Death to the BCS, by Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan

We have all seen, at some point in time, that cartoon that opens with an anthropomorphic animal making a snowball at the top of a large hill. You remember how it goes. Slowly that snow ball begins to roll down the hill, and before it was all over with an avalanche topples another anthropomorphic animal at the bottom of the hill.

Let us start with the avalanche: NCAA Football Play-offs. Starting in 2014, NCAA Division 1-A Collegiate Football will be launching a new post season format. Those behind making big decisions in the NCAA have decided that Division 1-A Football may be a more attractive product with a four team play-off system instead of the current BSC bowl system. This seems like a rational move as virtually every other sport at almost any level successively executes a play-off, bracket tournament style post season. However, there has been much contention in reaching such a decision. You can read about some of the details of this new system here, here, and here.

At the end of the 2011 regular season, Alabama, Louisiana State, Oklahoma State, and Stanford were all vying for the chance to play in the 2012 Bowl Championship Series Title Game. According to the current BCS system, the two teams that get to play in the title game are chosen by method of a coaches’ poll (If you were a coach, would you have time to watch other teams play?), a second poll of former players and various boosters (Would you vote for your rival?), and an arbitrary computer system (Arbitrary in the sense that the variables in this formula are hidden to the public). In the end, Alabama and LSU were chosen to play for the championship, both from the Southeastern Conference, and Oklahoma State and Stanford were on the outside looking in.

Wait… the top two teams were elected to play for a championship? Well… yeah. In fact, since 1998, every Division 1-A College Football champion has emerged through the BCS’s method, and until a few months ago I would not have thought anything about it. Enter the catalyst. Enter the snowball: “Death to the BCS”. By the way, I am not attempting to paint Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, or Jeff Passan as anything anthropomorphic other than human.

I picked up Wetzel and Company’s masterpiece in late April after hearing about it on a talk radio show broadcasted on the internet radio station Rebel Sports Radio (I am an Ole Miss alum after all) and found it impossible to put it down.

“Steph, can you believe that Florida only made $47,000 profit after winning the 2009 BCS title while pulling in an average of $5,000,000 in revenue per home game?”

“John…” my wife replied staring at her books. Not only did she have a young baby to take care of and a typical case of senioritis, she had a husband more than willing to distract her in the midst of her final exams.

“Let me just tell you this one last thing,” was my response before spitting off another list of tidbits. “Steph, most bowl games are listed as non-profit organizations, so they pay absolutely no taxes.” “Hey, Steph! Many bowl teams actually lose money to participate!” “Steph, did you know that the BCS computer system does not take margin of victory into account? And the formulas that did take margin of victory into account were done away with several years ago?”

I drove her crazy with my new education. But Wetzel and Co were teaching me so much: the corruption of the bowl system, the current caste classes in place among football conferences, the growing resistance towards the BCS…

In January 2012, Oklahoma State defeated Stanford in overtime 41-38 in the Fiesta Bowl while Alabama walloped an uninspired LSU 21-0. The BCS declared Alabama to be the national champions, and it is impossible to argue otherwise. But how much more exciting would it have been if the Fiesta Bowl’s outcome meant something? Imagine if Oklahoma State had the shot they feel they deserved to try to top the Alabama Crimson Tide (Probability says that Alabama would still have won. If you watched college football, then you remember how dominant the Tide was last year. Oklahoma State versus Alabama would not have been a David and Goliath tale; it would have been a Titanic meets iceberg story. That is very much beside the point.) The tangible excitement that surrounds the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament and all of the media buzz and office pools and bracketology would have paled to the emotions surrounding that game.

Like I mentioned earlier, the BCS era is ending in 2014, and replacing the BCS bowls will be a four team play-off. I believe that “Death to the BCS” is responsible for this change in regime by addressing all of the reasons people had for keeping the BCS the way it was and then eroded their foundation. Wetzel and Co showed that, like almost any other sport, Division-1 A football can succeed under a play-off.

Pages: 195 FoA Page Total: 1,282 (Total number of pages reported upon by the Friends of Atticus)

P.S. I really cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoyed reading this book. My wife is not the only one who had to put up with my sermonettes about the injustices of the current football post season. I would like to take a moment to apologize to my father, my brother in laws, cousins, friends, and others to whom I felt compelled to share my new beliefs.

P P.S. Since the talks of play-offs and conference expansions have been on going, many people have theorized what they believe a good college post season should look like. I wanted to share a few that I thought were interesting.

1) The system that will be installed in 2014 will play the top four teams, though I am not sure how they are ranked, into a tournament style bracket. Many feel that four is not enough to truly make a tournament, but due to television contracts, the four team system will be around for about a decade or so. More than likely, the system being instituted will broaden out to eight teams.

2) In “Death to the BCS”, Wetzel and Co lay out a plan for 16 teams to be chosen by taking conference champions from the 11 Division 1-A conferences and five at large bids. The beauty of Wetzel’s plan is that each conference gets a shot, and the championship game would conclude at the historic Rose Bowl, the oldest and longest running bowl game.

3) Conference expansion has become a very hot topic recently. It seems that the largest conferences have entered into a power struggle with a Manifest Destiny idea of adding more and more teams. It is not too unrealistic to believe that in a few years there could be four major conferences that each have 16 teams. Again on Rebel Sports Radio (Shout out to Jake’s Take with Jake Adams and Ken Edwards.), I heard a play-off idea that would divide each of these conferences into four team divisions. Within each conference, the four division leaders would enter a tournament, and then the four conference champions would play out a bracketed tournament. Again, this is basically a 16 team play-off.


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