A View from the Cheap Seats

The BCS is absolute bedlam, sure.

I doubt many people will argue its perfection, but it has its merits. Personally, I liked the old system where the voters were in complete control because more bowl games actually mattered; at least it was consistently inconsistent. If Georgia Tech beats Nebraska handily in the Citrus Bowl and Washington beats Iowa in the Rose Bowl, then Georgia Tech will get a share of the national title with Colorado if they beat Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl…

But let’s be honest, there’s not a conceivable playoff system out there that will both determine a true national champion while simultaneously filling the coffers of every BCS school (and, of course, Notre Dame).

The NCAA basketball tournament is a billion-dollar, three-weekend event that crowns a true national champion with unrivaled elegance and unscripted suspense. Unfortunately, there’s just no way college football could ever replicate that kind of post-season.

But that’s ok, because the three-month regular season is college football’s billion-dollar spectacle. Almost every Saturday along the way during these three months we the fans get a big game or two (or more, on those rare Saturdays) that means something to the standings. I’m good with that.

The problem with college football is not the controversial method in which it crowns a national champion, but the awkwardness in which it aligns its non-BCS bowls. For the most part, the BCS has gotten it right. And when it misses, the AP is always ready and willing to step in and help out.

Just ask Southern Cal circa 2003.

Sure, there have been some obvious exceptions that triggered much controversy, most notably Miami in 2000 and Auburn in 2004, but the simple fact remains that as long as preseason polls play even the remotest of a factor into the equation this will always be a possibility. It’s the nature of the Beast.

The BCS worked itself out quite well last year; there was little speculation that Southern Cal and Texas were the two best teams. And while Auburn will always feel slighted as the odd man out in 2004 when Southern Cal thrashed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, there was no definitive argument before that game that Auburn was more deserving than Oklahoma. That game most certainly did not live up to its hype, but as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

Would a playoff be better? Of course. But we all know the reasons against a playoff system, and we all know that real reason is money. It really is that simple.

The only gray area here is how they spin it. We all know it’s all about money, the NCAA and athletic directors know that we all know it’s all about money, yet they continue to dispense overly-idealistic rhetoric for excuses when it’s utterly unnecessary.

Seriously, c’mon, would any of us really be all that taken aback if the athletic directors all got on ESPN and told us “Look, knock it off. We’re not ever having a playoff because Corporate America is making us filthy, stinking rich. And you know what else? To be honest, that’s entirely your fault. End of story.”

As surreal and impossible as that scenario would be, they’d be absolutely right; it is definitely our fault. After all, we’re filling their pockets one bag of Tostitos at a time so that we get a load of crappy bowls with undesirable match ups. Be honest: let me see a show of hands from everyone that watched the International Bowl in Toronto this weekend. Ok, Matt, you can put your hand down now, eh.

For as much as we like to argue about it, the BCS isn’t the problem with college football. That’s missing the forest for the trees. The problem with college football is the bowl system itself – the very system that we the fans have created.

How can you try and justify the current system by any other means when the Peach Bowl is now the Chick Fil-A Bowl, the Citrus Bowl is now the Capital One Bowl, and there is no Freedom Bowl or All-American Bowl? (Although I do miss the Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl, which I think may now be the Emerald Bowl, but I’m not sure.)

And allow me to quote Steve Spurrier from the mid-90s, just for fun: “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T.”

My problem with the current quagmire of a bowl system is that due to the ridiculous conference tie-ins, Iowa (6-6) played Texas (9-3) in the Alamo bowl while Rutgers (10-2) – who suffered perhaps the highest fall from grace – played Kansas State (7-5) in the Texas Bowl, broadcast to all eighteen people that have the NFL Network.

My problem with the current bowl system is that Alabama (2-6), Arizona State (4-5), Florida State (3-5), Iowa (2-6), Miami (3-5), Minnesota (3-5), Oklahoma State (3-5), Oregon (4-5), and South Carolina (3-5) all finished with losing conference records. Alabama and Iowa were rewarded for squeaking out an entire two conference wins; both lost their bowl games and finished the season with losing records.

That can be blamed entirely on the bowl tie-ins as well as every diehard fan that made the trip to San Antonio to see Iowa and Shreveport to see Alabama.

