BCS Controversy

It's November (well now December), so must be time for more BCS Controversy. This time the issue is whether we'll have a rematch of LSU vs Alabama. Also, Why the BCS Got Lucky When LSU Beat Georgia.


Fall has arrived and with it comes our annual, and all too familiar, BCS Controversy. This could well have been the year that we finally had the nightmare come true for the BCS Conferences. It seemed highly likely that Boise State and TCU would BOTH finish the season undefeated and that the BCS would be whacked by the WAC.

It also seemed likely that most, if not all, of the 6 BCS conferences would end up with a 1 loss Champion. That would have been the perfect storm. Would the BCS pick a one loss BCS Conference Champion over an undefeated Boise State or TCU? Or, would say a one loss SEC Champion Auburn be shut out of the BCS Championship game?

But, alas, the BCS got lucky again because at the end of the 2010 college football regular season, we have exactly two undefeated teams from major BCS conferences. If we'd had one or three; there would have been trouble. But, two is the perfect number for the Bowl Championship Series Championship Game to resolve. And, to top things off, Boise State lost to Nevada leaving only TCU with a legitimate (though weak) gripe.

Update: Well, TCU just beat Big Ten Champ Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and as a result finished the season undefeated, and has a decent gripe. You can read more about all this at Auburn vs Oregon BCS Championship Game Preview.

The BCS mess is not all bad though. It certainly focuses the collective mind of sports fans everywhere on college football and who should be this year's National Champion (or at least be able to play for it).

And, that is one really good thing about the BCS system that is usually overlooked. It has helped make college football's regular season games the most exciting regular season sporting events in all of sports. The reason is that since only two teams get to advance to the "playoffs" and play for a national championship -- that makes even a single loss in the regular season potentially fatal. So, every game is huge. Thus, fan interest, TV viewership, and revenue are all up during college football's regular season. And that has been good for college football.

Before the BCS, things were fuzzier. The mythical "National Champion" was ... well, mythical. There was no one organization to crown college football's national champion. Instead, there were multiple polls [primarily AP (press) and UPI/ESPN/USA Today (coaches)]. And, each poll would simply vote at the end of the year and name its #1 team.

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was established to try to "fix" this situation and allow for one "true" National Champion to be crowned each year.

The BCS consists of five bowls that together decide college football's national champion. The bowls are the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar Bowls. The fifth is the newly created BCS Championship Game.

Before the BCS system, the major conferences all sent their Champions to the major bowl they were (and still are) affiliated with. The point of the BCS system was to break this up a bit to allow the top two teams to face off each year in the BCS Championship Game (regardless of conference they are from) and determine an undisputed National Champion. As we'll see, it's not exactly worked out that way.

The first big problem with the BCS is the inherent injustice in who gets selected for the BCS National Championship Game. Only one of the five BCS bowls actually matters for the National Championship, because there is only one BCS National Championship Game. [This year it will be held on January 10, 2011 at the University of Phoenix Stadium (also host of the Fiesta Bowl) in Glendale, Arizona.]

And, that's the crux of the issue. How do you pick only 2 teams to play for the National Championship? History has proven it's simply not possible. There are always more than two teams with a legitimate claim to play in the BCS Championship Game.

At this point in the current (now last year's) 2009 season, BCS controversy and confusion runs rampant as no less than 7 teams have a legitimate claim that they belong in that game. Those teams are:

  • Florida
  • Alabama
  • Texas
  • Iowa
  • Cincinnati
  • TCU
  • Boise State

A couple of those teams will drop out as the season rolls along. Florida and Alabama will likely face each other in the SEC Championship game. So, whichever loses that game will be eliminated. And, Iowa still has to go to Columbus and play Ohio State. If they lose that game, they would be eliminated from the National Championship race.

But, given the relatively weak schedules the rest of the teams have left -- it appears likely that at least 5 teams will end up as undefeated conference champions. Yet, only 2 of them can play for the national title. At least three will get screwed. Again.

