions will play their bowl game. Bowl games, in and of themselves, are directly a product of having the power brokers in college football at the conference level, and NOT with the NCAA. Every other champion in every other sport, from basketball to volleyball to baseball to hockey, is determined by an NCAA-sanctioned postseason tournament. Not college football. They still determine their champion the old-fashioned way – through voting – because that is exactly how the conferences that have the most say, i.e. the BCS conferences, want it.

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Despite the recognition of Utah, TCU, and Boise State in recent years, the BCS is actually a system that is designed to prevent non-BCS schools from joining the elite, postseason party. That’s what makes this year’s Boise State team so intriguing – the Broncos have a chance to do exactly what the system is designed to prevent, and the best part is that they’re doing it through the system itself. Say what you want about the schedule or team or whatever, but IF they get to the championship game, Boise State will have done it not by circumventing the system, but by exceeding the system in a way no power broker could have ever imagined.

And that’s why the system will ultimately be changed.

See, schools in the Pac-10/12, Big 10/11/12, Big 12/10, SEC, ACC, and Big (L)East can’t afford to have half of the pot of the sport’s biggest game go OUTSIDE one of those six conference. And so what the group will do is make the restrictions on automatic qualifiers stiffer and more difficult to overcome. That will also hurt independents, mainly Notre Dame and now BYU. The conference commissioners and decision makers want to see the BCS money stay in the BCS conferences, not heading to remote places like Boise, Provo, or South Bend. So they will likely institute a rule – one, mind you, that I have been saying should have been implemented a long time ago – that in order for a team to qualify, they will have to win their conference. That will handle the two independents. Then, they will somehow find a way to give some extra weight to the winners of the BCS conferences in order to ensure that the national championship participants come from a pool of those six winners. It’s not right, and it’s most certainly not fair, but since the NCAA brass refuses to step in and fix anything, that’s exactly what will happen.

What should happen? The NCAA should sanction a full-fledged playoff. To be as fair as possible, it should be a 16-team playoff with the winner of every conference at the FBS level and the next five best “at-large” teams, but for now I’ll simply settle for a “plus-one” system. And then they should remove all polls and computers from the equation and simply select the four best conference winners to play in a four-team playoff. That takes politics out of the equation and forces conferences to all play by the same rules – which is exactly why it won’t happen. But that is the entire key to changing the way college football determines a champion. The power must be removed from the best interests of the colleges and conferences, and become what’s about the best interest of the sport as a whole.

And after watching Monday night, I’m rooting for Boise State to take that system down.

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