In recent posts on the cbssportsline message board, I've droaned on and on (some of you might add couple more "on and on's"") of my dislike for the current BCS system and all it stands for. I can't think of one redeeming quality of the BCS system from how a National Champion is determined to how 54 of the 120 Division 1A schools are virtually left out of any chance of competing in a major bowl, regardless of how they perform on the field. The BCS is run by power hungry, greedy elitests who are unwilling to share even a few crumbs with those they view as the peasants of college football.
I've suggested repeatedly it needs to be changed but changed to what? I've spent quite a bit of time this week (more than I should have) pondering this, listening to others via the message board, and offering up a few thoughts of my own as to what a better alternative would be. I've come to the conclusion there isn't a perfect answer. That's ok. It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to be better - much better.
The first problem as I see it is the selection process. Who gets selected to what Bowl and how was did they arrive at this decision? More years than not there are teams upset because they believed they had an impressive enough resume but weren't chosen to play for the national title. My question is why are teams being chosen in the first place? Why aren't teams earning their way to the championship by winning where it matters - on the field? It's nice to hand pick two unbeaten teams to play for the national title because that's what the computers tell them, but computers only know facts and figures. When you try to enter things like emotion, motivation and desire, computers throw up. They can't comprehend those "grey area" kind of things yet, they factor so greatly in the outcome of a contest.
The second problem is the elitest mentality that currently exists at the highest levels of college football. The BCS has practically made it impossible for about half of the Division 1A teams to ever get to a "BCS Bowl" much less a national championship game. Now before you all start moaning and groaning about how the mid-majors don't deserve to be sent to a BCS Bowl, much less a championship game, let me state for the record, based on how the system is set up today, I don't think they should be selected either.
The issue I have isn't that they aren't being selected. It's that the cards are stacked against them before the season even starts. It's like trying to juggle with one hand tied behind your back. Mathematically not impossible but damn unlikely. College football can do better than that. Surely a better alternative can be devised that doesn't rule out nearly 50% of the teams before the first snap of the season.
There is a better alternative. It's a system that would decide who plays for the national title based on winning where it counts - between the white lines of a field. It's a system that says, if you are a Division 1A school, you have as much of a chance as anyone else. It's a system that doesn't solely rely on computers to tell us who the best teams are. Simply put, it's a playoff system.
Now, many of us might agree with a playoff system but you would probably get a dozen different opinions on how many teams should be invited. In my view, this should be patterned after NCAA basketball - on a small scale. If you win your conference championship, you are in. There are 11 conferences so there are 11 teams right there. Obviously in fairness - like basketball - you would also need some "at large" teams that were highly ranked but didn't win their conference. Tools such as rankings, strength of schedule, overall record and conference record would be considered to identify these teams. What's the right number of teams? I've thought of 32 but that seemed like too many. I've thought of 16 but that only allows for 5 at large bids, which may leave a deserving team out. I don't know what the right number is but I know that deciding who is best should be determined on the field and not in some NCAA conference room somewhere.
Below I've outlined one possibility. This example has 20 teams. These teams would be seeded by the criteria I mentioned above. These teams are named but don't get hung up on that. It's only an example! Here we go.
- There are 11 conferences that make up Division 1A football. There are 4 "independents". Based on this, there would be 11 automatic bids handed out to the conference champions with the remaining 9 spots being filled with "at large" teams.
- The regular season would be reduced from its present 12 game season to a 10 game format. Enough for a couple out of conference games with the rest being played within the conferece.
- Only wins against Division 1A opponents would count towards consideration for an at large bid. Losses against Division 1AA opponents however would be considered.
- At large bids would be determined based on won/loss record within the conference, overall record, strength of conference and strength of schedule.
- As in basketball, teams would be assigned seeds. In my example below, there are four brackets, each with five teams seeded 1-3 with the fourth seed being determined by the winner of a play-in game in each bracket. The play-in teams would be filled by the eight lowest ranked teams.
- Nothing is perfect and neither is this example. Some drawbacks would be the extension of the football season potentially by several games based on how far a team advanced.
- Where games would be played is not addressed here. Is a home game for the higher ranked team too much of an advantage? The alternative is playing games at neutral stadiums which could lose much of the atmosphere as it would make getting to the games more difficult for fans.
- A reduction of regular season games would help keep the total number of games manageable but teams that don't make the playoffs would see a reduction in games. Schools could also see a reduction of revenue if the schedule were reduced.
- In my example, 20 teams get into post season play compared to 68 teams getting into bowl games currently. This could be offset by offering up "bowl" games between the "best of the rest" - not unlike the NIT in basketball.
Below is an example of how a bracket might look. Again, it's only for example purposes. No hate mail please.
Play in Game #1: Arkansas State vs Ball State (winner becomes a 4 seed)
#1 Seed - Texas vs #4 Seed Play-in game winner
#3 Seed - Missouri vs #2 Seed Florida
This bracketing philosophy would repeat until there are 4 brackets making up the 20 team field.
The remaining teams that meet the standards for Bowl Games but do not make the National College Football Playoffs would be invited to a post season Bowl Game to reward them for a good season. Standards for those Bowl Games could remain as they do today.
Let me close by restating that I do not believe this solution offered here is perfect. It has its flaws and I pointed out a few. There are probably more and I am certain those reading this will be quick to find them. However, this is an inclusive alternative that eliminates the snobbery, the elitests and most importantly, the question of who gets a shot at the national championship. It also doesn't penalize anyone for their conference affiliation. The mid-majors are included too and now, if they think they belong among the top teams, they get a chance to prove it.