|Stanford was one of two non-conference champs in the top four. (US Presswire)|
Roy Kramer has a solution to the BCS. Not the solution, just a useful idea from an 82-year-old gentleman who just happened to invent the Bowl Championship Series.
That weighty enough for you?
"The participants should be a conference champion," Kramer said this week.
It's not a new idea, but one that has to be considered as the BCS commissioners gather next week in Dallas. That's where they will meet to take the next step toward developing a new college football postseason beginning in 2014.
They have heard your outrage and, based on reports so far, are determined to do something about it. But even a modest four-team, plus-one playoff has significant issues. Had a plus-one been in place last season it would have left out Pac-12 champion Oregon, which defeated conference rival Stanford. The Cardinal, at No. 4, would have been in.
Most significantly for Kramer, that plus-one also would not have included eventual national champion Alabama.
"I understand that," he said. "There isn't a perfect a system."
Tuscaloosa, you have the floor, but only for a second. Your program is at one of the highest points in its history largely because of Kramer. The former SEC commissioner expanded the conference and staged the first conference title game in 1992 after finding a little-known loophole in the NCAA rules. A few years later he had the idea to stage a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game for the national championship.
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The SEC and the game have never been better or richer. Kramer's champions-only idea is based on football excellence -- imagine that -- and putting more emphasis on conference races. It is muddied by conference realignment, which has spawned larger conferences. That makes it more likely the best teams can be in one league. But with the spread of conference championship games, the "best" team in a league doesn't necessarily win it. When the BCS started in 1998, four of the 11 FBS leagues had championship games. In 2012 that number will be six.
"It makes those conference championship games bigger," Kramer said, "It makes the regular season bigger.
"Take this year," he added. "Could you have really crowned a true champion if you had [those] four in? You left Oregon out. I'm not sure Oregon might not have been as good as all of them."
Using Kramer's model in a 2011 plus-one, No. 1 LSU would have played No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 2 Oklahoma State would have faced No. 3 Oregon in the semifinals. No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 Stanford, No. 6 Arkansas, No. 7 Boise State, No. 8 Kansas State and No. 9 South Carolina all failed to win their conference.
In 10 of the 14 years of the BCS, at least one team that did not earn its conference's BCS automatic berth ended ranked in the top four. Last season marked the first time there were two.
The BCS has never differentiated between conference champions. Nebraska in 2001 and Oklahoma in 2003 got to the title game each without winning the Big 12. Alabama became the first BCS champion not to win its conference.
Going forward, the preservation of the regular season's relevance is a sensitive spot for the commissioners. College football's has been called, without much hyperbole, the best regular season in sports. Like it or not, the BCS gets a lot of credit for that. The rush for those top two spots has become a season-long drama.
It might not be your two best teams, but for better or worse it provides a one-game climax to the season. That's something that was never in existence in the previous 128 years of college football.
LSU won its second SEC title in five years in 2011, four weeks after winning at Alabama in the so-called Game of the Century. Turns out it was only a prelude as Oklahoma State lost and the Tigers and Tide separated themselves from the rest of the field.
LSU-Alabama II, though, was such an issue to some that it resulted in alarmingly low TV ratings. Would a meeting of conference champions have made a difference? Using the existing model and taking into account conference champs, No. 1 LSU would have played No. 2 Oklahoma State in 2011.
The conference champion idea "would take care of a rematch, which is one of the issues that was out there this year," Kramer added. "It also elevates the conference season, which I think is good for the regular season. Now [the conference season] is the gateway to get there."
The 2011 season was so locked down by the SEC it turns out it didn't matter who won LSU-Alabama I. LSU could have conceivably lost the SEC title game and still gotten to New Orleans.
"The fact that it settled on one conference this year elevated the discussion this year," Kramer said. "Do you penalize the conferences like the SEC that has a conference championship game? I don't really think you do because it helps elevate whoever wins that game."
Settling on a new postseason may not be finalized until summer, but the options have to be narrowed. The 11 BCS commissioners plus Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick tossed around 50 or so postseason ideas during their last meeting on Jan. 10 in New Orleans. The list will have to be trimmed significantly by the annual BCS meetings in late April in Hollywood, Fla.
If the power brokers need any help, there's an 82-year old consultant ready to assist. They know him well. Their teams, their leagues and the game have never been better, or richer.