The BCS is Dead! Not Quite, But Almost

It was the great scribe Samuel Langhorne Clemens who supposedly said of a newspaper article declaring his death, "The report of my demise has been greatly exaggerated," or something to that effect. Well, the supporters of the Bowl Championship Series are hoping to say the same thing about their beloved system for determining a national college football champion as is appears to be crumbling all around them.

First, in November — ABC, which has televised all the BCS games since its inception in 1998, pulled its broadcasting rights bid, instead being content to just keep the Rose Bowl. Then, earlier this year, the cornerstone of the rating system that propels the BCS sang "Thanks For the Memories" as the Associated Press said it would no longer offer its poll to the BCS. Now, the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" has pulled its name off the other poll the BCS relies upon to keep the human factor a part of its system as ESPN announced recently it would not help sponsor the coaches’ poll.

What all three of these events have in common relates back to the BCS and various developments over the past few months. ABC cited the recent addition of a fifth game for the national title as its main reason for scaling back its involvement with the BCS; the AP said it never officially allowed the BCS to use its poll in its rating formula and had gotten to the point where it "threatened to undermine the independence and integrity of its poll"; and ESPN was at odds over the coaches not wanting to publicize their votes until the final poll was released after the championship game. That issue exploded into a huge controversy after California was — for lack of a better term — screwed out of the Rose Bowl by the coaches.

With these three major entities either withdrawing or severely decreasing their involvement in the BCS, one wonders if a playoff isn't in the works, or at least will be soon. It may be a stretch to compare the two situations, but this series of rifts between the major media outlets and the BCS seems a little like the CART/IRL feud back in the early 1990s. For those who aren't familiar with the background, many Indy car owners and teams became fed up with changes happening within CART, including expanding the organization beyond its traditional boundaries. Thus, the Indy Racing League was formed, later excluding CART teams from racing in the sport's biggest spectacle, the Indy 500, got all the top-name drivers to defect, and eventually drove CART out of business.

To bring it back to college football, ABC still holds the broadcast rights to the Rose Bowl, the "granddaddy of them all," its partner, ESPN, is free to do what it wants concerning the BCS, and the AP is no longer a part of the rating system that determines who goes to the big three (sometimes four) bowl games.

So, envision this: ABC and ESPN go to the AP and offer to put up big bucks and their names to start a college football playoff. ABC tells the AP that ESPN will endorse and sponsor its poll and use it exclusively to pick the teams for the playoff. Sure, it doesn't have the other major bowls, but ESPN goes out and gets the rights for a few of the other older bowls that used to have some significance to them, like the Cotton, Sun, Tangerine, and Citrus Bowls, for example.

Since ABC and ESPN are essentially the same network, they can go to the schools and guarantee them twice what the other bowls would pay out, using the bait of possibly playing more than one game, and have the Rose Bowl as its center stage for the title game. If enough big schools are willing to go along with it, the BCS loses credibility with the fans and, maybe, the media because the "true" champion would have proved itself over the course of three or four games and not just a single-game random matchup. Hence, the BCS loses sponsorships and quietly goes by the wayside a few years later.

This all may seem like a far-fetched fantasy, but it may not be as far out there as you might think. Remember the College Football Association back in the 1980s that was formed to put certain conferences on TV each week? And remember that ABC was the network that televised CFA games? While that effort didn't last, ABC — with the backing of ESPN and the AP — could certainly make something like that work now in the limited scope of a playoff.

What sanctions the NCAA might place on such renegade schools are undetermined, if any, given the fact that they didn't do anything negative to the 66 schools that joined the CFA. However, since this would involve more than just the schools and conferences pocketing a few extra bucks for being on TV, that is, creating the one thing the NCAA has railed against for many years — a playoff, you can bet there would be one heck of a fight. But it's one fight that could end with what many college football fans have been pleading for, for many years — a playoff.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site