My Solution for the BCS

On the eve of the National Title game, we will surely hear two things. First, we will hear the talking heads make cases for Texas, USC, and even Utah for the AP Poll National Title. Second, we will also likely hear “Well, the BCS got it right” in reference to either the teams playing in the game or the team that wins the title.

While watching the Fiesta Bowl, my dad and I were discussing both of these and the joke that the BCS has become. While talking, we went over some of the excuses as well the BCS likes to put forth year after year. The more and more I talk about this, the more and more I realize the BCS is becoming more of a sham and the excuses and reasons for not having one are falling well short.

So I came up with a solution. Before I get to the solution though, I first need to point out the premise it must follow. In other words, I have to take the common excuses against a playoff system and find a way around them.

The Anit-Playoff Excuses

A Playoff System Means More Games and Travel for Teams, Even a +1 Falls Under This

How this excuse still sees the light of day is beyond me. Let’s rewind, say five years. The BCS has only four bowl games and we hear even then a +1 system isn’t a valid solution. Yet here we stand with quite literally a +1 game added to the BCS on top of the four bowl games.

It sure seems to me that the BCS is more than flexible to adding more games to it’s schedule and have been playing these games further and further into Janurary. The problem is the BCS still has 100% say in who gets to play in this +1 game and all it has done is given the BCS another way to fatten their coffers. Which leads to the next excuse…

The BCS and the Whole Bowl System Has Far too Much Money Tied into It for a Playoff

And this again doesn’t make much sense to me. Who says we need to deconstruct the bowl system or the BCS just to have a playoff work? For something called a Bowl Championship Series everything sure seems to hinge on a single game.

There is no doubt the money is tied in tight to the bowls and the cities hosting them. Any solution will have to find a way to tie the bowl system in one way or another. However, saying that this is a reason to block a playoff is just off base. Look at March Madness. Four regional sites, that eventually merge into a single site for the Final Four. Yes, football is different, there are more fans and players involved and field conditions come into play as well. Point is though, you have a structure in place, you just have to learn how to use it.

The BCS System Allows Every Regular Season Game to be a Playoff

Really? That is interesting. I could’ve sworn a playoff game means lose and go home. Yet we see year after year one-loss teams ending up in the title game. Debates become centered around who’s schedule is tougher, which conference is better, and “style points” in impressive wins. How is that indicative of a playoff situation?

This excuse needs to die and it needs to die fast.

If every game was really a playoff, Utah is a clear cut choice to be in the National Title game. They survived their schedule and if we are doing “lose and go home” mentality, they shouldn’t have played in a lesser bowl. And if we are going to debate the AP Title now, Utah should be the only choice as well (hell they beat a team ranked #1 for most of the season). Now this obviously doesn’t happen because they are in the Mountain West. This reason should not come into play in a playoff mentality.

The only time the playoff mentality holds is when a BCS team goes undefeated. Example: Ohio State in recent years — now what has happened every time they have been in there? “They don’t belong — Big 10 is a weak conference and they play a weak out of conference schedule.” Again, these shouldn’t be reasons coming up in a playoff mentality.

Not to mention, strength of schedule is quite relative and hard to set up. I’m sure Utah thought Michigan sure looked like a strong Big 10 opponent when they opened the season against them. So much for that.

The Premise — What Needs to Happen

So now that we have outlined the major excuses, we need to outline what must happen for this to work.

First, we clearly can’t add in a bunch of games into the fray. Fans have to travel and we can’t have the football season overlapping into finals (even though other sports do…) or going too far into January. In short, we can’t create more excuses for the BCS to cling on to.

Second, we have to keep the current bowl system in place to a point. The bowls aren’t going away because of the money. Instead of outright replacing them, we need to figure out a way to use them. The fat cats need to stay fat and fed or a playoff goes nowhere.

Finally, we have to make the BCS polls relavent somehow. We need to keep the regular season as “playoff-like” as possible. Yes the excuse is dumb, but it still makes college football unique and creates a lot of debate. The polls and regular season must matter.

Now on top of all of this two other problems come into play: the non-BCS conferences and teams that don’t have to play conference title games. It is an unbalance that must be considered in any solution.

The Solution

So now that we have those standards set, how do we sort this mess out?

First, let’s address the conferences and their title games. Personally, I think they should be wiped out, but that isn’t feasible at all. Again the money comes into play, and those games won’t be easily erased. So let’s make things very, very simple. If you want to be BCS eligible you must be in a conference that plays for a title. Period. It needs to be all or none and none isn’t going to happen.

Right now old-school ND fans are wanting to kill me after reading that. I’m sorry, I love ND being independent too, but it is time to move on. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. If we as ND fans want to see a playoff, there is no way around this and keep the title games/bowls in place. However, we shouldn’t be holding on to our Big East ties from other sports. Football is a totally different animal, and I would rather see us continue our usual rivalry games.

