It is college bowl time again football fans and once again I am renewing my losing battle against the current BCS system that decides (rightly or wrongly) which college football team is the best in the nation.
My major complaint against the present BCS (which, year-by-year, requires constant tinkering, which merely confirms its fundamentally flaws and biases) is that it relies on a suspiciously convoluted computer ranking system that factors in strength-of-scheduling along with other factors. The BCS has done a great deal to perpetuate the stranglehold of the major college football powers while denying smaller colleges like Rutgers University (last year), Boise State, etc. from competing in the BCS championship even though those teams compiled undefeated records.
I would like to propose a new system (which would never see the light of day simply because it is much fairer than the present system) for determining which college football team is the best in the nation. The system I propose is inspired by the present British soccer league. In 1992 the major British soccer teams created the Premier League whereby the best 20 teams in the country would play one another for the soccer championship. The other teams would be divided into lesser divisions whereby they would vie with one another for promotion or relegation status. Any team in the Premier League that did poorly would be relegated to a lower level whereas the top teams in the lower divisions would move upward with the potential for playing for the championship.
My proposed system for NCAA football would do the same. My proposal would eliminate the traditional conferences like the Big Ten or Big Eight or PAC-10 and replace them with four super conferences composed of twelve teams a piece. The conferences could be composed either regionally or (more interestingly) a mix of teams from all four regions of the U.S. If the latter model was selected then one could see a super conference composed of Boston College vying with USC, Alabama, Notre Dame, and Michigan for a shot at the BCS title. The twelve teams in each conference would play a twelve game schedule where each team plays its conference rivals once. The conference team with the best record would earn a shot at the BCS championship. If there was a tie between two teams for a super-conference title then whoever won the head-to-head competition would get the nod for the title. Four super conferences mean four super conference champions. The four super conference champions would play one another on Christmas Day in order to decide which two teams would compete on New Year’s Day for the BCS championship. The losing teams on Christmas would also play on New Year’s Day to decide third and fourth place rankings and/or money.
And what about those teams which have losing records in the four super conferences? Those teams with losing records would be relegated to the next lower division whereby they would serve for a year in the hopes of improving their record and gain promotion back to BCS status meanwhile the top teams in the next lower division would be promoted to BCS status and have the honor of competing for the BCS title the following season.
The advantages to my proposed system are as follows: it would eliminate the built-in biases and vagaries perpetuated by the present BCS system that reward the major colleges while discriminating against the smaller colleges. Those teams competing in my proposed super conference system would be required to face top-notch competition every week whereas in the present college system, a powerhouse like the University of Miami could fatten its record by beating small colleges like Temple or East Carolina by ridiculous scores like 85-0. My system would eliminate such mismatches. Powerhouses like Michigan and USC would be forced to play for high stakes every single weekend. The challenge of winning the BCS title would be greater but would also eliminate the unfairness of the present system. The championship would be determined not by a computer or in corporate board rooms but on the football field where it belongs. My proposed system would also provide smaller colleges that prove themselves on the football field to vie for the BCS title. It would bring new excitement, new competition to college football. It would vastly improve the quality of TV coverage of college football. Every Saturday would be fraught with BCS title ramifications as the four super-conference teams played against one another.
My present system also eliminates a bulky unwieldy college football playoff system. Weeks ago I saw a proposal for an eight team college football playoff system. Mine simplifies the system. It also would go a long way towards restoring the status of the traditional college bowl games. I would eliminate the present BCS title game and have a round robin system whereby the Rose, Orange, Sugar, Cotton, and Fiesta Bowls would take turns hosting the BCS title game on New Year’s Day. The other lesser bowl games could be used by the lower division teams in my proposed system to decide which teams would earn promotion or relegation which would make those games more important to watch.
My proposed system would not interfere with student-athletes taking their exams in early December. Under my proposed system the regular season would be over by Thanksgiving. The BCS competitors could rest and lick their wounds, complete their exams before playing one another on Christmas and New Year’s for the title.
My proposed system is not inconceivable. Actually one university has been playing under my proposed system for decades. Every year Notre Dame University has a schedule where they challenge the best teams from all over the country with mixed results. My system would require all the major football powers to do the same. One interesting by-product of my proposed system would probably make the possibility of a team going totally undefeated much harder but if a super-conference team did go undefeated then it would show the true strength of that university.
The main point of my proposed system is that college football champions need to be decided on the grass, mud, dirt, snow, and freezing rain by student-athletes and not inside some computer bank or in some smoke-filled conference room filled with men-in-suits carrying brief cases.
On any given Saturday….