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A farewell to a scourge on college football
The BCS acronym is kind of perfect, really.
It’s as if the organizers wanted to make sure BS made its way in there somehow.
Even the name spelled out is all wrong: Bowl Championship Series. The "championship" involves one game, hardly a series at all.
The BCS era ended Monday night with the final championship game. A playoff, limited as it may be to four teams, begins next season. The polls and computer rankings will give way to a 13-person selection committee.
The frustration and confusion this era has wrought will make many say good riddance.
Yesterday, we picked the reasons why you’ll end up missing the BCS when it’s gone. This is why you’re more than happy to kick it to the curb.
11 Reasons you’re glad BCS is gone
Three Words: College. Football. Playoff.
Sure, the BCS set up a winner-take-all title game situation, but think of the underlying idea behind this: Since 1998, only two teams, according to this system, are worthy of playing for the national championship. The infuriating reality was that teams were better off losing early in the season rather than losing late in most cases. The playoff — one hopes — allows more wiggle room for teams that improve as the season goes along, like Michigan State this year, or teams that lose in wild ways, like Alabama. Parsing the one-loss teams or picking which two-loss teams are worthy may be controversial, but it’s unlikely a team in a major conference can go undefeated and miss an opportunity to play for a title.
The BCS didn’t end split national champions
The No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup was supposed to put an end to split national champions, but that failed in 2003. USC was ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ and AP polls, but the computer average downgraded the Trojans to third, sending Oklahoma and LSU to the title game. LSU beat the Sooners, and USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The coaches were obligated to vote for the BCS championship game winner, but the AP voters were not and gave their trophy to USC.
The BCS screwed up the title game at least twice
Feel free to argue 2004 Auburn belonged in the championship game or Texas should have gone instead of Oklahoma in 2008 when the Longhorns defeated the Sooners. Let’s just stick with the most egregious title game mishaps. Before the computer rankings and the BCS formula outweighed the human polls in 2003 (see above), they did something even worse in 2001. Nebraska lost the Big 12 title game 62-36 to Colorado that year but still remained No. 2 the final BCS rankings. Joey Harrington-led Oregon ranked second in the AP and coaches’ polls after the conference title games, and two-loss Colorado ranked third across the board. Nebraska got the title game nod in the BCS, though, and proceeded to get clobbered 37-14 by Miami.
The BCS brought us the ridiculous Harris poll
When the AP pulled its top 25 out of the BCS rankings after three undefeated teams topped the polls in 2004, the BCS powers that be replaced it with the Harris Interactive top 25. The Harris poll featured a collection of former players, coaches, administrators and former and current media members. Some of the names over the years were well-known. Lloyd Carr, Jackie Sherrill, Tommie Frazier and Boomer Esiason were all on the panel at one point or another (so was Jerry Sandusky). Some of the voters were obscure, little-known lettermen — now businessmen, doctors, dentists and even PGA tour officials — who didn’t even know who nominated them in the first place. Some of them even admitted to not watching the games. Though Harris released their names and final ballots, other information was tough to find. Not that it mattered, as many fans continued to assume the AP poll was involved until the very end.
The BCS brought us the even more ridiculous computer rankings
The Harris poll was ludicrous, but in practice, it essentially produced a carbon copy of the coaches’ poll or AP poll, for better or worse. The size of the panel (100-plus voters) prevented anyone with a truly wacky ballot to do much damage. That’s when the computers come in. The first BCS rankings had three computers. The next one had eight. By the end, the standings had six. It seems strange that now that statistical analysis is more mainstream and better than it was in 1998, the computers are still one of the worst parts of the BCS. What did the algorithms count? Who really knows. The proprietors computers were never required to open them up to inspection. The only thing forbidden: An emphasis margin of victory. After several seasons, the BCS administrators didn’t want to encourage teams to run up the score, so they removed the margin of victory component. Never mind that beating opponents by significant margins might be the sign of a good team. In 2010, statistical guru Jerry Palm noticed one of the computer rankings had a mistake that altered the final BCS rankings. How often has that happened? Who knows? Wes Colley was one of the few that opened his rankings for inspection, for those — like Palm — savvy enough to do so.
The BCS diminished New Year’s Day
In the final bowl season before the BCS in 1997, six bowl games were played on New Year’s Day — the Citrus, Sugar, Outback, Gator, Cotton and Rose. Granted, that’s the same amount of Jan. 1 bowl games in 2013. But consider the ballooning of bowl season since then — Six of 18 bowl games that year were Jan. 1. There were 35 bowl games in 2013. Also in 1997, bowl season ended on Jan. 2 with the Orange and Peach bowls. Making a New Year’s Day bowl game used to be a major accomplishment. This season Jan. 1 featured North Texas and UNLV playing on ESPNU as some of the more prominent games, including the title game, stretched into the following week.
The BCS still prevented upstart teams from the big stage
True, the BCS may be more responsible for the rise of Boise State and Utah than anything else. But don’t let that obscure that the BCS had one job: To match the No. 1 and No. 2 team in a bowl game. The rest was, essentially, the old bowl system at work. There were automatic bids for major conference champions and other teams that reached certain thresholds in the rankings. But the rest of the non-title game pairings were still based on who could sell more tickets or guarantee a big TV ranking. The two-teams-per-conference rule also kept deserving teams out of major bowl games. Top 10 teams from Arkansas, Boise State, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas Tech and Oregon all missed out on BCS games over the years in essence because their travel parties weren’t big enough.
The BCS rankings put too much focus the preseason
Kudos to the BCS never releasing the standings before mid-October, but that wasn’t enough. The habits of pollsters didn’t change. Teams in the preseason rankings, in general, tended to keep their ranking until they lost. Case in point: 2004 Auburn started 17th in the preseason AP poll. USC and Oklahoma were ranked Nos. 1-2. Guess who played for the title? The weekly horse race was probably fun for fans and fed into the every-week-is-a-playoff line BCS supporters were trumpeting. But it also invited anger and confusion if one team jumped another when both teams won. Our advice to the College Football Playoff selection committee: Follow the lead of the basketball committee and keep your picks close to the vest until all the games are finished.
The BCS encouraged watered-down schedules
If teams know the voters tended to keep undefeated major-conference teams ranked ahead of teams with losses, then what’s the incentive to play tough non-conference games? During the BCS era, regular-season schedules expanded from 11 games to 12, but most power programs used that extra game to schedule an extra September gimme game or a sure Homecoming win. Granted, some teams — Oregon, Virginia Tech and LSU, for example — still scheduled premier non-conference games, but others were happy to sell out their stadiums for Sun Belt or FCS schools. With the exception of traditional rivalry games, true home-and-home matchups between power programs became increasingly rare.
Among unintended consequences of the BCS era: A Big 12 with 10 teams, a Big Ten with 14 teams including Rutgers and Maryland, a Missouri team that plays in the SEC East but doesn’t play Kansas, a Thanksgiving without Texas-Texas A&M and the destruction of the Big East and the WAC.
If the BCS itself wasn’t the villain of the era, then the SEC became one. The end of the BCS era culminated with the rise of the SEC as the unquestioned king of college football. Seven consecutive national championships by four different programs set up an SEC monolith. By the end, the SEC champion was assured a spot in the title game, and even then SEC teams played by their own rules. The only time a team lost two games for a national championship? LSU. The only time a team failed to win its division played for (and won) a national title? Alabama. And then there’s that chant.