This inevitably leads to the issue that how well your fans travel is just as important as how well you finish, which is why there is a bowl pecking order. Ask Boston College, whose fans have a reputation for poor bowl turnouts; BC was thus “rewarded” for a good season with its second Queen City appearance since 2004.

Ask the Gator Bowl how excited they were about having a lackluster Georgia Tech fan base return to Jacksonville a month after losing the ACC championship there in front of a sparse crowd (the Gator Bowl was half-empty Monday as well, reminiscent of a Tech home game).

Ask the Orange Bowl officials if they’re happy that Wake Forest won the ACC and not Virginia Tech? Did you see that guy after the ACC title game trying to act excited that all 4,263 Wake fans would be coming to Miami in a month? (It actually appeared like Wake brought closer to 8,000; my mistake.)

Oh yeah, I have a problem with Western Michigan playing Cincinnati in Toronto, Canada. Seriously?

But I digress. I know that revenue-wise the Motor City Bowl is extremely important to the MAC and the New Mexico Bowl is just as important to the WAC. But for as exciting and great as the college football regular season is every weekend for three months, the current bowl system too often creates wildly undeserving match ups and inevitably renders the college post-season largely anti-climactic.

Is there a better way to make college football’s post-season more exciting? I’m sure there is; it’s fun to discuss, anyway. Do I have that solution? I wish.

After all, I railed on and on about how Boise State had no business in the Fiesta Bowl, so what do I know?

About LRM

Charter member of the Lunatic Fringe and a fan, loyal to a fault.

General NCS Football Sports Junkies

32 Responses to A View from the Cheap Seats

  1. choppack1 01/08/2007 at 3:00 PM #

    I think the biggest problems facing the bowl system right now is all of the tie-ins. As w/ anything else, these things have their winners and losers.

    The unquestionable winner is the SEC. They are followed by the Big 10, who is followed by the Big 12, followed by ACC, followed by Pac-10, followed by Big East.

    Any time you see a #2 conference team, playing the #3 conference team – there’s an indication of the disparity.

    The bowls love the SEC and Big 10. They like the Big 12. They’re OK – especially regionally w/ the ACC. However, they loathe the Pac 10 and Big East.

    You’re right, the BCS conferences should agree to scrap the current system – sans the championship game. I’m actually thinking something akin to the agreement that the ACC reached last year. However, these municipalities that put this stuff on, don’t want to have to be the recipient of a bowl game equivalent of this year’s ACC championship game – (a Wake Forest – Ga Tech game very few attended.)

    Perhaps the best way out is to allow “soft-tie ins” when a BCS conference team has a losing record. The bowl would have the right to go after another team if someone in their tie-in group has a losing conference record. Of course, this could create an even bigger mess….

  2. Matt E. 01/08/2007 at 3:17 PM #


    *puts his hand down*

  3. Cardiff Giant 01/08/2007 at 3:29 PM #

    I gave up on it when the Peach Bowl went away. Seriously.

    I thought the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl was the bowl in Shreveport? The Emerald Bowl is, of course, in San Francisco.

  4. choppack1 01/08/2007 at 3:52 PM #

    worm – I’m against a playoff, but I do think a college football playoff, would generate tons of $$. However, I think it would be stupid and damaging to college football to limit to 8 teams. I think if they go to a playoff system, make it 32 teams and drop the current bowl system.

    I think any kind of playoff but a large one hurts college football. To me the elephant in the room is what happens to the mid-tier schools in an 8 game playoff. You’ll also have to explain to those middle tier BCS schools – you know the ones like NC State – that you’ll likely never, every play in this thing, yet we expect 50K of you to show up every week.

    I think the 32 team playoff would allow the middle tier schools enough lee-way that they wouldn’t totally schedule cupcakes and that they could obtain realistic hope that they could make the “big dance” once every 3-5 years.

