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The Bowl Championship Series (BCS), the National Collegiate Athletics Association's (NCAA's) eight-year-old attempt to escape establishing a college football playoff, is the center of controversy again.
Sports Business Simulations has a plan to restore credibility to NCAA Division 1 Football and The BCS, and eliminate the current set of problems.

The Attempt to Crown Number One

The Bowl Championship Series is the latest attempt to establish a credible system to select the best college football team in America. Ignoring calls for a college football playoff system, the NCAA has tried four different methods of choosing "Number One" between 1988 and 1998. (Information from the BCS website and other sources, including CollegeFootballPlayoffs.com)

1. The Pre-Coalition Bowl Games and Polls

2. The 1992 Bowl Coalition -- The Bowl Coalition was created to increase the likelihood of matching the top two teams in the nation while at the same time creating other exciting bowl game matchups that would appeal to fans and would be based on the full season's results. The old bowl system had not often matched the top two teams in the nation against one another; only nine times in the post-war era had the two highest-ranked teams squared off against one another in a bowl. The Bowl Coalition was an initial effort to improve upon that record. The Coalition arrangement did not alter long-standing relationships between certain bowls and conferences. The Big Eight champion continued to host the Orange Bowl, the Southwest Conference champion continued to host the Cotton Bowl, and the Southeastern Conference champion continued to host the Sugar Bowl. The Big East and Atlantic Coast conferences committed their respective champions to the arrangement, and Notre Dame also agreed to participate.

3. The Super Alliance -- In 1995, the Bowl Coalition is replaced by the Bowl Alliance, which involves three bowls‹the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar‹and a new look. The champions of the ACC, Big East, newly formed Big 12, and SEC commit their champions to play in one of the Alliance Bowls. Notre Dame also agrees to participate if selected. In the first year of the arrangement, the Big Eight and Southwest Conference champions play in one of the Alliance games.

A rotation is established giving each Alliance bowl a chance to make the first two selections from among available teams. This increases the likelihood of matching the top two teams in a national championship game. Only if one or both of the top-ranked teams are members of the Big Ten or Pac-10, and thereby committed to play in the Rose Bowl, will there be no game between the top two teams.

In its first year, the Alliance matches No. 1 Nebraska against No. 2 Florida in the Sugar Bowl to decide the national championship. The system worked well until 1997, when the season ends with a split national champion. Top-ranked Michigan finished an undefeated season in the Rose Bowl with a 21-16 victory over Washington State, but slipped to second in the coaches' poll when then-No. 2 Nebraska sends Tom Osborne into retirement with a 42-17 win against No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl

4. The Bowl Championship Series -- In 1998, SEC commissioner Roy Kramer helps create the Bowl Championship Series, in which the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences commit their champions to play in the new arrangement along with the champions of the ACC, Big East, Big 12 and SEC. The top two teams in the newly developed Bowl Championship Series Standings will meet each season in a national championship game, with the goal of having one champion at the end of the season. With the addition of the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions, the Rose Bowl joins the national championship game rotation, and opens its game to teams other than the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions for the first time since the 1945 season. The six conference champions automatically earn spots in the BCS bowls along with two at-large selections. To determine the top two teams, a formula is developed to include the Associated Press and coaches' poll as well as certain computerized rankings, strength of schedule and number of losses.


What Is The BCS?

The NCAA's Bowl Championship Series was created in 1998 as a way of mating calls for a college football playoff system with the desire to maintain the 100-year-old college football bowl system. Basically, according to the NCAA Postseason Handbook, it works like this:

1. Deserving Division I-A teams are identified for "Bowl Eligibility," where such a team has won at least six games for that season and has more wins than losses.

2. A Division I-A team that has a win against a Division I-AA team that has given out more than 60 scholarships over three years, may claim that win once every four years.

3. There are more eligible winners than total bowl games, which are all bowl games and the four games in the Bowl Championship Series. The executive directors of the bowl games select those teams they feel are most deserving of the group of winners to play in their contests.

4. The Rose Bowl, the Nokia Sugar Bowl, the FedEx Orange Bowl and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl comprise the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). The pool of eligible teams, established after the final BCS standings are released December 5, 2004, shall consist of the conference champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-10 and Southeastern conferences, whose teams will be guaranteed berths, and teams that have won at least nine regular-season games (not including wins in exempt games) and are ranked among the top 12 in the final BCS standings.

A win versus a Division I-AA opponent may be counted once in four years to reach the required nine wins. Additionally, any Division I-A independent team or team from Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt or Western Athletic conferences, will be guaranteed a slot in one of the four BCS games should that team be ranked sixth or higher in the final BCS standings, unless more than two teams meet this criteria. Should more than two teams from this group be ranked in the top six of the standings, the BCS bowl selecting will have its choice of any two from that group. However, any team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 must be selected for the national championship game

5. Since the beginning of the 2000 regular season, BCS standings have been compiled by the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. The BCS standings determine which teams play in the national championship game, and which are included in the pool of eligible teams available for at large selection. This year, the BCS standings included three components: the rankings of the Associated Press media poll, the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll and a computer poll average. Each component will count one-third of a team's overall BCS score in the BCS standings.

