COMMENTARY: Farewell, Bowl Championship Series
Charles E. Sutton | 1/17/2014, 9 a.m.
I say thanks to the Bowl Championship Series for 16 years of service, and wish it a fond farewell. With that said, I'm excited about ushering in a new playoff system in college football, which will provide us with some of the most competitive games ever.
For decades, what's been interesting about Division 1 football is that there's been no "true" champion. The top team was determined by a process including a combination of polls and computer selection methods, which naturally made for some subjective — and controversial — selections of national champions.
The Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, was created to help rectify the problem. After a few incarnations, the system evolved into what we know it as today: five bowl games involving ten of the top ranked teams. Since 1998, NCAA officials have relied on the BCS to decide which team is the champion. However, the 2014 BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6 marked the end of the BCS era — and not a moment too soon.
For all its good intentions, the BCS probably caused as much controversy as it quelled. One its better moments was the Penn State-Florida State Orange Bowl in 2006, which was the last head-to-head matchup between legendary coaches Bobby Bowden and the late Joe Paterno. Penn State won the four-hour, triple-overtime thriller, 26-23.
A low point came in 2004 when the University of Southern California was the Associated Press' No. 1 ranked team, but was denied the opportunity to play in the Sugar Bowl, the designated bowl game to determine the national champion for that season. Instead, Oklahoma was given the chance despite losing to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship game. We'll never know how USC would have fared against eventual champion LSU, but the matchup had the makings of a great game.
Such rankings controversies seemed to crop up every year, as fans lambasted the BCS system while pining for some sort of college playoffs. The outcry against the system eventually made it all the way to Capitol Hill, as Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch threatened to have congressional hearings in 2009 because he felt the BCS system caused a multitude of breeches in the separation of sport and state. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice requested that the NCAA explain its implementation of such an archaic system.
In addition, issues regarding the financial dealings of the bowls came to a head when six Fiesta Bowl employees, including the CEO, was convicted of improperly steering bowl funds to various political campaigns.
Finally, salvation has arrived. The 2014 season will feature a four-team playoff with the winner of the single elimination tournament being crowned national champion. At last, we'll get a real champion that won it on the field instead of by using a computer-based formula. So if we have a situation where the season ends with the top three teams having identical records, there will be no second-guessing about who the champion is because they will quality for the playoffs and have an opportunity to win it on the field.
Like many organizations, the BCS had some really good moments, coupled with some not-so-good ones. But no time for wistful reminiscing now. Ready or not, a new day has arrived. Let's embrace it and enjoy the ride.