  5. E-RO 01/08/2007 at 3:56 PM #

    [quote]I would love to see someone put pencil to paper and prove to me that having 30 meaning less bowl games and 1 end-all-be-all game is somehow more profitable than 23 meaningless games and a 7 game playoff. Makes no sense.[/quote]

    You can’t make any more money off the playoff system, because it wouldn’t really generate more games to profit off. You’ll make money off all the meaningless bowls because teams like Nebraska, NC State, Norte Dame, and teams whose name don’t start with N’s all will have 50,000 fans each to travel to a pretty meanless game. It doesn’t matter who plays, several meaningless games will sell out. Let ESPN televise it, and make more money. They’ll make money off stupid Chevy comercials making sure we know that this is our country, not Canada’s or Iraq’s country. There will be money for the corparate sponsers, and money for tons of other things. People will buy the t-shirts for the “Lysol Stink Bowl” (which doesn’t exist, duh?) or whatever, even if their team lost and had a 7-6 record on the year.

  6. ncsslim 01/08/2007 at 4:06 PM #

    I don’t know what the big deal is. Why is the need for “finality” so important? Unlike basketball, football is pretty much going to be the same schools year-in/year-out, and just increase the already substantial recruiting advantage that already exists. With the virtual promise of the extra games and exposure on a yearly basis by the elite few, the uphill battle that schools like NCS face will only become more difficult. Moreso, what makes anyone think that the inclusion decisions into the “tournament” will be any more obvious and fair than the current BCS choices? The rich will only get richer, unless you just can’t sleep at night without the thought of the “true” champion!

  7. choppack1 01/08/2007 at 4:57 PM #

    “However, if State had managed to go 11-1 a few years back and gotten a BCS bid, there’s not a one of us that wouldn’t have been dying to have a shot.”

    But we didn’t, so we wouldn’t have gotten a bid. If we do go 12-0, 11-1 or 10-2 or whatever, it will mean a trip to Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena, or Scottsdale – and the most special season in NC State history – and possibly a shot at the national championship. Go to a playoff and everything changes – probably including perspective.

    IMHO, this is part of the reason college football is so popular among its followers. There’s pretty decent chance you walk away w/ a smile on your face – that’s totally different than NCAA b’ball.

  8. Master 01/08/2007 at 6:18 PM #

    Outside of the top 10 teams in America playing in a post season playoff, what changes about the nature of what the other 46 teams are playing for? Other than the BCS prestige, all the other bowls are 1-shot NITs. The Peach Bowl has NEVER been about playing for a final ranking. Its been about giving your fans a chance to have a New Year’s Eve party in Atlanta and your team gets a few gifts for busting their arse for 20 more practices. The Corporate folks can still have their little Chamber of Commerce tilts in Shreveport and San Antonio and the games mean nothing less to anyone.

  9. Gene 01/08/2007 at 7:04 PM #

    If there are two unbeaten teams still left, after January 1, than have another game between those two schools to settle things.

    After all the bowls are played, you aren’t usually going to have more than a couple of unbeatens.

    The point of the BCS, I thought, was to make sure if you had two unbeatens they’d play each other to decide who’s the national champion.

    Simplest thing would’ve been to play all the bowl games last weekend and if Boise State and Ohio State are unbeaten, let them go at it to settle things.

    Personally, I think the traditional football powers were getting miffed that upstarts like BYU, Georgia Tech, Colorado, etc. were getting voted #1 in the polls, because they were unbeaten, but might not have been as good as traditional powers and wanted make it harder for those schools to have a shot at a national title, so the powers-that-be concocted the BCS.

  10. redfred2 01/08/2007 at 7:50 PM #

    I liked the old system…

    Nuf said!!!

  11. Dan 01/08/2007 at 9:42 PM #

    ^ I’ll say this red. I liked the old system way better than the current one. I’d rather see a playoff of the conference champions, but at least the old systems weren’t trying to be something that they were not…. namely a “national championship”. The BCS is a farce. The only thing its champion can be called is the “BCS Champion”. Nothing else.

  12. BJD95 01/08/2007 at 9:54 PM #

    The impetus for a playoff will be when the bowl ratings tank and TV will pay out the ass for a 16-team playoff but no network will pay top dollar for BCS setup.

  13. E-RO 01/08/2007 at 10:47 PM #

    “The point of the BCS, I thought, was to make sure if you had two unbeatens they’d play each other to decide who’s the national champion.”