6. Until the last week of 2004 when the Associated Press requested removal of their poll from the BCS system, the Associated Press (AP) and USA Today/ESPN polls were used. A team is evaluated on the number of voting points it receives in each poll. A team's AP score will be its points in the poll divided by its total possible voting points. The same formula will apply to the USA Today/ESPN poll and its total voting points. The number of actual voters, which can vary and has varied in the past, is factored into the computation on a weekly basis in stating each team's percentage of a possible perfect score.

BCS Errors and Controversies

Over the past two years, the BCS has come under public attack for its inability to settle the argument of "Who is Number One." The importance of the resolution of the question has been increased by the high payments to schools selected to be in the BCS. The average 2004 payout is over $14 million for each college in the BCS games. Losing BCS competition can cost a college millions in lost potential revenue from the bowls and from merchandise sales associated with being "Number One." This happened in 2003 and in 2004.

For the only time since the BCS was formed, 2003 produced a split national champion. LSU finished atop the coaches' poll by beating Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in a pairing of the top two teams in the BCS Standings. USC, ranked first in both polls on Bowl Selection Sunday, was left out of the BCS championship game when the Trojans finish third in the BCS standings.

But USC wins the Associated Press' championship after beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Oklahoma, which spent the season as the top-ranked team in both polls, earns a spot in the Sugar Bowl by finishing first in the final BCS Standings even though the Sooners lost to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game. LSU, the SEC champion, edges USC for second place in the final BCS Standings to advance to the Sugar Bowl.

In 2004, The University of California (Cal) finished 4th in all polls going into its final game of the season, but 5th in the coaches poll, after ranking 4th in all polls prior to that game and expected to advance to the Rose Bowl as the Pac 10 representative. While the voting breakdown of the Coaches Poll is not made public, lobbying for support by the head coach of the Texas Longhorns from the Big 12 Conference, (and who were ranked 5th behind Cal) was believed to have helped them rank higher than Cal in the final Coaches Poll and win the right to be in the Rose Bowl over Cal. It was also learned that the BCS Coordinator was and is also the Big 12 Commissioner, leading some to wonder if the BCS Coordinator was involved in the "Pro-Texas" lobbying process as well.

The final outcome had Cal going to the Holiday Bowl and losing over $4 million in bowl revenue because of the voting outcome. Cal would have gained $9.4 million in revenue from the Rose Bowl (because it would have been the second of two teams representing one conference, the Pac-10).


BCS: Problem By Design

From SBS's view, the BCS is an attempt to employ a set index of evaluation to rank winners and losers. At present, that index consists of a combination of polls and computer-generated rankings, again based on a set of indexes. The primary problem is two fold:

1. The indexes used consists of fewer variables than are actually at play in the "system" being evaluated, which is the number of variables that make up competition between college football teams for Number One ranking. That's why the BCS system always has to be "tweaked" to include a variable not considered before, and which was the center of controversy from the previous year.

2. The BCS's own internal system of determining when teams can be considered for entry forms too many potential variables which conflict with each other such that more problems will develop in the future.

The matter of "not enough variables" is one that changes in the BCS can't overcome. The problem is that the BCS system of use of multiple polls and indexes coupled with a highly public and scrutinized competition renders the BCS in danger of constant attack from those who claim the existence of a flaw. Even when the BCS reports a consensus champion, those will point to teams that didn't get in the BCS because of a polling error.

The BCS's has several rules that-- even with the development of a "blue-chip" selection committee-- still leave the enormous chance of one college and its alumni charging that the system was either flawed or rigged. Let's take one part of the current BCS rules called "Automatic Qualification for Certain At-Large Teams" It reads like this:

"Also, any Division I-A independent team or team from Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt or Western Athletic conferences, will be guaranteed a slot in one of the four BCS games should that team be ranked sixth or higher in the final BCS standings, unless more than two teams meet this criteria. Should more than two teams from this group be ranked in the top six of the standings, the BCS bowl selecting will have its choice of any two from that group."

Any team from an independent institution, or Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, or Western Athletic conferences, which is ranked third through sixth in the final BCS standings, shall qualify for a berth in one of the BCS games unless more than two teams meet this criterion. If one team other than Notre Dame qualifies for selection under this provision, Notre Dame shall also qualify for automatic at-large selection provided it is ranked in the top 10 in the final BCS standings or has won at least nine games, not including exempt games. If two or more teams other than Notre Dame meet this criterion, Notre Dame shall also qualify for the at-large pool provided it is ranked in the top 10 of the final BCS standings or has won at least nine games, not including exempt contests."

