BCS Plus One Proposal Fails, but Why?

Unsurprisingly, there will be no plus one system added to the BCS for the 2010 season. It always was a non-issue since the Rose Bowl contract with ABC goes through 2014. Any big changes like a plus one system will have to come when all of the TV rights expire in the same year.

Beyond that though, the Big Ten and Pac 10 were never going to allow it to happen. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney loves being the playoff villain. He has stated on the record that a playoff could be good for college football as a whole, but adds, “I don’t work for college football at large.” His goal is to advance the Big Ten brand, and he sees tradition, the Rose Bowl, and a TV network as the way to do that.

Pac 10 Commissioner Tom Hansen has also said that the Pac 10 would rather secede from the BCS than have a plus one system. The ACC, Big 12, Big East, and SEC were willing to discuss the matter at the BCS meetings this week, but the Big Ten and Pac 10 had no plans for giving it a fair chance. Only the SEC and ACC were fully committed to the plan.

I keep hearing the same arguments over and over about why there shouldn’t be a plus one system. I will now address them one by one.

A Plus One system will inevitably grow

Not necessarily. Major League Baseball, having had playoffs since 1903, kept a four team playoff up until 1994. The only reason it expanded was because of expansion of the league. It stands at 8 teams currently, and there are no plans for the foreseeable future to change that.

Compare that with the hallowed bowl system, which has now expanded to 34 in total. That means 68 teams, or about 57%, of the 120 Division I-A teams will be going bowling. In the two years that wins over I-AA teams have counted towards being bowl eligible, 73 and 71 teams have made the 6-6 threshold. That’s cutting it awfully close.

Also, thanks to 6-6 teams losing bowls, we now have bowl teams finishing under .500 for the year. Is that really what people want? And what if there aren’t 68 bowl eligible teams in a season?

The arrangement only encourages more I-A teams playing I-AA teams, which weakens the regular season. I thought that’s what we were preserving…

A playoff dilutes the regular season

No, extra-long regular seasons dilute a regular season. Let’s go back to baseball. When only 4 teams made the playoffs every year, did anyone care about May baseball games? Of course not. There were a million other ones leading up to October. I also hear about how March Madness killed the college basketball regular season. It didn’t; everyone playing 30+ games before March killed the college basketball regular season.

Before there was a national title game in college football and teams just played to get to bowls, college football had a great regular season. Once a national title game was established, it made it even better because the competition suddenly expanded beyond conference borders.

Somehow, these BCS proponents think that everyone competing for 4 spots instead of 2 will instantly kill the regular season. That it will make Florida and FSU fans suddenly get along because who needs a rivalry now that four teams have a shot at winning it all at the end of the year instead of two? That Sooners and Longhorns will do the same, or that a September match up of USC and Ohio State will be not be as exciting.

You know how much a difference there is between two teams and four playing for the national title at the end of the year? It’s 1.67% of all I-A teams, or 3% of all BCS conference teams. No, giving four teams a chance to win it all doesn’t devalue the regular season because the scarcity of regular season games will still be there, and an very small percentage of teams will actually be playing for the title.

A playoff devalues the Rose Bowl

Here’s a hint: when the Rose Bowl joined the BCS, it gave up all claims to tradition. The only thing that makes it special over the other BCS bowls anymore is that it’s older than them. That’s it and that’s all.

The final ship to sail in this argument shoved off when Texas beat USC in the 2005 Rose Bowl to win the national championship. It should have become clear right then and there that the Rose Bowl is a great site to hold a game, but it’s the meeting of two great teams that make the game great.

This year’s Rose Bowl just further illustrates the point. We had a Big Ten/Pac 10 meeting, and it was a horrible game. Ohio State’s performance against LSU indicated that had OSU met USC instead of Illinois playing the Trojans, it wouldn’t have been much different. Great games are made by great teams, not stadiums. What happens on the field is what matters, not what occurs on Colorado Boulevard.

Ratings and revenues are up; the BCS must be what fans want

People like college football. That is what people want. They will pay to watch it in person regardless of the postseason format. They will watch it on TV regardless of the postseason format.

