How the BCS keeps small bowls alive

Oklahoma Sooners fans celebrate as the Sooners scored a touchdown against the Connecticut Huskies during the second half of the Fiesta Bowl college football game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, January 1, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Lott (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

I’m reading Death to the BCS, an excellent book about the truth behind the Bowl Championship Series written by Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan. It’s an eye-opening read about how the bowls are fleecing colleges under the guise of non-profit (or charity) status. I really can’t recommend the book enough.

Here’s an excerpt about how the BCS keeps small bowls alive:

Know this about the bowl system: It is not subject to a free market, and this is where the future of the smaller bowls comes into play. If left alone, the minor bowls would collapse, and they would collapse spectacularly.

The BCS operates much like a government, offering a form of welfare to ensure the survival of small bowls. Industry insiders estimate just fourteen of the thirty-five current bowl games are self-sufficient. The rest profit from a system that takes money from universities and guides it into the pockets of bowl operators.

It’s more shell game than bowl game. Take Minnesota, which agreed to buy 10,500 full-price tickets to the 2008 Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona, according to records the school filed with the NCAA. When Minnesota sold only 1,512, it incurred a $434, 340 loss on tickets alone. It spent an additional $1.2 million on travel costs and other expenses. In the end, it cost Minnesota $1.7 million to collect the bowl’s $1.2 million payout. In a vacuum, Minnesota’s bowl experience would have been at least a half-million-dollar financial drain.

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If we had a playoff, this is what it might look like

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers leads his team onto the field to face the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

I’ve long been a proponent of a college football playoff. I gave a persuasive speech on why we needed one when I was a freshman in college. I got an A. No big deal.

But just to show what exactly we’re missing out on without one, I went ahead and set up a bracket of what this year’s playoff would look like. I went off the “Death to the BCS” formula, which includes the 11 major college football conference champions, and five at-large bids.

The seeds were set up using the BCS standings — I did make a change with Oklahoma and LSU to avoid an all-SEC first-round matchup — and I just went ahead and predicted the conference championship games that are still being played.

Here’s what we would have to look forward to over the next month:

1. Auburn (12-0 SEC)
16. FIU (6-5 Sun Belt)

8. Michigan State (11-1 At-large)
9. LSU (10-2 At-large)

4. Stanford (11-1 At-large)
13. UConn (7-4 Big East)

5. Wisconsin (11-1 Big Ten)
12. Va Tech (10-2 ACC)

3. TCU (12-0 Mountain West)
14. Central Florida (10-3 Conference USA)

6. Ohio State (11-1 At-large)
11. Boise State (11-1 WAC — don’t know the tie-breakers in the WAC)

7. Arkansas (10-2 At-large)
10. Oklahoma (10-2 Big 12)

2. Oregon (11-0 Pac-10)
15. Miami (OH) (9-4 MAC)

The top seeds would play at home through the semifinals, and the title game would be hosted by whichever stadium had the game that year (the book argues the Rose Bowl should host every year. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I do like the idea of rotating the site).

Is this system perfect? Probably not. Does it have the 16 best teams in college football? No. But does it have all the teams that could possibly make a claim to be the best in the nation? Yes.

It also keeps the regular-season relevant. Forget for a moment that if you’re a TCU fan, you’re all of the sudden interested in the MAC Championship game, and just look at the at-large bids.

Last week’s game between Arkansas and LSU had pretty big implications for both teams last week, because the winner was likely to get an at-large BCS bid and play in the Sugar Bowl (barring a South Carolina upset in the SEC title game). While that’s a big thing to play for, think of what would have been on the line for them if a playoff was their destination: Arkansas would have been playing for a spot in the field. LSU, meanwhile is playing to perhaps host two playoff games as opposed to having to travel to East Lansing in the first round.

As for the teams not in the playoff, they’d go to the other bowl games and play for nothing but pride, kind of like they do now. Sure, the non-title BCS games would be less attractive, but that’s a small price to pay.
Is there anything negative about this? How do people not see that it’s a much better option?

Has the BCS worked? Let’s take a look

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 04:  Vince Young #10 of the Texas Longhorns runs past Frostee Rucker #90 of the USC Trojans to score a touchdown and put the Longhorns up by one in the final moments of the BCS National Championship Rose Bowl Game at the Rose Bowl on January 4, 2006 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, I took a look back at all of the BCS championship games and whether or not they really pit the top two teams in the country against each other. But more importantly, whether or not it was a slam dunk that these were the top two teams, and you couldn’t make an argument that someone else possibly deserved a shot.

Now, granted, my memory is fuzzy on the really early ones, as I was still in high school for the first two years of the BCS, but I have a pretty good recollection of the rest of these games/years.

It’s a long post, but click through to see if the BCS has really gotten it right, or if we’ve been missing out all these years. Read the rest of this entry »

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