Our typical fun Friday posts take on subjects not often mentioned here on the Schipul Blog, and I am proud to introduce College Football into the mix.
December has always been Bowl season in college football. More recently, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) has brought both excitement and controversy into the college football landscape. Here’s some brief information to catch you up to speed on college football bowl games:
- The 1902 Rose Bowl between Michigan and Stanford was the 1st Bowl game
- The 2009-2010 season saw 34 different Bowl games, matching 68 of the 120 Division 1 teams
- The Bowl Championship series began in 1998 with the Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta bowls
- The BCS bowls match the #1 and #2 teams together, along with other conference champions
- Recently (2006), the BCS has added a 5th game, the Championship game, to allow more teams into BCS games
- The BCS process has been under much scrutiny every year
That final point is where I’d like to focus in on. You might assume that if the BCS contains 5 games, that the Top 10 teams at the end of the season would participate in the BCS games. This has in fact never been the case. The BCS teams are made up of the #1 and #2 teams in the country, along with the conference champions from the:
- Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
- Big XII Conference
- Big East Conference
- Big Ten Conference
- Pac 10 Conference
- Southeastern Conference (SEC)
The additional spots are made up of other top teams in the country, chosen at the selection process. Top teams in the country that are not in one of these big six conferences typically have a much harder time making it into the BCS games (except Notre Dame, who has a special guarantee agreement if they finish in the Top 8 of the BCS rankings).
The BCS rankings are made up of 2 polls and an average 6 computer rankings. Currently the 2 polls are the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and Harris Poll (no link, because it’s a mystery why this poll is even used). The AP Poll requested to be removed from the BCS in 2004 amidst controversy of rankings in the 2003 season. This was just the beginning of controversy in the BCS. Below, I recap some of the controversy in the short history of the BCS.
1998 – #3 Kansas State was left out in the cold because of a loss to Texas A&M in the Big XII Conference championship (a great overtime win). Not all conferences play championship games, and if Kansas State did not have to play in this game, they would have been undefeated and would have very likely would have played Tennessee for the National Championship.
1999 – With only two undefeated teams, the BCS correctly chose Florida State to play Virginia Tech. Not too tricky.
2000 – Oklahoma was the only undefeated team, and Florida State was chosen as the best team with one loss, despite it’s loss coming to Miami, another one-beaten team who’s loss came to Washington, the third one-beaten. Florida State’s Strength of Schedule (combined record of opponents + some math) boosted them in the BCS rankings. Strength of Schedule (SOS) continues to be a key element in the computer portion of the BCS rankings.
2001 – While there wasn’t any controversy in the #1 and #2 selections, a 3-loss LSU team (from the SEC) defeated a 1-loss Illinois team from the Big Ten. This begins what will become the dominance of SEC teams in BCS games.
2002 – Again, a clear Championship game between undefeated Miami and Ohio State (a controversial double-overtime game). This year, Florida State was the ACC champion, despite having 4 losses. This begins the ACC’s separation from the other conferences as true college football powers.
2003 – Despite being #1 in both of the human polls (Coaches poll and AP poll), USC (of the Pac 10) was #3 in the BCS rankings and was left out of the National Championship game. The Coaches poll was contractually obligated to award LSU as the national champ after their victory over OU. The AP poll gave their championship to USC, who had a great victory over Michigan in the Rose bowl. This was part of the seed that prompted the AP poll to opt out of being used by the BCS.
2004 – Four teams finished the regular season undefeated. USC and OU played for the championship, while Auburn (from the SEC) was left out. The fourth team, Utah, is in the Mountain West conference, which is not one of the big six used by the BCS. This fact, combined with their SOS, prevented them from being selected in the top 2. This denial to non-major conference teams continues today. Utah won their game easily against the 3-loss Big East champ Pitt. The Big East also began to slide just like the ACC in 2002.
2005 – Texas defeated USC in a fantastic game of the only two undefeated teams. While no controversy, the selection of two of two undefeated teams doesn’t take a fancy formula. Florida State, with 4 losses, becomes the lowest ranked team (#22) to play in a BCS game, while 1-loss Oregon (#5) did not get a BCS bowl bid.
2006 – While there were two undefeated teams, only one of them (Ohio State) played in the championship game. Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), who went on to win their bowl game and finish undefeated, was ranked 8th behind two teams each with two losses (LSU and USC). This continued the trend since 2004 of not showing much respect to non-major conference teams that go undefeated.
2007 – The next to last week of BCS rankings had Missouri and West Virginia in the #1 and #2 spots, two surprises for the season, though both teams lost their final games to then drop out of the top spots. A 2-loss LSU team defeated 1-loss Ohio State, while undefeated Hawaii was only ever ranked as high as #10. It should be noted that Hawaii was crushed by Georgia in their bowl game.
2008 – An undefeated Boise State team and an undefeated Utah team both finished undefeated and in the Top 10 of the BCS, though neither team played for a national championship. Boise did not even play in a BCS game, while again a 4-loss ACC team was given an automatic bid.
2009 – Again, an undefeated Boise State and an undefeated TCU (#6 and #4), where not allowed in the championship game. This was probably a good decision, since there were other undefeated teams. Sadly, Boise and TCU were forced to play each other, which prevented them from showing the nation how we truly stack up against one another.
2010 – Will Boise State and TCU still be left on the outside looking in? Only time will tell.
Why is this such a big deal? At the heart of the BCS is money, and lots of it. Nicholas Bakalar of the NY Times took on this issue in 2009, highlighting the drastic difference in BCS game payouts compared to other bowl games. ESPN recently signed a $500 million 4-year deal to own the rights to the 5 BCS games. Michael Smith of the Sports Business Journal covers in detail the split of the money to the football conferences from the BCS pool of fund.
Now, some of you may argue that the BCS does work, since it has helped to make some tough decisions over the past 12 years. I’ll leave you to make your case in the comments below.