Something Wrong With BCS System

Columnist Phillip Marshall tries to understand what is happening with the Bowl Championship Series.

When the outcome of the Boise State-Hawaii game has an impact on who plays for the national championship, something is wrong.

When the outcome of the Syracuse-Notre Dame game, a game between two teams with losing records, has an effect on who plays for the national championship, something is wrong.

When a team can lose 35-7 in its last game and it not even matter, something is wrong.

Everyone knows the story by now. Southern California, the No. 1 team in both polls, was left out of the BCS championship game. LSU and Oklahoma will play for the championship in the Sugar Bowl.

As I understand it--and I admit I don't understand it very well--if Hawaii had beaten Boise State or Notre Dame had beaten Syracuse, USC's strength of schedule would have been enhanced enough to get the Trojans in. Someone please explain to me how the outcome of either one of those games has anything to do with how good USC is.

LSU certainly showed it belonged last Saturday night, blowing Georgia out of the SEC Championship Game 34-13. Oklahoma certainly proved it didn't belong when it was blown out of the Big 12 Championship Game 35-7 by a Kansas State team with three losses. That's the same Kansas State team that lost to Marshall, which lost to Troy State.

The computers are the problem. The computers liked Oklahoma, so Oklahoma is going to New Orleans. It's time to get computers out of the very human endeavor that is college football.

Why doesn't the BCS appoint a selection committee--something like the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee--to determine who plays in the big game? Or just use the polls?

For the second time in three seasons, a Big 12 team that did not win its conference will play for the national championship. Nebraska made it to the championship game in 2001 without even making it to the Big 12 championship game.

At the very least, the BCS should decree that no team that fails to win its conference championship will be allowed to play for the national championship. That should have happened after the Nebraska fiasco. It certainly should happen now.

There's little doubt that the latest controversy will increase the call for a playoff in Division I-A. It's not going to happen, at least not in the form of a tournament that many people would like to see. There is a possibility that one game could be added. That would be enough in this case. The winners of the USC-Michigan game in the Rose Bowl and the LSU-Oklahoma game in the Sugar Bowl could play a week later in a real championship game.

There are numerous problems with a tournament for Division I-A that lower-division teams don't face. Teams in lower divisions don't make any money, so the financial issues aren't the same.

Division I-A teams are not willing to reduce the regular season. They can't afford to. Not only football, but all other sports are dependent on the money that comes from football. To play it at the end of the current regular season would mean playing through the month of December, disrupting final exams.

The bowls are adamantly opposed to a playoff, and with good reason. Though many plans call for using the bowls for a playoff, they don't take into account what bowls are really all about. They are about bringing tourists and their money to cities. How many fans could afford to go to four playoff games?

And a playoff simply would make the season too long. I have yet to talk to a player who believes having a tournament is a good idea. The season is grueling enough as it is.

The most likely outcome this season, if USC beats Michigan in the Rose Bowl, is a split national championship. The coaches' poll is required by its rules to name the LSU-Oklahoma winner its national champion. The AP poll has no such restriction. It's reasonable to expect USC will remain No. 1 if it wins.

Is that really a problem? Would it be bad for both USC and the Sugar Bowl winner to have parades, buy rings and call themselves national champions?

I don't think so. I never did think so. That raises another question. Just what was the need for the BCS to begin with? That answer is the same as the answer to a lot of questions in college football. It was all about money.


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