This isn't new for the BCS. It happens every year. Well, virtually. Here's a list of the major BCS controversy each year since it started. For the sake of brevity I only highlight the major ones:

  • 1998 – 1999 Season -- This was the first BCS Season. One loss Kansas State finished the season ranked 3rd in the BCS Rankings. It did not receive a BCS Bowl Bid while Ohio State (ranked 4th) and two-loss Florida (ranked 8th) did. Undefeated Tulane, Conference USA Champ, failed to receive a BCS Bowl bid.
  • 1999 – 2000 -- 6th ranked Kansas State left out of the BCS games again. #8 Michigan in.
  • 2000 – 2001 -- One loss Florida State played undefeated Oklahoma in the BCS Championship game. This, despite the fact that Florida State had been defeated by Miami (ranked #2 in both human polls AP and ESPN/USA Today) who also had only one loss and was the Big East Champion. Miami's one loss was to one loss Pac-10 Champ Washington who also had a legit. Claim to be in the BCS Championship Game. FSU went on to lose to Oklahoma while Miami and Washington handily won their bowl games.
  • 2001 – 2002 -- Nebraska picked for BCS Championship game despite losing to Big 12 Champ Colorado (who had 2 losses) in last game of regular season 62-36. One loss Oregon was consensus #2 in human polls; also left out. Nebraska lost to Miami 37-14; Oregon beat Colorado in Fiesta Bowl 38-16.
  • 2002 – 2003 -- Convoluted BCS bowl selection mess results in Orange Bowl having higher ranked Big Ten and Pac-10 teams than the Rose Bowl. Rose Bowl gets stuck with #3 Big Ten team and has its lowest attendance ever.
  • 2003 – 2004 -- Oklahoma, LSU and USC all finished the season with one loss. (There were no undefeated Div I-A teams). However, Oklahoma lost to Kansas State 35-7 in the Big 12 Championship game. Yet, Oklahoma was still picked for the BCS Championship game to face SEC Champ LSU. LSU won the game 21-14. USC was left out of the BCS Championship game despite having finished the season ranked #1 in both human polls. USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl and kept it–s #1 ranking in the AP. So, at the end of the season, there was a BCS Champ LSU and an AP #1 USC. So, effectively a split, undecided National Champion.
  • 2004 – 2005 -- 5 teams finished the season undefeated. Auburn, Utah, Boise State, USC and Oklahoma. USC and Oklahoma were picked for the BCS Championship Game. USC won and was named BCS Champ. However, Auburn and Utah also won their bowl games leaving us with 3 undefeated teams at the end of the season. Auburn, in particular, was screwed because it probably had the toughest schedule of the 5 undefeated teams. Auburn fans can still be heard muttering: "The BCS Sucks." [The 2004-2005 fiasco led the BCS to increase the importance of strength of schedule in its selection process and rankings.]
  • 2005 – 2006 -- No controversy!! Great game. Texas beats USC 41-38 in one of the greatest games in college football history. The BCS can work once in a blue moon.
  • 2006 – 2007 -- Florida and Michigan both finished the season with one loss. Florida was picked to play Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game – and won. Boise State went undefeated in the regular season and beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in an amazing 43-42 overtime win (remember the Statute of Liberty 2 point conversion?) So, only Boise State finished the season undefeated; yet it didn–t even play for the National Championship. For more see BCS Should Pick LSU and BCS Got It Right.
  • 2007 – 2008 -- This was the craziest year of all and resulted in a 2 loss team (LSU) being selected for the BCS Championship Game. It turned out to be the right pick as LSU crushed Ohio State to win the National Championship. But, the point is, either Oklahoma or Virginia Tech could easily have been picked over LSU for that game. And, LSU never would have had its shot. Here's a great article about the Ohio State vs LSU BCS Controversy.
  • 2008 – 2009 -- Oklahoma picked for BCS Championship Game despite having one loss to Texas who also had only one loss (to Texas Tech). Florida beat Oklahoma in the BCS Championship game. Further controversy involved Utah going undefeated (including beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl) and being left out of the BCS Championship game. Then there was Boise State which was ranked in the top 10 in the BCS standings, but was totally left out of any BCS bowl even though it undefeated in the regular season (lost to TCU in Poinsettia Bowl).
  • 2009 – 2010 -- Alabama and Texas both were undefeated conference champs and faced off in the BCS Championship Game with Alabama winning. So far, so good. Problem was that three other teams also went undefeated in the regular season and were shut out. Boise State, TCU and Cincinnati all had legit gripes. Cincy got crushed by Florida in the Sugar Bowl; so much for them. But, Boise and TCU ended up facing each other in the Fiesta Bowl; denying both of them a shot at a major conference champ. Boise won that game and ended up, along with Alabama, as the two undefeated major college football teams. But, only Alabama was crowned "BCS Champion".
  • 2010 – 2011 -- As discussed at the top of this article, there's no real gripe this year. There are only two undefeated Conference Champs from the major BCS conferences. Only TCU can whine since it's also undefeated. But, it has a weak case given it's weak schedule. [Well, let's just see how the NC Game goes. TCU finished undefeated and we'll never know....] So it's Auburn vs Oregon in the 2011 BCS Championship Game. (Auburn won by the way.)

