BCS Needs to Change Its Ways


By Danny Thompson

If you watch college football these days, you know where I’m about to go.  The BCS (Bowl Championship Series) is an ineffective way of picking the best teams in the country.

For those who don’t follow college football, the BCS  ranks each team. These rankings are based on a computer generated ranking, the Harris Poll, and the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.  What exactly goes into the computer rankings has baffled sports fans since the BCS’s creation in 1998.  And while the polls are somewhat more straightforward controversy persists nearly every season.  A complete history and explanation of what goes into the rankings can be found here.

My problems with the BCS lay not so much the with the rankings themselves as with the bowl selection process.  It squeezes out deserving teams and rarely crowns a champion without someone else legitimately feeling like they should have had a shot.  In 2014 there will be a four-team playoff system implemented, but the problem of deserving teams being left out will still remain.

Take this season for example.  I love Northern Illinois as much as the next person, but is a one loss NIU team really more deserving of a premier bowl game than a two loss Oklahoma team, or a two loss Texas A&M team that beat Alabama?  I would have to say that they are not.  How about a Georgia team that came within five yards of going to the national championship?  The current system simply isn’t fair to teams like Georgia whose bowl chances plummet because of a loss to (in my opinion) the best team in the country.

Northern Illinois got in this year because of a technicality in the BCS rules.  It says that if a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference (AQ means that they have a lot of money and receive more bowl bids) finishes in the top 16 and higher in the BCS standings than the champion from an AQ conference, the team from the non-AQ conference gets in.  Another rule that plays into this year’s debacle says that no more than two teams from the same conference can play in BCS bowl games.  What this basically means is that conferences who are strong from top to bottom (the SEC) will lose out until this rule changes.

These rules were implemented in the interest of fairness to smaller schools, and they have given us some good games (Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl), but the rules as they are now just don’t do their job.  When the system to select the best teams in the country can’t even do that, it’s time for a change.

So here’s my solution: six team playoff.  Take the top 4 AQ teams (overall record wise) and the top 2 non AQ teams, seed them 1-6, give the top two teams a first round bye, and let them play for the championship.  Have each game be one of the major bowl games, played at the same sites as they are now, and have the game that decides the championship rotate every year.  This would accomplish the goal of letting in smaller schools, and by using overall record and tie-breakers instead of an ambiguous computer ranking, teams would know why they got left out.

So for now, watch the games, cheer for your favorite school, and try not to be too upset when Northwestern continues their 63 year bowl winless streak.