Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Time to Break Up the BCS

It's time for major college football to do an enema and clean things up. Every year 120 or so universities take the field in Division 1 or whatever it's called nowadays with hopes of attaining the brass ring or the crystal football from the head of GM or Sears or whatever company can afford to sponsor the event. (The way things are going, Hank Paulson will be handing off the US Government BCS championship, but I digress.) Yes, 120 teams in an egalitarian system that any team who wins ALL their games has a chance to make the dance.

What? This isn't the case? Oh, you mean, if you aren't in one of the Big Six conferences, you have no shot of being national champion? But Boise State and Utah most surely have the opportunity after getting through their respective schedules unscathed. Wait, they played weak schedules in weak conferences so their perfect records aren't so perfect? How would we ever know if these teams have what it takes to play with the big boys? In fact, we don't. Hawaii, last year, proved that the smaller conference champions with perfect records have no chance against a major conference champion. But, Boise State, the previous year, proved that conference champions CAN win against a major conference champion when they beat the Sooners in the Orange Bowl.

So wait, which is it? They can or they can't? The answer is, who knows? There's really no way to determine whether a strong team from a historically weak conference can play with a good team from a good conference, except in a bowl game. However, these weak conference champions will never get the shot for the BIG game and a National Championship despite having a team that is truly good enough win it all. The best shot they have is one of the lower tier BCS games.

What can be done? Here's a couple of RADICAL proposals that have no shot of ever happening, but it would give EVERY team a chance to win a championship and ultimately might make things more interesting than it is now. The first is to scramble up all of the conferences, big and small, and realign to create 8 mega conferences with 2 divisions each or 16 mega conferences. If you REALLY want to give every team a chance at winning the national championship, take teams from the Pac 10, WAC, Mountain conference and create a couple of conferences made up of all these teams jumbled together. In this case, Utah and BYU could play against Cal or Oregon or USC in a meaningful conference game to prove their worth. Boise State can play against ASU or UCLA. In Midwest, teams like Penn State and Michigan could play against teams like Cincinnati and Bowling Green in league play. This would give a team like Bowling Green a chance to win their conference with some big time programs and have a shot in a playoff of conference champions from across the country. A conference might have 16 teams, but the winner of the 2 divisions could square off in a conference championship to determine the conference representative. This way, everyone has a chance.

Another alternative is to acknowledge that the mid-majors for the most part, are not the same level as the major 6 conferences today, and create a new division. The mid-majors will be in their own NCAA division and each have a shot at being the best, like the 1-AA champion. In this format, every team really does have a chance to call themselves champions if they make it through their schedule and beat the other teams. This would also free up the Big 6 from throwing the smaller conferences a bone and would lead the way to a playoff system, with the best teams from each major conference.

In other words, settle things on the field and not in the press box. The two alternatives above at least get college football closer to that than the huge mess that we have now. If these alternatives are reasonable, what's holding it back? The money of course. The powers that be have little incentive to change ANYTHING. The big conferences have teams with 70,000 to 110,000 seat stadiums and are doing quite well thank you. The mid-majors can dream of making the big time, and if they are good enough to make it to the BCS, can get a LARGE payday. Really, this is myopic thinking. With a shakeup and a chance to make it so the underdog truly has a chance to win it all, this can be as exciting, if not more exciting than March Madness and all of the lame bowls (can you name 10 bowls played before New Year's Day? Is the Bluebonnet Bowl still in the mix?) that we currently have to hear about?

These changes would give college fans what they hope for every season, clarity on who REALLY is the BEST TEAM in the nation, and leave the soap opera for Desperate Housewives.