Placing ND in the Big 10 would place Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue easily on the conference schedule. Being able to schedule Ohio State and Penn State in that schedule isn’t exactly a downside as well and is a hell of a lot more interesting than a Big East conference schedule. We would also still have room to schedule USC, BC (if we want), and Navy for out-of-conference every year as well. Yeah, the Big East will bitch, but I’m sorry we were never with you in football to begin with, deal with it.

Navy and Army are the only independents left after that. Since they are both on the East Coast, they could possibly slide into the Big East if they wish to be apart of the BCS picture in the future; otherwise, they could stay put. Again such alignments would be football only.

The next thing that needs to be done is to lower the team requirement for a title game to 10 or get rid of it entirely. It is a joke that the Big East can crown a champion with 8 teams and no title game. Everyone needs to be on the same field as far as games played.

While we are at it, let’s get rid of the divisions in the conferences. I’m tired of watching the Big XII – North get spanked year in and year out. I want to see the best two teams from the conference play each other in the title game. How much better would this season have been if Texas got another shot at OU? That would’ve settle a lot of debate no? And hey…that is eerily similar to *gasp* A PLAYOFF GAME!

See there is a method to this madness. Making the top two teams from each conference play each other in a their title game is basically a conference playoff. You ensure you have the best from each conference and makes polling and decision making far easier. Also, those conference champs need to be ranked the highest in the BCS standings. Enough with the one conference is better than the other crap. Rank all coference champs at the top and decide from there.

Now that works for the BCS conferences, but what about a BCS buster? Let’s use Utah as a prime example. If you are going to bust into this scene you need to be undefeated and have played BCS schools in your non-conference schedule. A minimum would likely need to be set. However, I would say to make things much easier, Boise State needs to move to the Mountain West conference and just add that as a BCS conference school, but that’s just me. Either way, as an undefeated conference champ, they should be ranked above the 1 and 2-loss BCS conference teams that already had their shot. Basically, we shouldn’t have a potential BCS buster remain undefeated and not at least get a shot at making some serious noise in the title picture — this wouldn’t happen in any other sport at any other level.

So now we have all our title games played, conference champions crowned, now what? For my solution, we get a +1 system underway. Take teams 1-4 in the BCS standings and the following week after the conference title games, two playoff games take place with 1 v 4, and 2 v 3. These games however, will be played at the schools , meaning 1 and 2 in the BCS get home field advantage (thus making the top two BCS seeds quite relevant still and allowing for that debate to continue).

The winners of those two games play against each other in the BCS National Title game (the +1 game that we have now) and fill out the rest of the BCS games as normal. The keeps the bowl system intact, keeps the conference affliations of the bowls intact, makes travel/planning as easy as possible for teams, only adds one more game for just four teams, and, most importantly, we have a playoff.

Let’s apply my system to this year. Texas plays OU in their conference title game, settling that debate. All other coference champs would in my opinion stay intact. Since Utah went undefeated and beat BCS teams in non-conference play, they deserve a shot to bust the system as the 4 seed.

So you would have in this +1 system:

Utah at Texas/OU winner
USC at Florida — (Alabama lost their title game, USC wins it, sorry ‘Bama, you’re out)

Is there any doubt from those four games we have a true champ? Maybe Penn State does some bitching and moaning, but hey, someone has to bitch since we want the debate to happen still. It seems if no one gets hosed college football doesn’t have that unique debate. Plus you can finally use the playoff mentality here: “Sorry Penn State, you lost a game, Utah didn’t. You go home, play your Rose Bowl and prove us wrong. We don’t think you are better than USC, Florida or Texas/OU.”

Also, this allows Utah to truely bust the BCS. They have their chance against the top team in the nation to prove they belong in the title mix; otherwise, they get their chance in a BCS bowl as they normally would.

Everyone wins. The fans get amazing games and their playoff. The schools, conferences, and the bowls get their exposure/money. Everyone gets plenty of debate material. Two schools win an extra home game for additional revenue. And I could go on.

Most importantly, this can work. I did very little to the current system in place. The changes that I did make placed everyone on as even of a playing field as possible as well. By doing this, the BCS can finally “get it right.”

However, I will keep on dreaming. Me expecting the BCS, a system that thrives on complete choas, to arrive as such a logical solution is asking for far too much.

Addendum (1/9/2009): In thinking a bit further on this, the BCS would likely need to adjust their formula slightly. The only change that would be needed is stiffer penalties for losses. This will help to ensure a possible BCS buster that is undefeated will be able to land in the top 4. Of course, if you have a bunch of one loss teams, this will put everyone on equal footing as well.