Let me tell you a story. The iPod mini was once the best-selling iPod of all time. It was even the best-selling portable audio device in the world in its day. In September 2005, Apple made a bold move and replaced it with the iPod nano. It was a risk because of the enormous popularity and revenue stream the mini had. The nano ended up being even more popular, selling a million units in just 17 days.

In short, this argument is a non sequitur. Correlation does not equal causation, and the BCS format isn’t driving the rise in ratings and revenues. The popularity of football as a whole is.

A playoff would make football a two semester sport

With spring practice, football already is a two semester sport.

Ignoring that for a moment, I don’t see how a plus one makes the postseason any longer. The 1-4 and 2-3 games would happen on New Years, and the title game would happen a week later. That’s the same timing that we have with the current BCS bowl arrangement, so this one is nothing but hot air.

It kills the tradition of the bowls

Too late. By segmenting off the BCS games, we already have tiers in the postseason. Besides, once we got bowls in Shreveport, Detroit, and especially Toronto, they no longer were about giving teams a reward for a good season by getting to play a game in nice locale.

Besides, not one playoff proposal I’ve seen, Mike Slive’s included, has proposed killing off all of the bowl games in favor of keeping only a playoff. No one is suggesting that, and having a plus one system will not diminish the prestige of the Papajohns.com bowl. It never had any in the first place.

*   *   *

I welcome any comments/discussions on the topic. If there are any other objections about a having a plus one system in college football, I’d love to hear them. It just infuriates me to no end to know that the people in charge of the system are getting rich off of fan dollars while not delivering what the fans want.

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2 Responses to BCS Plus One Proposal Fails, but Why?

  1. Spencer says:

    Good article man,

    As a Utah alumni, I am a natural proponent of the case for the small fries. This system makes me mad as hell and the obvious fair system is being silenced. I have to take my hat off to you folk in the SEC for having the guts to push for a change, despite its unpopularity with the other big conference commissioners. After watching these developments this week, I am wondering what it is going to take to get these guys to buy into a playoff system.. Who knows… Anyway here’s my proposal. See what you think.

    An Eight team Playoff Bracket:
    – 6 auto bids given to the 6 highest ranked conference winners (not necessarily the 6 BCS conference winners each year)
    – 2 At Large bids given to the highest ranked (using the BCS formula) teams remaining after auto bids have been given out.
    – Seeding would be carried out 1-8 based on BCS rankings
    – Most other BCS qualifying rules would apply (2 team max per conference, must have 9 wins, etc).

    This simple formula would satisfy both the small fries and the big dogs. First the small fries who feel not just left out, but blocked out. This system does away with the auto births for certain conferences every year and forces them to earn it each year. I say if the MWC or WAC can provide a champ that finishes the season ranked higher than the BigEas(y)t, then let us have their spot. Hell, if two of us small fries can beat out two big conferences, then it’s only fair that we should get the rewards (i.e., Utah and Boise State, 2005). I don’t agree with the small fries crying for a 16 team playoff where every conference champ gets an auto bid. Come on guys, you’re asking them to level a playing field artificially. We don’t need socialism here. Let’s not reward mediocrity. Force every conference to fight for those spots, but give the small fries something to fight for. What we really want is not equal representation, but equal access. Who knows, maybe some of us will surprise you.

    Second, the big dogs. You guys would clearly benefit from this system given the depth of some conferences like the SEC. You can’t tell me that a team ranked 8th in the country has no shot against a No.1. I think that 4 teams just isn’t enough to be certain we haven’t ruled out a legitimate contender (i.e., Georgia, 2008). I also think that 16 is too many and gives validity to those who argue that its an amateur sport and we’re asking to much of student athletes. 8 also forces teams to win their conference to get in, which means the regular season would still be extremely important and competitive, contrary to what some would say. It would leave a bit of wiggle room with 2 at large bids for a couple of impressive non-conference winners to slip in each year, but still keep the selection process highly selective.

    I actually went back over the last ten years and, using this formula, I figured out what teams would have made it in vs what teams actually got in (I got too much time to kill, seriously). It would have been a lot better. Only one year did a single team outside the top ten get in and none of this 21st ranked Pitt garbage would ever get in. Remember, the top six conference winners, so at worst it would be the same teams that currently get in. At best, you get a team ranked even higher.

  2. […] one” was considered.  Despite being considered, the system was turned down and has left many upset about the evil while others are […]

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