If we learned one thing from the Bowl Championship Series this year, it would be that it just isn’t satisfying. We saw Connecticut play in a game they really didn’t have a chance to win. We saw Stanford be forced to travel across the country to play a game against a pretty good team from a pretty bad conference.
That isn’t to say that the BCS was a total bust this season. It certainly wasn’t. The Sugar Bowl was as exciting a BCS game as we have had in recent years. The BCS National Championship Game was won by a field goal as time expired. So, the BCS had its moments this year.But what do we make of TCU? The BCS still doesn’t clearly answer the question that will haunt Horned Frog fans for a decade. Could TCU have beaten Oregon and Auburn? After watching the games, lots of football fans think they could and would if given the chance.Unfortunately, they weren’t and they won’t. It became clear as the season progressed that TCU was the best team from a non-automatic qualifier conference. They were better than Boise State. They were better than Nevada. They beat Utah like a bass drum.
Once TCU beat Wisconsin, however, it became pretty clear that TCU deserved more than just being considered the best non-AQ team in the country. Gary Patterson’s squad deserved to play for the national championship.
Don’t get me wrong; Auburn and Oregon both deserved their spots in the BCS National Championship Game more than TCU. Their schedules were more difficult, and both schools were forced to scratch and claw their way into the national championship game. The BCS got the top two teams right.
Still, TCU also deserved a shot. And the BCS failed Texas Christian University and college football fans everywhere.
So how do you solve a problem like we have this year? How do you manage a system that will placate the masses and make it fair for all schools that deserve a right to play for a national championship?
7. Turn the Bowl Championship Series into the Bowl Championship Playoff.
That’s the seventh rule change that needs to be made. Obviously, the name is interesting. Both words, “bowl” and “playoff,” are still there. How can this be? Aren’t the bowl system and the playoff system at odds? Serious questions, but they come with serious answers.
They don’t have to be at odds at all. In fact, constructed correctly, and the BCS Bowls could be even more important than they are now. Remember, the BCS National Championship Game isn’t really a “bowl” game. It’s a championship game.
Here is how the playoff picture should play out. The first round would be played as the four major bowls. The second round would be held at the site of the higher seed’s home stadium. The third round would be the national championship game which could be moved from location to location as it currently does.
This system would counter several of the arguments that are commonly used against instituting a playoff system.
Argument 1: The importance of the bowl games would be diminished.
The Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Orange Bowl have absolutely zero say in who wins the national championship anymore. It wasn’t the case back before the BCS came about. It was almost guaranteed that one of them (and the Cotton Bowl back in the days of the old Southwest Conference) would host the number one team in the country. If they won, they had what amounted to the championship game. If they had the number two team in the country and number one lost, then they might still have the championship game. If they had number three and number one and num…well, you get the idea. Once upon a time, these bowls helped determine the national champion.
But today, all the bowls, including the high profile BCS games are simply exhibitions that only have an impact on the polls for places 2-25. The BCS bowls say they do not want a playoff because it would diminish the status of their bowls. Well, what do they think the BCS has done?
The answer to this problem is to incorporate the four major bowls into the playoff system. With an eight team playoff, that means that there will be four first round games. There are four BCS bowls. It sounds like a match made in heaven to me.
Imagine if the Sugar Bowl hosted the number one seed against the number eight seed. Or if the Fiesta Bowl hosted the four and five seeds. Do you think Stanford would have as big of a problem selling their tickets to the Orange Bowl if they knew that if they won, they would be just one game away from playing for a national championship? If the BCS Bowls are worried about their relevancy, they need to make themselves part of the championship picture. This is the best way to do that.
Argument 2: A postseason tournament would involve too many away games. Football tickets are too expensive, and fans wouldn’t travel. If the Bowl Championship Playoff was held like the NCAA basketball tournament with all the games at neutral sites, I would be inclined to agree. However, with the second round being played at one of the team’s home stadium, it would only be one extra road game for two different teams. I would be willing to bet that fan bases of major programs would pack out the houses for two road games if a national championship was on the line.
Obviously, the second round game that is held on campus would be easy sellouts. Two lucky fan bases would get to play in both a BCS Bowl game and the BCS National Championship Game. And we’re to believe that fans wouldn’t pay to see this?