    Is Boise State more worthy of playing in the national championship than Florida? It’s 34-14 right now Florida on top. Florida lost a game if you didn’t know. The Declaration of Independence might have told you all men are created equal, well all schedules weren’t. The point is to get the two best teams together to play and decide the national champion.

  14. colapack 01/08/2007 at 10:49 PM #

    My favorite bowl name this season was “San Diego County Credit Union Poinsetta Bowl”. First time I actually laughed out loud at a bowl sponsor.

  15. E-RO 01/08/2007 at 10:50 PM #

    “The impetus for a playoff will be when the bowl ratings tank and TV will pay out the ass for a 16-team playoff but no network will pay top dollar for BCS setup.”

    I don’t think that will ever happen. People will complain all they want about the BCS, but they will still watch the games. ND aside, I want someone to tell me the BCS didn’t do a good job last year of producing good games. I liked that FSU/PSU game last year better than this years BSU/OU game.

  16. TomCat 01/09/2007 at 1:12 AM #

    Well…. so much for the BCS “annointed” Nation Champion again…. this year…. Ohio State gets absolutey destroyed by Florida.
    Once again, the BCS fails. Is 13-0 Boise the National Champion? Florida? Southern Cal? Louisville? It’s hilarious to witness the lengths and excuses gone to by the excuse makers- to avoid simply deciding it on the field- same as EVERY level of football on the planet. Mark my words: the collegiate community better get it’s act together or congressional oversight will get involved It is blatantly obvious the BCS has zero to do with academics and is simply a money cartel and is coming dangeriously close to endangering the not-for-profit entitlements of D1A universities. It’s time to end the farce before other forces play their hand.

  17. choppack1 01/09/2007 at 8:20 AM #

    TomCat – nope – Florida is the national champion – not Louisville, not Boise State, not USC. The BCS worked again – much to your chagrine. Florida clearly earned a shot at the title playing a tough schedule, w/ one bad quarter costing them an undefeated season. However, you should cheer up, because it won’t be too long until the college world series starts!

    Is attendance down at BCS schools or is attendance up? Is there evidence that fans of Ohio State, Florida, Texas, USC, Michigan, Alabama, Auburn, VaTech or Notre Dame are so dissatisfied they are going to stop going to the game and going to bowls?

    Finally, I asked this in the other playoff thread, yet no one would address it.

    If creating a college football playoff hurts the magic that is college football, and destroys it at NC State – would you still want it?

  18. kool k 01/09/2007 at 8:21 AM #

    Credit when credit is due: What Florida has done is impressive. Holding the belt in both football and men’s hoops is a dream I would have been embarassed to have my mother walk in on me having.

  19. ncsslim 01/09/2007 at 8:50 AM #

    I can’t see what the controversy would be this year. A one loss, battle tested Florida team blasted the undefeated overwhelming favorite. The main contender (Michigan) got destroyed in the Rose by two loss USC. One loss, less battle tested Louisville squeaked by a very undermanned (a running team without a good running back) Wake, and undefeated, non-battle tested Boise State beat a less-than-exciting, but physically dominant Okla (who B St allowed to look exciting) in the best game of the year. Even still, Oklahoma ain’t Florida, who in turn, should have put every question to rest with their performance last night. There might be bad years for the system, but I wouldn’t think this would be one, other than purging that damn Notre Dame for once and for all……

  20. LRM 01/09/2007 at 9:04 AM #

    Florida EARNED that title. You play that schedule, lose only to Auburn, beat LSU and then make Ohio State look like Ohio U. and you remove any and all doubt. I wonder if they like Chris Leak now? All he did was simply do the one thing he was recruited to do — win a title.

  21. TomCat 01/09/2007 at 9:24 AM #

    Chop, the only thing magic about the BCS system is the hocus pocus of mythical national championship. It’s not ‘method’- when you have to cross your fingers and hope there will be only two undefeated teams each year and ‘hope’ they qualify for the game. There is no defense in the world for the BCS which isn’t dirty and cavioted with the words ‘if’ and ‘can.’ This reaks of cartel and if we don’t change it- don’t be suprised when Congress changes it- the same way Congress created the NCAA over half-a century ago to create oversight. We have drifted dangerously far from our roots and the BCS dangerously exposes this. It’s simple: DO IT- THE SAME WAY- EVERYONE AT EVERY LEVEL OF FOOTBALL- IN THE ENTIRE WORLD DOES IT. A PLAYOFF SYSTEM. In term of hurting NC State, I’ll worry about that when we qualify for a BCS game- first. In TOB we trust.

