Fun:Bowl Championship Series
The Bowl Championship Series is a method of determining a national champion in college American Football at the highest level of the game. Unlike every other sport in the world, this is accomplished without a playoff system, rather a computer picks two teams which it thinks are the best in the country and has them play each other.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Americans loved to gather around and watch 11 burly young men from the nearby university try to beat the living daylights out of 11 other burly young men from another university over the position of an oblong shaped ball on a 100 yard long field. Eventually several entrepreneurs discovered people would pay to see this spectacle and organized special prestigious games in places that they wanted to advertise, like Pasadena, California or Miami, Florida. As the popularity of the sport grew so did the number of cities hosting these games. Yet despite this popularity the governing body of college football, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) never really got around to developing a method of determining what the best team in the country was. Instead they left that up to various polls conducted by newspapers, and whomever was #1 in the rankings in the final poll was declared the national champion. The result was a bunch of feuds and headaches.
In the 1990s the NCAA decided it was time to take the human element out of determining the winner and instead tried to have a computer sort out the top two teams in the country and have them play each other, the winner would be crowned champion. The other teams in the top 10 would then get guaranteed trips to one of the four prestigious bowl games, but they would have no bearing on winning the title. This seems like a good idea, except for the fact that the computer could sometimes pick weird match-ups for the national championship game. This was because the computer was programed to calculate from both cold numbers (things like points scored, total offense, etc.) and inherently arbitrary statistics (strength of schedule, what the coaches or the USA Today voters think is best). The reason why this system was created was to help bolster the thirty some odd bowl games-- games that used to be considered prestigious but now any team with a .500 record could qualify for.
Furthermore the system inherently screws teams from smaller conferences. For example, the University of Utah had two undefeated seasons but was denied a chance to play for the title (despite one year beating #4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl a team that before losing to Florida was #1 in the polls). Likewise there are all kinds of controversies about who should or shouldn't be in the title game. In 2009 the Oklahoma University Sooners played the University of Florida Gators. Both teams had one loss (a worse record than Utah), and many argued that OU wasn't even the best team in its conference, having lost to Texas (who lost to Texas Tech, who lost to Oklahoma...). Meanwhile the University of Southern California only had one loss to Oregon State, but by many accounts was about as good as either Florida or Oklahoma (or Utah).
See how this system can be confusing?
The current contract that the NCAA has with the BCS gives all the benefits to the big boy conferences and makes it nearly impossible for the small teams like Utah or Boise State to contest, even if they can beat the big boys. So who are these big boys?
- Atlantic Coast Conference For most of the last 20 years it was all Florida State, so they went out and took teams from the Big East. Wake their fans when basketball season starts.
- Big East Originally a basketball conference that wanted a piece of the football pie. However, the ACC took away their top football schools (Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Miami) and the conference is now considered a pushover. Again, wake them up when basketball season starts.
- Big XII Used to have several powerhouses, now it consists of a couple of Texas and Oklahoma schools who can contend and a bunch of other schools whose glory is fading, fast. Soon to become the Big X after losing Colorado to the Pac-10 and Nebraska to the Big 10.
- Big Ten A conference of
eleven twelvefourteen teams, one of which is self important (Michigan), another is extremely overrated ever year (Ohio State), and one that did a very, very bad thing (Penn State). Few care about the rest of their teams.
- Pacific Ten
Actually has ten teams, but nobody cares about the nine teams in the conference not called the Trojans. Often USC realizes too late that it actually has to play well in conference games, yet still manages to own this conference.Soon to become the Pac-12 thanks to the addition of Utah and Colorado. USC is now serving a ban on post season play, but are still probably the best team in that conference (except for that team from Oregon, but that was likely just a fluke).
- Southeastern Conference Nearly every team in this conference is in contention every year, until they start playing each other.
- University of Notre Dame Oh come on, the Irish are relevant, you know Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen, the Gipper, and Rudy. So what if the Irish haven't really been relevant in many years, they still have that TV contract with NBC.
The rest of the teams at the highest level of college football are given a pittance of media exposure and attention. This makes it nearly impossible for them to reach the championship game, however, if the teams appear in top 10 of the BCS rankings they are given a bid to one of the major bowl games, provided that a worse big school doesn't bump them out by winning their conference.
These games are:
- The Fed-Ex Orange Bowl who has a guaranteed tie with the winner of the ACC, the Big East winner, Notre Dame or an at-large team.
- The Rose Bowl presented by Citi who has a guaranteed tie with the Big Ten and
the University of Southern CaliforniaPac Ten champions.
- The Nokia Sugar Bowl who has a tie in with the SEC champion, the Big East champion, Notre Dame, or an at-large team.
- The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl who has a tie in with the Big XII winner, the Big East champion, Notre Dame, or an at-large team.
Why keep the system?
Believe it or not some people like this system. They claim that it helps to preserve the intensity of the regular season, that teams and fans would not be interested in winning every game if they knew that a post-season tournament was about to follow. Of course, since no other major sport in the world has this type of system, and their fans are just as passionate and interested about the regular season and the post season tournament, this logic might be questionable. The real reason this system has been kept is because of the hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars at stake every December and January. Get rid of this system and that goes away. Have a playoff and bowl organizers fear that people wouldn't be as interested in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (as if it had that much importance outside of Nashville anyway).