The Bowl Championship Series has been one of the most contested issues in sports this year. The idea of a rematch in the National Championship game has left many people that are outside the city of Tuscaloosa very unhappy. The Alabama Crimson Tide finished second in the BCS Poll and received a bid to play against the undefeated LSU Tigers, despite the fact that Alabama did not even win their conference, let alone win their division.
Due to this fact, many journalists and prominent figures in the sports world–and in some cases politicians–have called to have the current system reformed. In a society where money drives everything, there are many that do not wish to have the system reformed at all. According to the BCS website, bcsfootball.org, the teams that qualify for the BCS Bowl games bring in $22 million for their respective conferences, and if a conference has more than two participants in the BCS games, then that conference is awarded an additional $6 million. This is money that the conferences do not want to see disappear, and is a significant driving force to keep the BCS system in place.
Two days ago an article appeared on Forbes’ website, and the analysis by Mike Ozanian shows that while it is widely believed that all of the bowl games are profitable, very few are. Ozanian says that the main reason for their inability to be profitable is the compensation that is given out to executives who work on the committees, and it should also be noted that two of the BCS bowl games, the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl, actually lost money. If two of the bowl games in the BCS series are losing money, I don’t see how this system can continue to be supported.
A separate, but equally important issue with the BCS system is that they claim that “every game counts,” and this slogan is even the BCS’ twitter handle. They try to emphasize the fact that every game is important and that each one can impact the outcome of the National Championship game. This however, is completely untrue. This year, the last two weeks of the season, including the week of conference championship games, had no impact whatsoever on who played in the National Championship game. Oklahoma State beat the Oklahoma Sooners the previous week and the victory had no impact on their final ranking. Oklahoma was ranked number 10 when they played number 3 ranked Oklahoma State, and beating a top 10 team was apparently not good enough to move up over a team that did not even win their division. It appears that an SEC bias has grown as the BCS system has become more established as a system.
Unfortunately because of the amount of money that is given out during bowl games, despite the fact that the games themselves lose money, it will be next to impossible to get rid of them. Since such is the case, I have developed a solution that is logical and should make every one happy.
This year the regular season ended on December 3rd, except for the game between Army and Navy which was played on December 10th. The first bowl games started on December 17th. For my proposal, it would be necessary to push the first bowl games back to December 20th. To keep everything simpler, the current ranking system would stay the same, as in the BCS Poll would be used to continue ranking teams. At the end of the year, the top 8 teams would make the playoffs, and would be seeded 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5. These eight teams would play on December 17th of this year (or the second Saturday after the regular season is over). This gives each team two weeks to prepare for their opponent and allow some teams to rest and try to get players healthy, if necessary. The top 4 teams would have home field advantage for these first games. So using the current rankings the matchups would have looked like this: 1) LSU vs. 8) Kansas State, 2) Alabama vs. 7) Boise State, 3) Oklahoma State vs 6) Arkansas and 4) Stanford vs. 5) Oregon. In this instance, LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford would be the home teams.
Under this new system, there would be the removal of automatic bids. Winning a conference championship will quite often get a team ranked in the top 8, but this year, Wisconsin, Clemson and West Virginia would have failed to do so. To keep the conferences happy, they would still receive $12 million from the BCS if they did not have any one ranked in the top 8. For each conference that has a team in the top 8, they receive the full $22 million and an additional $3 million for each team. This keeps the distribution of profit reasonable, and allows for a third team to make it to the BCS Playoffs, as under the current system, no more than two teams from a certain conference can make it. This cap is no longer in place, in an effort to make it so the best teams make it each year. By removing the automatic bids and limiting the number of teams that can make it, it removes this issue.
Once the teams have played the first game, the winners will then meet on New Years Day and play in the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, while the losers would meet in the Sugar Bowl on January 2nd and the Orange Bowl on January 3rd. This way the BCS games all receive a game on or after New Years Day as they normally would, and each of the four bowl game sites will rotate to see who gets the National Championship game, also as they would under the current system.
For arguments sake, lets say that LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Oregon won. The teams would not be in a bracket, they would be reseeded after each round, so that the highest ranked team, always plays the lowest remaining ranked team, for a reward of being ranked higher going into the playoffs. LSU and Oregon would play in the Rose Bowl, while Alabama and Oklahoma State would play in the Fiesta Bowl. The losers will then be seeded the same way, highest vs. lowest and then the remaining two. This would match Stanford against Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl and then Arkansas and Boise State in the Orange Bowl. Each of these games would rotate so that the number one team does not play in the Rose Bowl every year and so forth. Each bowl game site then gets a chance to host an important semi-final game during different years.
From here, only the winners of the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl would keep playing, and they would meet two weeks later at one of the rotating sites for the National Championship Game. This way, they get two weeks in between each game to prepare, and it removes the complaint out of the equation that they college players could not handle the longer schedule. Teams would play an absolute maximum of 16 games, which is the length of the NFL regular season.
I believe that under this system, not only will it allow for teams to continue making money through playing in bowl games, but it will provide more incentive to be ranked highly. If you are in the top 4, you get an additional home game, which is additional revenue for the school. The system will remove any bias towards picking schools that will help bowl game ticket sales as a playoff has now been established. To add to the growing benefits, each of the college athletes will be more prepared for the long grind of the NFL season, as many NFL executives talk about players hitting the “rookie wall” in their first season. This system will keep everything that people love about the bowl games, and improve the current system enough to create a playoff that will help establish a fair system to determine whom is the true national champion.