Argument 3: It puts too much of a strain on the students and their grades.
I can’t believe people actually try to use this. Basketball and baseball players miss far more class than football players throughout the year. I’m pretty sure that two more Saturdays won’t be the difference between graduation and failure. Coaches across the country, especially those at major programs, do an amazing job of making sure their student athletes get their school work completed.
Argument 4: Having 8 teams is too many. We need a “plus one” system.
And how would that plus one system work this year? We would have added a one loss Stanford to the three undefeated teams. Meanwhile, one loss teams such as Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin would be left out. I’m pretty sure the Big Ten fans would not have been thrilled about seeing two Pac 10 teams work their way into the tournament and none from the tougher Big Ten conference.
It’s always better to have too many teams in the tournament than not enough. With 8 teams, you’re guaranteed to have all the teams with a gripe to play for the national championship.
Argument 5: Having 8 teams is not enough. We need 16 or 32.
Slow down, Spanky. There never has been a time where more than 8 teams had a legitimate gripe to play for a national championship. And the more rounds you add to the tournament, the more likely it is that teams won’t sell out their early round games.
And yes, money has to be a consideration.
Argument 6: It’s a slippery slope. Once you get an 8 team playoff, it’s only a matter of time before it expands to 16 and then 32 and before long, half of the 120 FBS schools are in a playoff.
This would be a non-issue because the BCS Bowls would own the playoff rights. That’s right, folks. The four major bowls would own the rights to the first round of the playoffs.
Unless they decide to bring in the Cotton Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Holiday Bowl, and Outback Bowl, then you won’t see expansion of any kind. And does anyone believe that the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl will diminish the value of their product by adding less intrigue to the first round? No chance. If the BCS bowls own the playoff system, then expansion will never happen.
Argument 7: The regular season becomes less important if you add a playoff.
To some degree, I have to concede. However, with an eight team playoff and home field advantage at stake in the Final 4, winning every week is important.
Keep in mind that if only eight teams make the BCS playoff format, only 6% of the teams in the FBS division of college football will make the post season. Compare that to March Madness where nearly 20% of the teams make the Division I men’s basketball tournament. When you consider how many regular season games you will have to win in order to be in the top 6%, I think it becomes pretty evident how important the regular season is.
Let’s take a look at the other proposed rule changes and how it would affect a Bowl Championship Playoff.
Rule 1: All Automatic Qualifier conferences must expand to at least 12 teams and play a conference championship game.
Rule 2: Remove the special privileges for Notre Dame in the BCS.
Rule 3: Add a by-law preventing automatic qualifier champions from playing in the BCS if they fall outside the top 16 in the BCS standings at the time of bowl selection.
Rule 4: Remove the Big East from the list of AQ conferences.
Rule 5: Remove the “top 12” rule for non-AQ conference members for BCS selection.
Rule 6: Remove the clause preventing more than two teams from any conference participating in the Bowl Championship Series.
Based on these rules and the implementation of an eight team playoff, two teams would not get into the BCS that did so this year. Under these rules, it would be Arkansas and UConn. The Huskies clearly did not deserve a BCS bowl bid this year. The Hogs probably did, but Virginia Tech would get the eight seed because they won their conference and finished in the top 16 of the BCS standings.
With these rules and the implantation of the Bowl Championship Playoff, the tournament could possibly look like the bracket to the right. Allowing the bowls to work out the matchups among themselves might be the best solution.
This year would be great for the Rose Bowl. They could have received a local Stanford team as well as their traditional Pac 10 versus Big Ten matchup. The Sugar Bowl gets their SEC team. The Fiesta Bowl gets their contractually obligated Big XII school as well as the number two overall seed in the tournament. I doubt the Orange Bowl would complain with a matchup where Ohio State would be considered the underdog.
In light of this, don’t tell me a playoff can’t work. Don’t tell me that the bowl games would be irrelevant or that it will be a financial disaster. This is the type of tournament that everyone wants to see.
Everyone wins. The players, the fans, the institutions, and even the high profile bowl games themselves come out ahead.
Too bad we will never see who would be ahead if TCU played Auburn this year.