Altvater: John Feinstein says the BCS is criminally negligentWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
I watched an interview with nationally known sports writer, author and commentator John Feinstein on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive. When asked which system had more problems the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) or the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), he calmly reviewed the short comings of the OWGR but went nearly ballistic when pointing out the problems of the BCS, even going so far as to suggest that the BCS was a criminal enterprise and its leaders should be prosecuted.
I think Mr. Feinstein’s frustration with the BCS is shared by college football fans everywhere.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) governs 23 different college sports at Division I, II and III schools. It conducts championships and crowns a definitive champion in every one of these sports except collegiate football.
The NCAA “March Madness” basketball tournament for Division 1 is one of the most anticipated and watched sporting events in the world. How can it not conduct a similar type tournament to establish a clear cut champion in college football?
The old established bowls, Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta, generate a ton of money. They have a deeply vested interest in maintaining their position as cash cows for their communities and their sponsors. These bowls need to have teams from the six major conferences available to play in their bowls.
The BCS was created to offset fan and media criticism when a clear cut college football champion could not be established from the existing bowl structure in the 1990’s. It selects match-ups for the top five bowl games. The 10 teams selected include the conference champion from each of the six automatic qualifying conferences, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, and then chooses four at-large teams to complete the schedule.
The fifth bowl, the BCS National Championship game, pits the top two ranked teams in a winner-take-all game for the ultimate No. 1 ranking, thus guaranteeing the four established bowls plenty of top ranked college teams from which to draw to fill their restaurants, hotels and stadiums, as well as reap big TV dollars.
The problem with all this is that it is a closed club. All that is missing is a tattoo and secret handshake.
Every year there are a few deserving schools that should get into the mix for the 10 spots, but larger more established schools always get the spots.
Schools like Ohio State, Alabama, LSU and Michigan bring large crowds and TV ratings. They will always get the nod over a BYU, TCU or Boise State.
The existing BCS structure prevents a team like Boise State to enter the club. It doesn’t belong to a power conference and it is difficult to play enough quality teams to build a sound resume to gain admittance.
Another example of the inequity is evident this year. Oklahoma State had a fantastic 2011 season with only one loss. It won the Big 12 Championship and soundly defeated historically strong Oklahoma. In one of the closest ballots ever, however, it was denied a spot in the BCS Championship game by Alabama. Undefeated LSU is the outright and undeniable No. 1 for 2011. LSU defeated then No. 2 Alabama 9-6 on Nov. 5 in Bama’s home stadium.
Alabama didn’t win their conference division and did not play in their conference championship, but they still get voted into the BCS Championship game over an Oklahoma State team that won their conference championship outright.
In a few years the money available from television will eventually bring an end to the NCAA and the BCS as we know it today.
The Super Conferences that are being built today will develop a National Championship Series probably much like the NFL today.
The Big Ten has led the way with the establishment of their own television network and programming. Other conferences have followed and are reaping the gold. New additions to a league are all about how the new school will affect the league’s television network penetration and households available in the proposed college’s area.
These conference networks will get stronger, and don’t forget, they own the product. They will develop their own tournament to decide the National Champion.
The old established bowls better not stop to smell the “Roses”. They better get on board the train that is about to leave the station.