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Upon hearing of the controversy that surrounds the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) it would be simple to dismiss the inconsistencies and arguments as the inevitable result of loyal fans and alumni behaving in an over-enthusiastic manner. The fact of the matter, however, is that the BCS bowl system is directly related to the payment of millions of dollars to schools and programs. It is therefore essential that the system produce an absolutely fair and impartial championship, and not be subject to criticism.

The BCS system has not been living up to this standard. Despite the use of a complex formula which was intended to consider all the factors necessary in determining the strongest team, the BCS has failed to resolve perennial debates, and has encouraged unsportsmanlike and dangerous behavior on the football field. A combination of BCS polling and a college playoff system would resolve the lingering controversies surrounding the NCAA division one football system and encourage more fair play and sportsmanship.

The BCS formula contains elements that encourage poor sportsmanship. One of the most reprehensible acts by a coach and team in any sport at any level is “running up” the score. (Justice, 2008) This behavior consists of continuing an aggressive offensive philosophy when the score and the time remaining indicate that the game has already been won. Until 2002, the BCS system considered as a direct part of their formula the margin of victory, virtually forcing high quality teams to run-up the score on inferior opponents.

(Justice, 2008) Despite eliminating both the margin of error element, and any ranking poll that used margin of victory, the inclusion of the Coach’s and AP polls still encourages teams to run up scores, since these subjective polls are answered by people who often have nothing but final score upon which to base their decision. (Justice, 2008) The system, relying on win-loss records and factoring margin of error, also encourages schools to invite inferior opponents to play. (Justice, 2008) The “big” schools pay smaller programs to enter into uneven match-ups that create a statistic-friendly result.

(Justice, 2008) A recent example of “cosmetic” scoring was the Game between the University of Texas versus the Texas A&M Aggies. (Justice, 2008) Despite holding a 13-point lead with about 30 seconds left in the game, Texas kept their starting players in the game to score a “cosmetic” touchdown with almost no time remaining. (Justice, 2008) Texas ended up winning the game by a score of 49 to 7. (Justice, 2008) Oklahoma University similarly played starters well after the game was decided in putting up over sixty points over opponents in five games straight.

(Justice, 2008) The practice of running up the score and playing poor-quality opponents is not only unsportsmanlike, it can be dangerous. (Justice, 2008) “Big” schools often have athletes that are far superior physically to those of their scheduled “victim” schools. (Justice, 2008) Additionally, not rotating starters late in decided games leaves them prone to injuries as well. (Justice, 2008) The results of BCS system despite being mathematical in derivation are as subject to debate as the old system of using the AP and Coaches Poll to determine champions.

(Shimberg, 2008) This year’s results are typical in that there were many rankings and results based on the formula that defied reason. The most obvious of these is the ranking of Oklahoma University above the University of Texas despite Texas having defeated Oklahoma in a head-to-head meeting on a neutral site. (the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX). This determination evinces a real weakness in the BCS system. Few would argue that in any ranking system where the teams are as close as these two were in other factors, (quality of victory, strength of schedule, record, etc.

) a head-to-head contest on a neutral field should be the determining factor. In this case, the BCS “missed the forest for the trees” and over-analyzed a relatively simple situation. This was only one of the anomalies of the BCS this year. The undefeated Boise State Broncos will not participate in a BCS bowl game despite having a better win-loss record than that of virtually every team ranked higher than they. (except Utah) That being the case, a playoff system would determine without doubt whether the team is legitimately better than those who outranked them or whether they truly benefited from a weaker slate of opponents.

Along with Utah, Boise State is one of only two teams in the BCS top-twenty-five who did not lose a game. Neither will play for the national title. The BCS mathematical system is not as objective as its proponents would have people believe. (Shimberg, 2008) Featured prominently in the calculations are a number of opinion polls, which were criticized prior to the BCS as being unduly subjective. (Shimberg, 2008) Rather than eliminating this problem, the BCS has amplified it by claiming statistical objectivity while at the same time including the very polls that it was intended to replace.