Other articles about the various BCS problems (so far) this season are at:

The second big BCS problem is unfair distribution of money.

The ten teams that receive bids to the five BCS bowls are the huge winners each year in college football. Not just in terms of rankings and prestige. But also in terms of MONEY -- for them and their conferences.

The 2010 BCS Bowls will pay out $18 million to each team that plays in them (down to $17 million in 2011). By stark contrast, the top non-BCS bowl (Capital One Bowl) will pay out only $4.25 million per team. And, the other bowls pay less, usually much less, than that. For instance, if you are relegated to the Papa John's Bowl, you'll only be taking home $300 K. Hardly covers the cost of the travel costs for the team, cheerleaders and band. So, the first big problem with the BCS is the inequity in who gets selected to a BCS Bowl.

According to the latest BCS Media Guide, during the first 10 years of the BCS, $100 Million was distributed to non-BCS member schools. During this time there were 51 such institutions; so that works out to $196,078 per non-BCS Conference school per year.

Conversely, each BCS conference (SEC, Big Ten, Pac-10, Big 12, ACC, Big East) is guaranteed at least $18 million (because it's guaranteed at least 1 BCS Bowl bid) so that works out to $1.66 Million for each of the 65 BCS Conference schools. [And, in reality it's often more since some BCS Conferences (i.e. SEC and Big Ten) get two BCS Bowl Bids, resulting in an additional 4.5 million (amount conference gets for a second BCS Bowl bid) in any given year.] A big difference.

In 2010, the SEC and Big Ten each got $22.2 million in BCS Payouts. The other four BCS conferences got $17.7 million. The non-BCS conferences averaged $4.8 million from the BCS.

This money issue has led to lots of controversy over alleged SEC Referee Bias.

So, how do we fix all this. Easy, just like every other college or pro sports league. You have a playoff.

Here's our simple, yet effective, College Football Playoff Proposal. The main idea is to expand the number of teams that are able to fight it out on the field, at the end of the season, and determine the National Champion. After all, shouldn't it be decided on the gridiron?

You can read other ideas at College Football Playoff.

Lest you think the BCS has no disadvantages for the major BCS conferences, check this out: BCS Unfair to SEC. And, consider: what if Alabama beats LSU, Auburn, and wins the SEC Championship Game; and finishes with one loss? Should a 1 loss SEC Champ be denied a spot in the National Championship?

And please, let us know what you think, and share your ideas about the BCS controversy, by using the form below or at What Do You Think of the BCS?

Looking for our 2010 - 2011 bowl predictions; bowl schedule; or bowl tickets?

Here's a link to more historical information about the SEC in BCS Bowl Games.

Read More about It's Destiny LSU Vs Alabama Rematch, LSU Vs Alabama Preview and Plus-1 Can Save the BCS.


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