Dear Bowl Championship Series,
It’s that time of year again where we give pause and give thanks for blessings both large and small, and since clearly no one else is going to say so, BCS, I am both thankful and hopeful for you.
You’re not infallible, and there will be plenty of opportunities for the deserved criticisms of the system by which college football determines its national champion in the coming days and weeks. For now though we have drama and tons of interest as the stretch run to BCS inclusion is in full swing and as “up in the air” as ever.
As we, the public at large complained about the previous systems and hoped against hope that change would come one day and that common sense would prevail, you took matters into your own hands BCS. As we cried foul over a system too jumbled to determine a real champ yet too profitable to ever go away; you BCS, simply embraced the system as constructed, flaws, greed, ugliness and all and played it to your advantage.
Some of the results are apparent already, others as I stated are hopeful. The BCS has restored football credibility to the place where it rightly belongs…the SEC. Throughout the history of college football, prior to the BCS, there was an underlying understanding that the SEC was always playing the best quality of football in the nation, yet the concession that because of the gamut that is the SEC schedule, all too often the conference would cannibalize itself and those most deserving of title shots were often precluded from the argument. The BCS has clearly fixed that.
And now, as the BCS proposes changes that will again shake up college football’s landscape, it feels, to me at least, like we’re closer than ever to a true national championship playoff.
Amongst the most recent changes proposed to the BCS are plans to sever ties between the title game and the bowls that were originally rotated to determine the champ and to move the game from site to site each year in a fashion not unlike the Super Bowl. (As reported by Gene Wojciechowski at ESPN).
If these changes go through, the automatic qualifying bids given to the six “power” conferences would be a thing of the past too. That certainly puts an interesting spin on the unapologetic, football revenue driven cash grab that has been the past 2 years of conference realignment and AQ alignment.
The truth is, as each day we are made even more aware of just how ugly and corrupt the underbelly of college football has become, the end around that the BCS has seemingly run on the establishment, is not only gangster by nature, but also oddly refreshing and amusing as it couldn’t be happening to a nicer group.
As I said, instead of begrudging the money and power that the bowls have wielded in preventing a true national champion, the BCS saw it for what it was and embraced it. Instead of hoping for common sense to eventually prevail, the BCS infiltrated the cash grab and used the very nature of the greedy bowl machine against itself.
Step 1: Divide and Conquer
There are too many bowls. Everyone knows it. Instead of fighting that simple truth, the BCS instead identified the 4 major players in the bowl picture, Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar and turned them against the rest. By convincing those 4 to hoard and rotate the national title game on a year-by-year basis the BCS turned the “haves” on the “have-nots” and positioned themselves firmly in the haves’ camp.
Step 2: Dangle the Carrot
Once everyone got two chances to host the title game and saw the realized revenue as a result, the machine became invincible, yet still not infallible. What the BCS did next though was pure genius.
In 2006, 8 years into the BCS era, the BCS National Title game was created. Two inevitable truths made this too great an offer to refuse.
Inevitable truth #1 (and something to keep in mind for later): No matter how many teams get invited to the party, we, the public, will always argue over the ones who are left out. In basketball the NCAA invites 68 teams to the tourney and we still argue over the exclusions. Eventually whether we get to a plus-one format or a tournament including 4, 8 or even 16 teams, we’ll still argue over who isn’t in. In 2006 it meant that 8 BCS bids would become 10 and more teams would be invited to the cash grab.
Inevitable truth #2: As cash is driving this machine, the potential for more cash will always be enticing to those in charge. Already enjoying the fruits of their “top shelf” bowls in 3 of every 4 years and a title game in the 4th, presented with a chance to have their bowl every year and a title game every 4th year, greedy Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta couldn’t help themselves. They had to get on board…it’s their nature.
Step 3: Establish Your Power
While everyone was lining up to feed at the growing BCS trough they seemed to overlook that in establishing a separate title game, and giving it to the BCS, they gave away their real stake in the national title. Having milked the machine for all it’s worth, and creating a game for themselves where one previously didn’t exist, the BCS can now quite simply take their bowl and go home…or to the home of the highest bidder as seems to be their plan.
Step 4: ?
From here, it seems the BCS has run a hostile takeover of the national championship and an end around past the seemingly well-entrenched bowl establishment. There’s no reason to believe now, that if the proposed changes are allowed to go through thereby increasing their power, that the BCS won’t continue to slowly wield that power, influence and forethought to continue to grow their product. That after all is their pattern so far, and their tactics suggest a calculated coldness that won’t likely soften soon.
If it gets us closer to a playoff in college football, and I have to believe it will, I’m all for it. And while I have lots of empathy for lots of people and entities, I won’t be wasting any on the old bowl establishment…the soon to be outdated bowl establishment, and the unapologetic glutton that is major college football in general.