Friday, November 19, 2010

Can the BCS Be Killed?

Why does the BCS exist?
Because the major conferences and the major bowl games got together and created a system that would insure that every year the National Champion came from one of their conferences and that team would win it in one of their bowl games. They control the power and the money.

In 1984 BYU won the National Championship. They won it by beating an unranked Michigan team that had finished 6th in the Big Ten in the Holiday Bowl. That season was an aberration. The only other non-AQ team to win the AP National Championship was TCU in 1938.

So why did the major conferences need the BCS? To make more money of course. They wanted a system that also guaranteed a #1 vs #2 game. Prior to the BCS that was a rarity. Now we take it for granted, but only because the system, by definition gives us that match up. The top two BCS teams might not really be the top two in the country, but that doesn't matter.

They also knew that in a playoff system, they could be beat. They could see "parity" written on the wall and knew that in 1 game against a non-AQ school, they could lose. This eliminates that.

The only reason non-AQ schools even have a chance on paper is because of threatened government intervention.

How can we get a playoff?
Couldn't the NCAA just impose a playoff? Not really. The NCAA might rule college basketball and all other collegiate sports, but they have very little power in football other than the power to annoy. The conference/bowl system predates the NCAA, and they still control college football.

On paper, the NCAA could impose a playoff, if it had the balls. It doesn't because to do so without buy-in from the major conferences is a huge risk. What risk? This summer when all sorts of crazy re-alignment scenarios were floating around, mega-conferences emerged as a real possibility. The fear is, if Notre Dame joined the Big Ten, if the Big 12 got absorbed by the Pac-10, Big Ten, and SEC, if the SEC raided the ACC who in turn robbed the Big East of their last remaining legitimate football programs (and the Big East focused on being a basketball conference) that those remaining 3 or 4 conferences would have so much power and control that they could simply leave the NCAA.

The NCAA is just one inter-collegiate athletic association. The mega-conferences could just create their own, set their own recruiting rules, govern themselves, be rid of the annoying NCAA and horde all the money for themselves. That is the risk that the NCAA can't afford to take.

Why doesn't the government step in?
While an anti-trust case could be built, frankly the government has better things to do. Besides, the BCS adopted a "if you can't beat 'em, absorb 'em" attitude. Utah and its powerful congressional friend Oren Hatch was their biggest threat. So they brought Utah into the new Pac-12. TCU will likely get asked into the Big East. That just leaves Boise. They just attack them in the press to drive down their rankings and hope for the best. The Big 12 should take them to replace Nebraska, but for some reason the AQ schools really do not like Boise.

How can it end?
From the inside. The BCS continues to exist because it serves the purposes of the AQ teams. They will stop at nothing to keep a non-AQ school out of the championship game. They even put a second back on the clock last year to allow Texas to beat Nebraska to keep TCU, Boise, or even AQ team Cincinnati out. Watch as the season plays out. Auburn and Oregon will get the benefit of every close call the rest of the way.

Why? If a non-AQ school even plays in the National Championship Game, the system could fall apart. The SEC was the driving force behind the BCS's creation. They made it; they can un-make it. If a 1 loss Auburn or LSU team gets shut out of the National Championship game in favor of TCU or Boise, the SEC will not be pleased. The system will have failed them and its usefulness will be near an end.

If TCU were to be the BCS-buster, things are salvageable for the BCS. They quickly add them to the Big East and try to play it off as a non-issue. That may not work, however. Everyone knows the Big East is a joke of a conference. A 13-0 Cincinnati team couldn't break their way into the big game last year. The SEC would still feel gypped if an undefeated TCU team out of the Big East got in ahead of a 1 loss Auburn or TCU.

If Boise's the BCS-buster, all bets are off. If Boise wins it all, conferences will flee the BCS like rats from a sinking ship because in that scenario a playoff serves their purposes. Every AQ conference 1-loss team (and some 2-loss teams) will believe in their hearts that if they had a chance to play Boise, they could win, but that's a chance they'd only get in a playoff system.

That is of course why Boise will not make it into the National Championship game. The BCS will make sure that doesn't happen, because they have the power to do it.

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