(Shimberg, 2008) Another element of the BCS calculation, the “Quality of Opponent” element is suspect. By way of example, consider the following hypothetical situation. (Shimberg, 2008) A team has a pre-season BCS rank of 10th place. They are defeated by team A and slide to 12th, and then they lose to team B and drop to 24th. After a loss to team C, this hypothetical team falls out of the rankings entirely. Here is the problem. Team A,B,C and every team who plays against the hypothetical after they fall from the rankings are playing against the same team.

Despite that fact, Team A gets more BCS credit for beating them than does team “B”, “C” or any other team. Injuries and other factors may reduce the quality of a team throughout a season, but the BCS ignores the fact that many teams are simply overrated. (Shimberg, 2008) Early BCS standings are weighted very heavily on opinion polls, and as a result, a team may gain an unfair advantage by playing against a team with an inflated ranking simply by catching them before they are exposed.

(Shimberg, 2008) Another problem with the current system of bowls is the existence of 34 bowl games, and the fact that these represent the only “post-season” in College Football. (Easterbrook, 2008) If sixty-four teams participate, then only a few less than half of the teams in division 1 football are eliminated in a 12-game season. As nice as it is to be able to crown thirty-four “champions” at the end of every season, this gives very little insight as to who actually has fielded superior teams.

(Easterbrook, 2008) In addition, the proliferation of invitation-type bowls has created a shortage of eligible teams to participate (Easterbrook, 2008). Bowl rules stipulate that a team must have six division-one victories to qualify. (Easterbrook, 2008) This creates the situation, as some teams play thirteen opponents, for a team with a losing or even record to play in a bowl. This fact takes the luster and meaningfulness away from all the bowls and the addition of BCS bowls creates an underclass of non-BCS bowls that further denigrates their reputation, and the reputations of teams who participate.

(Easterbrook, 2008) The BCS system has also already usurped many of the treasured rivalries in the college football world. (Easterbrook, 2008) For the past two years, the Big-Ten Champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes have been compelled to decline their traditional place playing against the Pac-Ten champions to play in a BCS title game. (Easterbrook, 2008) Similar inter-conference traditions have also been disrupted by BCS pairings. (Easterbrook, 2008) Critics of exchanging the BCS system for a playoff system make valid points about the rivalries and traditions of some bowl games.

(Easterbrook, 2008) Also, the current system allows thirty-four teams to end their seasons with a victory. (one for each bowl) (Easterbrook, 2008) Even more of an argument against playoffs replacing bowls is the fact that ESPN has paid a huge amount of money to carry BCS bowls until the year 2014. With that much money on the line (revenues are shared by the teams and their conferences) it is unlikely that any consensus could be reached to go to a playoff system. (Easterbrook, 2008)

Despite these legitimate concerns, a playoff system could be instituted in one of two ways, one would replace the bowl games and the other would follow the bowl games. An eight-game, single-elimination playoff system would unequivocally determine a national championship. Seeding could be based on BCS standings at the end of the season, and any team in the top sixteen would have the chance to win the Championship. In theory, the finals of this system would pit the two “best” teams in college against one-another in a winner-take-all game.

This would reduce, if not eliminate, argument as to which team is the best. If this took place after the bowl season, rather than replacing it, would only extend football for another four weeks. Fans of the game would enjoy the extended season, and bowl enthusiasts would still have their games. Revenue for the playoff games could be shared across the conferences represented, as happens with the current bowl system. No system will yield an unequivocal single “best team” out of a field of over 100 with only twelve games played, but of the options, a playoff would come closest to doing so.

References Easterbrook, G. (2008) “A College Football Playoff System will Cause major Problems. ” Retrieved Deceber 14th from ESPN’s Page 2 website: http://sports. espn. go. com/espn/page2/story? page=easterbrook/081202 Justice, R. (2008) “Longhorns Were Forced to Run It Up” Retrieved December 14th from The Houston Chronicle website: http://www. chron. com/disp/story. mpl/hotstories/6136224. html Shimberg, J. (2008) “BCS Formula for Bowl Games” retrieved December 14th, 2008 from Doc’s Sports Service Website: http://www. docsports. com/2008/bcs-formula-198. html

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