So, if Utah and San Jose State are ranked 3rd and 6th respectively, and Notre Dame is ranked 9th, Notre Dame would be entered into the pool. Thus, under this rule, the BCS bowl selecting would have a choice of number 3 ranked Utah, number 6 ranked San Jose State, or 9th ranked Notre Dame. Thus, Notre Dame could be selected over 3rd ranked Utah to play 6th ranked San Jose State.

Beyond this, the basic problem is the use of an index. Unlike the NFL, where a comparatively small number of teams are ranked by won-loss record, and has an internally consistent system of teams that share talent, revenue, and a basic corporate structure, the NCAA has the problem of tying together 117 teams, with different conferences, academic schedules and requirements, budgets, rules, and media contracts. Moreover, the NCAA has an uneven and not-consistent exchange of talent. Players are not freely traded from one organization to the other. Thus, player talent levels vary from school to school and conference to conference. Because of this, there is no "perfect index" that exists, and the very use of one creates problems because of the many uncertainties, some unforceen, not captured by "fixed variable" indexes, which represent anticipated events.

The task at hand is to reduce the number of teams that should be in the BCS system, and to levels such that an index is not required, or its role is reduced. The secondary task is to eliminate the need to establish a "place" for independents and other conferences such that a "Notre Dame" problem can exist. The only solution is to have a system where it's more likely that the best teams will play each other to determine Number One. In other words, a playoff system of some kind is the answer.


2005: The BCS Makes an Adjustment -- Does It Work?

According to a newspaper report "The 2005 BCS formula for picking national championship teams is basically unchanged except for the replacement of the Associated Press poll by a poll of former coaches and administrators and selected media. The voters in the USA Today coaches' poll will be required to reveal their final votes, which should help alleviate some of the self-interest voting of last season. Now, however, there is a greater chance of having two national champions with the AP poll still in existence with no tie-in with the BSC and no apparent loss of credibility..."

But the computer rankings still remain. According to the BCS website,

"Six computer rankings will be used for 2005: Jeff Sagarin, whose rankings are published in USA Today, Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey and Dr. Peter Wolfe. Points will be assigned in inverse order of ranking from 1-25. A team's highest and lowest computer ranking will be discarded in calculating its computer rankings average. The four remaining computer scores will be averaged and the total will be calculated as a percentage of 100. All three components shall be added together and averaged for a team's ranking in the BCS Standings. The team with the highest average shall rank first in the BCS Standings. The first BCS Standings of the 2005 season will be released on Monday, October 17. The BCS Standings Will Be Utilized for:

1. Selecting the teams that will participate in the national championship game.

2. Determining whether any independent or team from Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, or Western Athletic Conferences shall qualify for a guaranteed selection in one of the games of the Bowl Championship Series.

3. Determining any other automatic at-large selections.

4. Establishing the pool of eligible teams for at-large selection.

The BCS changes were made to counter attacks on the system's "credibility." But they didn't work.

The "loss of credibility" happened on the week of October 16, 2005, when, after nearly beating Number One-Ranked USC, but losing on a controversial fumble call leading to a Trojans touchdown, Notre Dame -- 9th ranked in the AP Poll, was just 16th ranked in the then-released BCS poll. Even though Notre Dame gets an automatic BCS placement as an independent, news media and alumns of various colleges once again criticized the BCS as not effective and as one ESPN TV sports analyst put it, "just plain wrong."

What Kind of Playoff System?

There are a number of ideas of systems, most notable is the one advanced by CollegeFootballPlayoffs.com. While that system has merit, it too uses an index to determine which teams play in certain games. So, the problems associated with an index system still remain.

A Clean Playoff System

What SBS proposes is a "clean" playoff system. Here, the main playoff game participants are selected from the champions of each conference plus either two runner up schools or two independents or one runner up and one independent, if the latter's won-loss record or strength of schedule or strength of conferences played is better than that for the runner up. Each conference is required to have a championship game to determine the playoff participant from that conference.

There would be 16 teams playing in eight games to start the playoffs. The winners of those games form the next four games. The winners from those four games play two games. Finally the remaining top two teams play for the National Championship.

This simple system not only eliminates the guesswork associated with the current BCS system, but also spreads corporate sponsorship money further into each conference by requiring a conference championship game. The conference championship games are that much more important.

The only draw back is that the Number One team will have to play four more games to prove it. But the two remaining seed games (three in all) can be moved back to be played starting one week after New Year's Day, thus having the four second seed games played on New Year's Day. The final game would be played two weeks after New Year's Day.

The games in the third seed and the final game can be played at the same site, thus reducing travel costs, and increasing the economic impact of the event by having the alumni of teams from four different cities to come to the city hosting the finals and the National Championship game.

The Bob Stoopes Claim

Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoopes said that having a playoff system would take the focus off regular season games. Actually, SBS find that to be the reverse. Using the NFL as the example, games across all conferences become more important as the playoff period draws near. Moreover, the conferences traditionally left out of the post season BCS bowl attention would receive a level of attention not experienced in the past in the SBS playoff system because their championship games are included in the bracketing format.

What do you think of this system? Let us know ...


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