The Bowl Championship Series Solution

When ABC and the NCAA announced the formulation of the Bowl Championship Series several years ago, I had my doubts. Even before Kansas State lost that late season game to ruin a perfect season, I was convinced that it wasn't any better than the old system. From the very beginning, it has relied on a mathematical formula to determine which two teams are the best in the country. This is wrong. Let me tell you how to fix it.

First off all, let me preface this with the statement that no system will ever please everybody. Some will complain about how the teams are chosen. Some will dislike the number of games. Some will dislike how bowls are included, or the fact that they are included at all. I have been considering this alternative system since year one, when Kansas State did the BCS a big favor and folded. I have taken input from many sources and tried to draft a system that will offend all parties a little, without completely insulting one or two. What follows is my proposal of a system that could be implemented as soon as the current BCS contract runs out at the end of the 2005 season.

A single elimination playoff bracket is in order. There are eleven conferences in Division One football. By whatever means it is determined, the one champion from each conference would receive an automatic bid into the playoffs. Yes, this does include the Sunbelt, Mountain West, Atlantic 10, and Conference USA champions. For those who are balking at this, remember that prior to the 64 team format, basketball's tournament was comprised solely of conference champions- all of them. Every conference pays its dues to the NCAA, and as such deserves to reap the benefit of seeing one of its member institutions involved in post season play.

Five at-large teams would round out the total of teams at sixteen. Now comes the point where my system surprises people. Use the BCS formula to determine the five at-large teams. Yes, I did previously state that the BCS was wrong, but that is only for determining the top two teams. I stand by the statement, however the BCS does an adequate job of identifying the best 20 or so teams in the country.

Some folks at this point will say that the AP poll or the Coaches poll does the same thing. Ask yourself this question, when have you ever looked at those two polls and found complete agreement through the top 20? Exactly. The BCS is a conglomeration of those and many respected computer polls, and as such yields only one list.

What I propose is a sixteen team playoff. In order to implement this, some changes would have to be made. First, limit all teams to eleven regular season games. Any team that plays more would not have a win count in their favor (BCS calculations) but would have a win thrown out if they incurred a loss. Next, require that all regular season games be completed by the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This includes the traditional Army/Navy game and any other games that fall on that weekend. This may sound harsh, but unless these teams wish to withdraw from possible playoff berths, they will comply. Finally, all conference championship games would be played on Thanksgiving weekend and television would love this.

Now once the championship games have taken place, a final BCS list would be calculated. Those eleven conference champions would be scratched from that list, and the five teams remaining at the top would receive at-large bids. Seeding for the playoff would be determined by each team's position (rank) on the final list.

The first round games would be hosted by the higher seed on the first Saturday in December. This cuts down on the "costs to traveling fans" argument Besides, if you were good enough to be one of the top eight teams in the country, you deserve that honor. Gates and all other revenue from these games would be split equally between the participants in each game. This allows, for example, the Sunbelt Conference champion to earn the same amount of money for their school and conference as the SEC or Big 12 champions. The plus to this is that the commissioners of the mid-major conferences would sign off on the plan for the "windfall" of revenue. Naturally, the major conference commissioners would like the plan as well, considering that it is most likely that they will have more than one team qualify. Again, more revenue equals more willing participants.

Now we have to please the bowl people. From the second round forward, there will be seven games. Allow the seven biggest bowls to host these games on a rotating basis. Bowls, as a general rule, would not be eliminated by the NCAA. There were 26 bowl games this past season, and most would agree that this number is too high. The forces of capitalism would take care of the lesser, meaningless bowls, i.e. supply and demand would trim the fat. Many quality teams would not be in the playoffs and would make for some interesting games. Gone would be the conference alignments that have produced abysmal games over the past three years in what were once considered good bowls.

The second round games would be the second week of December, third round would be the third week, and the final game would be on New Year's Day as it should be. The third Saturday in December is, at the very latest, the 21st. This would allow the players of the final two teams to see their families on Christmas, and then spend five days getting ready for battle.

When all is said and done, the only team that can claim National Champion will be the one team that wins on January 1st.

Now you may ask why this particular system is better than all the others floating around. Simply put, it gives everybody concerned what they want. Bowl games are not excluded. One true National Champion is crowned. All conferences earn money. Television would wage an absolute bidding war for rights to air the games, which benefits the NCAA. The maximum number of games any two teams could play in a season would be sixteen. Fans would love knowing that they will be off from work for the final game. Bowl games would mean something again, or at least mean more than they do now. Finally, sports talk shows would have to find something else to complain about.

Many times I have been told that this system will never be implemented because it makes too much sense. Let us hope that the public outcry over the flaws in the BCS don't subside, and that the NCAA sees the potential benefits that this system could provide. I will continue to lament the BCS as long as it exists, and hope that many, many people hear me doing it. Top Stories