The Horrible BCS

January 12, 2009

Florida defeated Oklahoma 24-14 in the BCS National Championship Game last week to win the BCS National Championship for this past 2008-2009 season. The game was pretty even for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, Tim Tebow and the Gators pretty much took control of the game as did the Gators’ defense. I’m certainly happy for Florida and for the good people of Gator Country.

Which reminds me of a funny story. I was interviewing for some positions early in my career in the Jacksonville, Florida region. This was a while back. I was I had flown in from the North that very morning. I was pretty young and naïve. Everywhere I went, I noticed that everyone had a certain lapel pin on. Finally, my third or fourth interview through, I asked, pretty stupidly, what is that pin y’all have on?

In other words, they all were wearing Florida Gator pins. I knew right then and there, I was toast. There was no way they were hiring a Northerner in that or any other related office. Just to complete the story, I ran into some friends of friends some years later in LA who were Gator alums, and they assured me that U Florida was one of the best universities ever, both in terms of courses and in terms of social fun, ever. Apparently a lot of celebrities and actors send their kids there. But they, too, were Gators.

I’m actually happy for Florida and the Gators. Maybe it took Steve Spurrier leaving for them to get a national championship, or maybe just a Tim Tebow to put them over the top. Whatever, they’ve now won two BCS national championships in three years, which is a signal accomplishment.

But this is about the horrible BCS, which this year served up a couple of one loss teams in Florida and Oklahoma in the BCS Bowl. This year, other schools which have a reasonable claim to the national championship include Utah, which finished undefeated, won a BCS Bowl and destroyed their BCS opponent in that Bowl. Why wasn’t Utah in the BCS Final? Frankly, they looked pretty compelling in destroying Alabama.

Then you have the USC Trojans—who did a pretty good job of destroying the Penn State Nittany Lions, and a very good Nittany Lion team at that, one which was a one point loss from being undefeated. It’s hard to believe that USC lost a game to anyone this season. Even so, watching them in the Rose Bowl, USC certainly looked like a national champion. Why wasn’t USC playing Florida in the BCS final bowl?

Then you have Texas, which defeated Ohio State in another BCS Bowl, though it was a close game and not a decisive win. Texas didn’t really make out the case for a national championship, but certainly they belong in the mix of elite teams. Why wasn’t Texas playing Florida in the BCS final bowl?

So what this controversy builds up to is the compelling need for a national playoff system in BCS/NCAA football. Why this is so difficult escapes me. The top eight ranked teams in the BCS should be eligible for the playoffs, and should be seeded in the BCS bowls; in fact, to be REALLY fair, the BCS/NCAA should put in the top sixteen teams and seed them accordingly. They certainly have enough teams. After all, if you’re ranked first, you should have a creampuff first round opponent, eh? Meanwhile, you can get some interesting 8-9 matchups, etc.

Sixteen playoff teams will result in eight bowls in the first round, four bowls in the second round, two bowls in the third round and a final championship bowl in the penultimate round. That makes fifteen bowl games over four weeks to decide a national champion. There would be plenty of advertising money and plenty of TV rights all around. As for the remainder of the bowl games, obviously there should be a pool to allow all of the bowls to be playoff/BCS bowls from year to year—but due to regional and conference matchups other bowls will still have appeal, e.g. Penn State, Notre Dame, the service academies, even if they’re not for the playoffs or national championship.

Many, many persons have spoken out for a national playoff system in NCAA/BCS football, including our President-Elect, who is in favor. The team that has been most hurt by the lack of a national playoff system in NCAA football, without any doubt, has been Penn State. Four times in NCAA history, Penn State has had an undefeated system without being ranked #1 or having an opportunity to play for the #1 ranking in a bowl game at the end of the season. By my reckoning, Joe Paterno and Penn State should have six, not two national championships. Paterno and Penn State have been shamelessly deprived of numerous national championships by both the polling systems and by the lack of a national championship playoff system, starting in 1969 and most recently in 1993.

The other team that has been systematically discriminated against even with the BCS system is Utah, which the BCS/NCAA feels for some reason can’t play football, even though Utah churns out pro quarterbacks and pro coaches with astounding regularity. I don’t even know who the Utah quarterback is, but I bet even now he’s more likely to end up on an NFL roster than Bradford the so-called cant miss prospect from Oklahoma (who looked hopelessly confused during the fourth quarter of the BCS bowl).

Meanwhile, Tebow, who the NFL scouts say won’t make it in the NFL, there’s a guy I’d certainly draft if I was GM for an NFL team. Tebow is a born leader. I’ve only ever seen one guy do that jump pass thing—the star quarterback of our prep school football team—and all he did was play for BC four years and play for the Giants until he messed up his ankle. He’s a professional sports announcer now. I say Tebow can play pro—he’s got the desire.

But the horrible BCS has to be overhauled. We need a playoff system. I’m pretty sure Tebow and Florida would still win such a system, and the final game would probably be Florida and USC. But what a game that would be.

–Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
Happy New Year 2009