Another look at the BCS and college football

November 08, 2008 | Brian Billick

We are approaching a fascinating weekend in college football as the BCS standings now take center stage.

As we drive towards the finale of the college season we are mired in what has traditionally become a bashing of the BCS system and an impassioned hue and cry for a college playoff system. Fans and media alike pine for the day we can finally, with no uncertainty, declare a national champion on the field of play thus solving all the ills of the world.

President Elect Obama, prior to the election said on Mike & Mike In the Morning, one of his first official acts as President would be to see if his eventual Attorney General could force the NCAA to have a football playoff system.

I thought I would weigh in with a couple of points to enter the fray.

First, let’s please do away with college Presidents insisting that the system would put undue pressure on the players academically. It has been amply pointed out that we ask far more of the college basketball players both during the regular season and especially during the NCAA tournament. The Presidents falling back on this tired refrain is embarrassing.

It is akin to coaches and players, in choosing to go to other teams for financial gain, hiding behind their wives and families with the tired and cowardly refrain of “I am just doing what is in the best interest of my family.”

Secondly, let’s do away with those who wax poetic about the need for the game, but really don’t have a workable solution themselves. It is a complex issue involving a number of different possible unintended consequences that might indeed hurt the game as a whole. Much like thinking ethanol is the end-all-be-all for solving our dependency on oil, then creating a food shortage crisis because of the nation’s overreaction. Those that do recognize that there are multiple issues involved then fall back to “Well, I don’t have the answer but I am sure somebody can figure it out”.

I have two observations to make.

First, what is so bad about having the entire off-season to debate whether a true champion was crowned at seasons’ end? By and large, with the BCS system we seem to have come up with a pretty fair consensus that the teams playing in the game are the ones most deserving, and that the final champion seems to be deserving of the crown.

The hysteria of “what ifs” that surface with three or four games still left to play is comical at best.

Secondly, whatever playoff system that is proposed, that being the top four or eight teams in the rankings play a two or three game championship bracket, is simply pushing the debate back to another, and equally, questionable process. Our current dilemma seems to be the unfairness the current system presents to teams three, four and maybe five.

Trying to discern the worthiness of a one loss team vs. an undefeated but supposedly lesser-qualified team does make an interesting problem. But by creating a team tourney you are simply pushing the same inherent unfairness to team nine, ten, eleven and beyond. Now you are trying to discern the difference in caliber of teams with one, two or maybe even three losses.

Watch this year (as we do every year) after the NCAA chooses the field of 64 for the NCAA basketball tournament, and the hue and cry of the half-a-dozen teams that think they have been screwed out of their rightful place in the tourney.

I believe there are some unintended consequences that would affect the college game as a whole should we go down this path of a championship playoff. The effect on the existing bowl system, who gets in and how that effects the pressures on an already unrealistic set of expectations on coaches today, to programs who may have to drop the sport for lack of being able to compete at the championship level. All have to be properly vetted before such a dramatic change is made.

In any case, with two wars, the mortgage crisis, unprecedented economic upheaval and rampant corruption in our government, I appreciate our President-Elect placing the need for a NCAA football championship at the top of his list.