Happy Trails to the Bowl Championship Series

Jan 9, 2014

The Bowl Championship Series: 1998-2014.

As all college football fans know, now that the BCS National Championship game between Auburn and Florida State has been played in Pasadena, California, the Bowl Championship Series is no more. After 16 years of controversy, debate and at times, great football games, the BCS system will be effectively retired for a new four-team playoff system to decide an NCAA football national champion.

Before we bid adieu to the BCS, let’s take a look back at the reason why it started: to pair the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation against each other in a national championship. A year before its implementation in 1997, Michigan and Nebraska each posted unbeaten 1996 seasons and were crowned co-national champions. Essentially, they tied for the No. 1 spot in the nation. Along came the BCS, a formula that would combine the AP and Coaches’ Polls, strength of schedule and other factors to determine its own ranking system. The top two teams would meet in the national title game, while the top 14 teams had a chance to play in one of the other four BCS bowl games, had they not qualified by winning their conference championship.

Enter the BCS controversy…and there was plenty of it to go around. In 1998, one-loss Kansas State finished third in the BCS standings, but did not receive an invitation to play in the Fiesta, Rose, Orange or Sugar Bowls. More recently, in 2011, a 10-2 Michigan team that did not even play for it’s conference championship leapfrogged a 10-3 Michigan State team that was coming off a narrow defeat in the Big Ten Championship game. In reality, that Michigan team was rewarded with a BCS game for essentially not playing for their conference title and the system operated as a handicap to the team that did. Those two instances are just a sampling of the BCS mess. There was 2004, when three unbeaten teams from power conferences were vying for just two spots in the national title game.

Yes, there was some good football, most notably the 2006 BCS National Championship game that pitted USC against Texas. Three years earlier, Ohio State and Miami played an overtime beauty to decide the national championship. All in all, however, 10 of the 15 championship games were decided by double digits – not exactly great football.

So while the BCS is soon to be history, the playoff system will soon be implemented. There will not be any computer formulas deciding who the four playoff teams will be, rather a selection committee to make picks, similar to how the NCAA Basketball Tournament seeds are decided. There is sure to be controversy, yes – that is inevitable in any sport. But there is also certain to be more opportunity for bubble teams that perhaps should have – but did not – get an invite to the national championship game in years past thanks to the handicapping BCS system.

So here’s to wishing farewell to the BCS. We will remember your good times and bad times, and we thank you for being inept enough to have led us to a much more exciting four-team playoff!