ESPN.com columnist Gene Wojciechowski calls it a “‘system’ so screwed up that it sees a therapist twice a week. It ought to be called the FAC (Flip A Coin).”
Yahoo Sports’s Dan Wetzel says it’s a “silly formula.”
But I say the BCS isn’t so bad.
You read that right. This is a column defending the most despised system in sports.
That’s not to say I think the BCS is perfect. But after almost a decade of trials, errors (yes, lots of them) and readjustments, the BCS has become a reasonably fair system for sorting through 119 teams and crowning college football’s Division I-A National Champion.
Perhaps more importantly, the BCS maintains college football’s most distinctive feature – a regular season where hundreds of games have national championship implications.
Growing up in New York, I didn’t know the BCS from CVS – college football was an afterthought in my NFL-centric universe. If you asked me then if college football should use a playoff system, I probably would have said yes. After all, I loved the one-and-done NFL playoffs. Why wouldn’t the same system work in college sports?
But then I ventured out to Michigan and became hopelessly addicted to college football’s regular season. Virtually all the marbles are on the line each and every game. The opponent doesn’t really matter: Notre Dame, Ohio State and even Ball State can kill a season.
Lose once and your national title hopes shrink dramatically. Lose twice and they disappear.
As a Michigan fan, this system has, in one sense, destroyed me. The Wolverines’ loss to Oregon in 2003 – the team’s first defeat during my time as a Michigan student – was one of the worst days of my life. Notre Dame and Ohio State brought back those same nightmares in ensuing years.
But like a true addict, I keep coming back for more. That’s because, for a sports fan, there’s simply no bigger rush than college football’s regular season. For a team like Michigan, which comes into every year with national title hopes, the regular season is essentially a 12-week playoff.
I can’t say that’s good for my heart. But it’s why I’m now a bigger fan of college football than the NFL.
A playoff system would destroy that special intensity of the college football season. Come playoff time, the only consequence for a regular-season loss would be a slightly lower seeding. Big deal. Personally, the knot in my stomach during Michigan’s key regular-season matchups would be significantly smaller if the Wolverines had an opportunity to redeem themselves in the playoffs. I don’t think that’s a good thing for college football.
Of course, the playoff isn’t the only potential alternative to the BCS. Some have touted a plus-one system as the ultimate fix for the BCS system. Under this proposal, teams would initially play in their traditional bowls and then two squads would be selected for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 national championship game.
But I’m not sure this solves anything. It’s conceivable that the BCS bowl winners could all end up being one-loss teams. What happens then? What if a team like this year’s Ohio State squad – which dominated the regular season – loses a close one in the initial bowl round? Do they deserve to be disqualified from national title consideration?
Some purists suggest returning to college football’s roots, scrapping the national championship game altogether. Bowl bids would be determined by conferences and the coaches and media would vote on a National Champion at the end of the year.
We tried that. The system produced three split National Championships between 1990-1997. It created anticlimactic bowl games. And of course, those games naturally didn’t generate the national interest that the current No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups do. Even my old NFL-watching self managed to find time to enjoy the BCS title game.
So the alternatives to the BCS stink. But how, you ask, could I support a system that basically screwed Oregon in 2001, Southern Cal in 2003 and Auburn in 2004?
First of all, plenty of changes have been made to the system, namely increasing the weight of the human polls in the BCS formula. A Southern Cal-type situation, in which a unanimous No. 1 team misses out on the BCS game, is virtually impossible.
Secondly, it’s hard to feel too bad for a one-loss team that misses out on the title game. This year, for example, I’m confident that Michigan is the second-best team in the nation. But the Wolverines left their opportunity to punch their ticket to Glendale, Ariz. on the table. They didn’t take advantage of their chance to run the table – neither did Southern Cal or Florida – and so whining about strength of schedule or quality of losses doesn’t strike a chord with me.
The most frustrating aspect of any system that picks just two teams is the possibility that three deserving teams can run the table. That disaster scenario struck in 2004, with Auburn being the odd team out of the BCS.
But to me, that rare and unpleasant possibility doesn’t justify taking away the essential lifeblood of college football – its regular season.
It may be unpopular, but from where I stand, I have one simple message:
Viva la BCS.
– Singer would have discussed non-BCS teams in his analysis, but he doesn’t really care about any team that plays on a blue field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.