  22. TomCat 01/09/2007 at 9:42 AM #

    Additional chop (per your question): Attendance is DOWN across the bowl system. TV audience is CONSIDERABLy DOWN across the bowl system AND the BCS bowls.
    The PR is horrible and with only one undefeated team left out their but with no shot at the national title– the drumbeat against the BCS’s failure is getting louder, especially now with ESPN leading the charge.
    I’m still not sure why you and others are scared of actually deciding it on the field? The academic excuses are ridiculous (‘academics’ -are they kidding? Is the importance of academics at all other levels of football????).
    It’s time for an 11-game schedule and 32 team playoff system (all conf. champs and a sample of wildcard teams based on rankings). As the playoff narrows down to the final 8-4 teams, also have a 2-3 period of bowl games (the NIT of football) in parallel for teams with winning records who didn’t qualify for the playoffs— to gain exposure and reward the fans.
    A NCAA college football championship playoff will be— THE blockbuster of sports.
    It’s time to make it happen, before someone (congress) steps in and MAKES it happen… or maybe…. that is what the NCAA is hoping will be the case (an entity lays down the law and cleans the slate). It’s just a matter of time.

  23. choppack1 01/09/2007 at 9:59 AM #

    “Chop, the only thing magic about the BCS system is the hocus pocus of mythical national championship.”
    Actually, it’s not the BCS system that is magical, it is college football that has the most special atmosphere surrounding it in American sports. This is what I believe those college football fans who support a playoff haven’t considered – what damage will it do to their game? Is it possible, that the reason it’s successful is because the current system allows more parties to be included in a post-season that doesn’t ultimately result in a loss for all of its participants?

    “It’s not ‘method’- when you have to cross your fingers and hope there will be only two undefeated teams each year and ‘hope’ they qualify for the game. There is no defense in the world for the BCS which isn’t dirty and cavioted with the words ‘if’ and ‘can.’ This reaks of cartel and if we don’t change it- don’t be suprised when Congress changes it- the same way Congress created the NCAA over half-a century ago to create oversight.”
    Well, the NCAA has more to worry about like aluminum bats and such, but yeah, you’re right, scumbag Congressman/woman don’t have much ethics and regardless, they’ll probably try to influence. At least the BCS allows some free market influence.

    “We have drifted dangerously far from our roots and the BCS dangerously exposes this. It’s simple: DO IT- THE SAME WAY- EVERYONE AT EVERY LEVEL OF FOOTBALL- IN THE ENTIRE WORLD DOES IT. A PLAYOFF SYSTEM. ”
    How can you drift dangerously away from your roots in major college footbal when COLLEGE FOOTBALL HAS NEVER HAD A PLAYOFF? Are you serious using this argument? Once again, I repeat, major college football never had a playoff. How can you say it’s “drifting from our roots”. I’ll say it again, when 100K stop showing up in the shoe, 100K stop showing up in the Big House, when 100K stop showing at Penn State, when more than 60K stop showing up Blacksburg, South Bend, Auburn, Gainesville, Alabama – then we’ll know college football has a problem. Until then, I believe this is a media driven hype. It’s typical we’ve got folks w/out offering any good solutions much less looking at the consequence of them.

    “In term of hurting NC State, I’ll worry about that when we qualify for a BCS game- first. In TOB we trust.”
    If you worry about that then you’re missing the point so I’ll drive it home. When you create a playoff – the bowl games will become the equivalent of the NIT. No one wants to go the NIT and if you’ve got a team that always goes to the NIT, your attendance will suck. I’m not talking about people not going to bowl games, I’m talking about Carter Finley w/ crowds of less than 40K.

    When you make fundamental changes to certain things, you have no idea the impact. College football has managed to grow in popularity and intensity – just look at NC State. Has college basketball grown in popularity? Has small college football grown in popularity? Has NBA basketball grown in popularity? I’m not saying that a college football playoff would kill a special game – I’m just saying that it could – and quite frankly, to me, that’s not worth it.

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