The King Is Dead, Long Live The King
The future is now.
With apologies to Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Princeton, USC, and their combined 103 National Championships (quick, guess who has the most!), but none of it ever happened. Locally, Herschel Walker and Vince Dooley didn’t shock the world in ’80, Clemson never went undefeated back in ’81, Miami never had that great run in the late ’80s, Tech can shut up about ’90 forever, the Ol’ Ball Coach never got one at his Alma Mater, the SEC didn’t have the historic run over the past 7 years, and this play that won the game Monday?
If you listen to talking heads, basement dwelling bloggers, and even the casual fan, next year is when college football will finally be in the business of picking a real champion with the introduction of the much-anticipated playoff system in 2014. Following that line of thinking, the previous years of college football (1869-2013) were inadequately decided, and therefore this litany of false champions never happened.
The national nightmare is over.
I’m not going to sit here and defend the majority of the history of college football, because frankly, the sport doesn’t need defending. But, as of late, it has become popular to use the BCS as an example of all that is wrong with college football, when in reality it’s just the latest (and not the last) target for natural frustrations with the limitations of the postseason of an increasingly physical and time-consuming sport.
IN THE BEGINNING…
How did we get here? It’s a fair question, and one that is easily answered by visiting the BCS official website, and glancing at the history. Cliff notes version, prior to 1992 Bowl Games and their associated conference tie-ins were the defacto rewards for finishing at the top of your conference, and a regions fans could count on traveling to set destinations every year. In 1992, the Bowl Coalition took the first stance against the old guard, enabling flexibility in Bowl tie-ins, helping work towards the ‘best match-ups’.
In 1995, the Bowl Alliance further loosened the historical ties to Bowls, adding verbiage for at-large bids to the biggest games, shaking up lower Bowl tie-ins, all again with the stated intention of getting to the ideal match-up of top teams to cap the season. After the 1997 season, the Alliance negotiated with the Rose Bowl, the (then) Pac-10 and Big Ten to include “The Granddaddy of Them All” in the National Championship rotation, joining the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar. Thus was born the BCS.
Now, the BCS as we know it has changed and evolved from not just it’s inception, but year to year. According to the aforementioned BCS website, the stated goals are:
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is a five-game college football showcase. It is designed to ensure that the top two teams in the country meet in the national championship game and to create exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games.
I think that there is little debate that the past 15 years have produced the top teams playing for the national championship, and exciting matchups in the rest of the games. A quick glance at the national title matchups bear that out.
|1998||(1) Tennessee 23||(2) Florida State 16|
|1999||(1) Florida State 46||(2) Virginia Tech 29|
|2000||(1) Oklahoma 13||(2) Florida State 2|
|2001||(1) Miami 37||(2) Nebraska 14|
|2002||(1) Miami 24||(2) Ohio State 31 (2 OT)|
|2003||(1) Oklahoma 14||(2) LSU 21|
|2004||(1) Southern California 55||(2) Oklahoma 19|
|2005||(1) Southern California 38||(2) Texas 41|
|2006||(1) Ohio State 14||(2) Florida 41|
|2007||(1) Ohio State 24||(2) LSU 38|
|2008||(1) Oklahoma 14||(2) Florida 24|
|2009||(1) Alabama 37||(2) Texas 21|
|2010||(1) Auburn 22||(2) Oregon 19|
|2011||(1) LSU 0||(2) Alabama 21|
|2012||(1) Notre Dame 14||(2) Alabama 42|
|2013||(1) Florida State 34||(2) Auburn 31|
Look at those games. LOOK AT THEM. Barring the occasional blow out of a team that truly didn’t belong (Notre Dame!), these were competitive games, and some of them downright classics. Even more importantly, year by year, I don’t see a place where another team has a legitimate claim to replace one of the two teams in the final (again, go home Notre Dame, you’re drunk).
The problem for most people, from what I can make out, has been with the process, not the results. Detractors didn’t like how ‘messy’ it was, or how it seemed to favor big conference teams, discounting that college football has always been and will always be ‘messy’, and has always and will always favor big conference teams.
Actually, an unexpected side effect of breaking automatic ties into Bowls was allowing of smaller division schools to play on the biggest stages afforded by the BCS. In the last 8 years, 8 teams from non-automatic qualifier conferences played in BCS bowls, while the previous 61 years had seen only 5 such teams play in one of the BCS Bowls.
|2005||Utah (then-member of MWC)||Fiesta Bowl|
|2007||Boise State (MWC)||Fiesta Bowl|
|2008||Hawaii (MWC)||Sugar Bowl|
|2009||Utah (then-member of MWC)||Sugar Bowl|
|2010||TCU (then-member of MWC)||Fiesta Bowl|
|2010||Boise State (MWC)||Fiesta Bowl|
|2011||TCU (then-member of MWC)||Rose Bowl|
|2013||Northern Illinois (MAC)||Orange Bowl|
LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND PLAYOFFS
Look, I get that people think that this new playoff season will cure all that ails, but the fact that college football isn’t college basketball is a GOOD THING to me. The bigger the playoff gets, the more it dilutes the importance of the regular season, and introduces more randomness, as opposed to recognizing greatness.
Don’t believe me? Check out college basketball ratings regular season vs. March Madness. Hell, how many college basketball games have you watched this year not involving a team you cheer for? Meanwhile, in college football, #MACtion Thursdays are a thing. Teams including, but not limited to, Ball State, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan are must-see TV for college football heads, and for good reason.
The playoff will move bar conversations from who deserved to be in the National Title game (under the BCS, a specious debate) to who deserved to be in the playoffs. And we’ll all be back here in 2 years or 4 years or whenever the playoff expands, doing this all over again, especially since the playoff participants will be decided by a committee, not just computers.
Didn’t have faith in the computers? Search twitter for any committee member the first time a team gets snubbed, or we end up with a run of all-SEC National Title Games, and bask in the hate. Meanwhile, the most corrupt institution in sport (apologies to FIFA) continues to line it’s pockets on the backs and at the expense of unpaid labor. It’s fannnnnnnntastic.
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