A Not-So-Wistful Goodbye to the BCS


Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t say it’s something I’ll miss. The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was a convoluted, flawed and irritating system for selecting a national college football champion. On it’s best days, it created healthy debate and stirred the pot a bit. But in general, it left many fans and teams feeling helpless.

Those BCS apologists who say “for the most part, the BCS got it right” seem to be missing the entire point of postseason play. The BCS almost always got it wrong, in my opinion.

The beauty of the playoffs in professional sports, or the playoff systems in NCAA basketball, baseball and lower-level football divisions, is that you just need to get in. Once a team is in, anything can happen. That’s what makes it exciting. That’s what makes the postseason fun and unpredictable.

Nobody wants to see the expected, except the fans of that team.

If anyone thinks the 2011 Super Bowl champion New York Giants were the best team in the NFL that year, they aren’t bringing all the sandwiches to the picnic. The Giants made the playoffs by the skin of Tom Caughlin’s nose…by a few ticks of Eli Manning’s Citizen watch…and then they went on a run and won it all.

I say, good for the Giants. That’s how postseasons are supposed to work.

The BCS was put in place to generate money for sponsors and to protect the financial interests of the networks and the teams in big conferences. Nothing more. It had as much to do with actually being a “series” that worked to decide a national champion as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit calendar has to do with women’s fashion.

Preseason rankings spoiled the stew before it was even cooked in most years, and the inherent beliefs that non-AQ conference teams couldn’t compete made it even more frustrating. I mean, who wouldn’t have loved to have seen a team like Northern Illinois, UCF, Nevada or even the original BCS-buster, Boise State, go on a miracle postseason run to win it all?

I’ll tell you who…the networks and their sponsors. Or so they think.

The little guys making good against the big guys is compelling viewing, and if you don’t believe me, just look at some of the ratings for the NCAA basketball tourneys when teams like Butler, Creighton, UW-Milwaukee and other bracket-busters were on their runs. People loved it. It’s in our red, white and blue DNA…we love to pull for the underdog.

But change is here. No more crystal footballs. No more computer-driven mathematical algorithms. No more BCS.

Now we will have our playoffs. Undoubtedly, there will be problems and complaints, and even those pining for the BCS (hell, I still long for the days of AP/UPI polls), but it should be better.

Should be.

Are you hearing me “playoff selection committee”? Make it better. That’s now your job. You have been charged with a sacred and monumental task, and if you screw it up the planet may well explode.

Or, at least the southeastern United States will.

It’s still going to be tough for the little guys to make it in with so much talk about the weight being given to strength of schedule. But the committee would be remiss if they didn’t recognize and reward the hard work of smaller schools who fought valiantly to put themselves in a position to be included in the playoff mix.

With only four teams, that’s going to be near impossible. When the system invariably expands, as it is bound to do, then things will become much more interesting.

But for now, we close the door on the BCS era. An era of one conference’s dominance and a lot of unhappy undefeated and 1-loss teams.

It was only fitting that the much-maligned system start just as it ended, with the ACC taking on the SEC. Congratulations to the Florida State Seminoles for representing the ACC as strongly as they did, but we’re glad it’s all over.

Farewell, BCS…don’t let the door smack your butt on the way out.

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