Hate the BCS? Want to See a Playoff in College Football?

It’s a Wonderful Life…BCS Style

So you hate the BCS system? You want a playoff in college football? As it is the holiday season, let’s play “It’s a Wonderful Life” and grant your wish. Here you go, George Bailey: the BCS doesn’t exist. In this life re-do, college football Division I-A (no need to be called FBS or Football Bowl Subdivision because bowls are no longer relevant) determines its champion through the use of a playoff.

As for those pesky bowl games, as much as you hate them, George Bailey, they not only still exist, but they actually make even more money than they did before. Having been in existence since 1902, you couldn’t have thought that an organization like the Rose Bowl would just disappear? Instead the Rose Bowl became even more powerful by working with ESPN to decide it was financially favorable to all parties involved to keep the games in one central location. As a result, the early rounds of the playoffs are played on campuses like regular season games, but later rounds and the finals are all played at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

And what about all of those “minor” bowl games you thought were a silly waste of time? Well, turns out that the fans, students, players and schools all wanted to go to a bowl game, even (gasp!) if it didn’t have championship implications. That’s right, the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl, the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, the Maaco Bowl, the Little Caesars Bowl and the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl all still exist. And games like Toledo vs Florida International and Troy vs Ohio are still played and actually make money.

Oh and the college athletes are now getting paid too! They had to get paid because just 10 years into this new playoff system, the administrators realized that the players could no longer go to classes and take exams, i.e, be students AND play football. 

At first it began with just adding one extra game in 1998.  Four teams were in the playoffs that year: Tennessee (12-0), Tulane (11-0), Florida State (11-1) and Arizona (11-1) and the winners played each other in what was called a “Plus-one.”  But the problem arose because there were nine other teams with just one-loss that year and the Playoff Commissioners had to use the AP Poll to determine which teams made the playoffs.  And one-loss teams that didn’t make it, such as Ohio State, Kansas State, UCLA and Wisconsin, were no longer complacent once they saw Tulane reach the playoffs with such an easy schedule in comparison to theirs.  Therefore, the following year the Playoff Commissioners decided to include even more teams in the post-season to fix these problems.

By the time 2008 came around, the playoffs had reached 16 teams. Utah and Boise State were both undefeated and automatically made the playoffs. But obviously, one-loss Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, Alabama, USC, Texas Tech and Penn State teams all had to be included as well. That made nine, but there were still seven spots remaining. One spot went to a 12-1 Ball State team, which meant that every team with two-losses that played a more difficult schedule automatically made it into the playoffs as well.  That added Ohio State, Cincinnati, TCU and BYU. But how could you argue that a three-loss Georgia team didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs as much as a two-loss TCU team given the disparity of opponents and the difficulty of Georgia’s schedule? Georgia was added and the fact was that two more teams were needed anyway.  But then came the question of how do you distinguish between all of the other three-loss teams, including, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Oregon, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Northwestern?

Without rankings and BCS-type formulas, you simply cannot choose amongst the three-loss teams, so the Playoff Commissioners were forced to put ALL of those teams in the playoffs. But that only added up to 21 teams, which was an unacceptable odd number and therefore, a 9-4 Virginia Tech team was added. It stopped there with 22 teams that year.  But not without plenty of controversy once again as Boston College, Missouri, Mississippi, Navy, Troy, North Carolina, Florida State, California, Oregon State, Air Force, Iowa, Nebraska and ECU all had just four-losses, while Western Michigan, Rice and Tulsa all cried foul having been the only three-loss teams excluded. Unfortunately, if you’re going to use records as opposed to those “cryptic” statistical databases you really need a minimum of 40 teams in the playoffs. And that’s where this system eventually takes us.

The fact is that in the NFL, 12 teams out of 32 make the playoffs. That means that 3/8 of the teams make the playoffs. In order to mirror the NFL in Division I College Football, there would need to be 45 teams in the playoffs. So how do these players do it and go to class and take exams? They don’t. There are so many teams in the playoffs that they last for two months, which is essentially a second season. That’s why college football players are now part of the NFL and play in a division called NFL-Minor. The good thing is that we no longer have to worry about players illegally taking money from agents, because they are allowed to get paid and in fact, must be paid, because this is a job. They can get their educations when they are done with their football careers.  But, George Bailey, even you got to go to school before you had to start working and take over the family business.

So now who cares if Auburn beats Alabama…or Ohio State beats Michigan State? This year Auburn, Alabama and Ohio State already knew they were in the playoffs so they rested their starters. So much for the “Most Significant Season in Sports.”

Look George Bailey, I might not think the BCS system was perfect, but I did enjoy watching what was overwhelmingly viewed as the top two teams in the nation play each other in the National Championship game. And I enjoyed watching every single minute of the 14-week regular season because Boise State vs Nevada mattered, Auburn vs Alabama mattered and Oregon vs Oregon State mattered.

The fact is that if there are five playoff games taking place in the Rose Bowl, no one is going to care about roses anymore, not even Zuzu’s petals. Come on George Bailey, don’t you want the BCS to live again?


  1. Chuck Greanoff says

    you nailed it.