The BCS Debate

Kristen Smith

      When the leaves began to fall, the college football season started coming to an end. This meant fans and teams became anxious for the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) madness to ensue. The BCS is an organization that uses a compilation of polls that determines bowl game bids and ultimately, the National Champion, and it is almost always controversial.

      Bowl Championship Series – three simple words that are often anything but, and have been misleading since the system began in 1999. Every October, the first BCS poll appears. Once it does, things get chaotic for all college teams subject to the poll. However, the BCS does have its merits. The system is fair in that it objectively considers things like strength of schedule and the win/loss records of its member teams. But it is definitely not perfect as it overlooks squads from smaller, non-BCS conferences.

      In 2004, Auburn ranked third and Oklahoma was ranked second. But, even with strength of schedule on Auburn’s side, Oklahoma got the title game bid. The 2005 college football season is the kind of season that series officials would love to see reoccur. The National Championship game matched number one USC against number two Texas in the Rose Bowl. There were no arguments to why those two teams were in the game. Unfortunately, that year was an exception. Two years later, in 2007, the Florida Gators played the Ohio State Buckeyes for the National Championship. In that game, the Buckeyes were annihilated 41-14. Ohio State returned to the title game in 2008 to face LSU. Once again, the Buckeyes lost; this time 38-24. Many believe the only reason Ohio State got to these title games is because they were undefeated at the end of the regular season and didn’t have to play a conference championship.

     Conference championship games constitute another concern regarding the BCS. The games generally consist of a game between the best team in one division of a conference and its counterpart in the other division. Conference championships could be great deciding factors if every conference played them, but that isn’t the case. Teams like Ohio State, USC, Penn State and Oregon don’t have to worry about that one extra game because the conferences they come from, the Pac Ten and the Big Ten, don’t have them.

     Yet another matter came into play last season, this time involving the Big Twelve Conference. In the 2008 season, Texas beat Oklahoma 45-35 during the regular season but lost to Texas Tech 39-33. That same year, Oklahoma beat Tech 65-21. When it came time to decide which of the three teams would represent the South Division in the Big 12 championship game, controversy arose. You had, what was essentially, a three way tie. In the end, Oklahoma won the tie-breaker and continued on to the National Championship game, even though Texas was ranked above Oklahoma in the final BCS poll.

     In 2007, non- BCS teams started becoming an issue. During that year’s Fiesta Bowl, the Boise State Broncos faced the heavily favored Oklahoma Sooners. The game went into overtime, and with a now famous “Statue of Liberty” play, Boise State shocked the world and the Sooners, beating them 43-42. In that same 2007 season, an unranked Stanford beat the number two ranked USC Trojans. The Utah Utes continued the trend in beating Alabama 31-17 in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.

     With so much controversy over the BCS, the question of why there isn’t an actual playoff system is brought up more and more often amongst sports fans. There are two sides to the argument; the first side believing that playoffs would be a more fair way to crown the national champion every year. However, the other side would argue that it could hurt the four BCS bowls (The Rose, The Fiesta, The Sugar and The Orange). As the BCS currently stands, fans only need to attend one bowl game. A playoff system would cause some to go to a series of games to watch their team, which could prove costly. With the BCS bowl games essentially being playoff sites, bowl officials would need to sell their games to the host cities. In addition, if a playoff system were to be enforced, bowl eligible teams would have to pay more money in order to travel from game to game during the playoffs.

     The 2009 season has proved no exception to past mistakes. Ever since this season began, teams have come roaring out of nowhere. When the first BCS poll came out in October, six teams in the top 25 were considered non-BCS schools, including Boise State, TCU and Cincinnati, who helped round out the top ten. Since then, those three schools remain unbeaten and are in the top six of the standings. As the season winds down, traditionally strong BCS schools continue to crumble, including USC, Oklahoma and Georgia. With top dogs dissolving from the polls, don’t teams like TCU deserve a chance? The answer is pretty unanimous from east to west, but unless a playoff system is put into play, small schools won’t get a shot at winning the Coach’s Trophy in the title game. And, until a playoff system is enforced, the world may never see a “true national champion” crowned.