The BCS Was Not So Bad After All

While the UCF Knights, Oklahoma Sooners and Michigan State State Spartans celebrate their BCS wins, let’s reflect on the entire BCS era. Since 1998 college football fans and even some coaches and players have complained about the BCS. The BCS was not perfect. Let’s get that straight from the beginning. But what the BCS was, was the best system college football has ever had and likely ever will. To understand the college football post season, we need to go back to the roots of college football. College football was never intended to be a “National Championship” sport. It was the object of the game to be the best team in your region. Conferences were made up of teams in neighboring states and to win your conference and go to one of the “Major Bowls” was the goal in the preseason. It was never about a so-called “national Championship.” In high school, the goal is to be the state champions. In college it was to be the best team in your region. In the pros it was to be the best team in the entire nation.

But somewhere along the line, people started arguing about which team was the best in the nation in college football. What started as interesting debate then morphed into polls where mythical national champions were being named after the regualr season and then later after all the bowls were played. When schools started counting, and then bragging about national championships they’d won it has been the goal of college football to decide this on the field instead of in some smoke filled room by people who did not even participate in the games. The problem was, the bowls were such an institution that it is impossible to get rid of them. And really, they should not be gotten rid of. The Bowls are great.

If you don’t believe the bowls are great, consider this fact. Of the 68 teams who will go to the NCAA basketball tournament, 67 will go home losers. Of the 70 teams that participate in the bowls, 35 will go home winners. What’s so wrong with that? If you do not think winning one of those December Bowls is a big deal, then go back and watch the New Orleans Bowl between the Tulane Green Wave and the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns. The Superdome in New Orleans was packed that night and the games went down to the last play.When the Green Wave missed a potential game tying field goal on the last play, you would have thought the Cajuns had won the Sugar Bowl. Because to them, it was just as big.

In Orlando, after winning the Fiesta Bowl, the UCF Knights are getting a parade just like the Orlando Magic would have gotten had they won the NBA Championship in either 1995 it 2009. To a school that has only been playing in the upper division of college football since the mid-1990s, winning the Fiesta Bowl is about as big as it gets. You don’t think Michigan State Spartans fans are jacked up about winning the Rose Bowl? Winning the Rose Bowl for Big Ten and PAC 12 schools not named USC, Ohio State, Michigan or Washington is a rare and beautiful thing.

But next year, the system goes to a Playoff/Bowl system. While this is not entirely terrible, here is my problem with it. Actually, I have two problems with it. First, if this system was in place this year, the Spartans instead of hoisting a big trophy and putting on their Rose Bowl Championship hats and shirts while being showered with confetti, would be getting ready to play another game. The Rose Bowl has been around for 100 years. Winning it should be like winning a Super Bowl. But nobody celebrates after winning a semifinal. Ok, maybe in pro sports they do, but you never see a team cut down the nets after the semifinals. Quarterfinals yes, semis no.

My second problem with it is that after these bowls are over, there is a good chance that the Oklahoma Sooners may have been one of the teams involved in the playoffs. This is a team that lost twice in the regualr season, and not by a little but by a lot, and they would still be in the running. There was something to be said for the sport where you had to be good from the opening game through the last game if you wanted to be the champ. Yes, I know the LSU Tigers won in 2007 with two losses. But both of those were overtime losses. OU got blitzed by the Baylor Bears and the Texas Longhorns. Next year you could see a team like that win it all.

So was the BCS really that bad? Sure there were a few times where we didn’t get the correct championship game , but it really did not happen that often. And only once did the BCS Championship Game end with us wondering if the best teams had really won the championship. And in that season (2003), the BCS Champion LSU took home the trophy but the odd team out, the USC Trojans, took home the AP National Championship too. So was that so awful? Sure it would have been nice to see the two play, but no system is perfect. And we will soon find that out when the # 5 and #6 teams have a legitimate beef that they did not get a shot. Does anyone out there doubt that UCF could win it all in an eight team playoff? Or perhaps the Clemson Tigers if they were to beat Ohio State? Not that they would, but they could.

Jim Folsom is a regualr contributor to