Saturday, October 25, 2008

How the BCS is Hurting College Football

In a recent post, I argued that college football's current system (that demands non-BCS schools go undefeated to earn a bid) is detrimental on several levels. But I now have an argument the NCAA and athletic departments may actually listen to:

BYU's football team lost for the first time last week.Link Today, the day of their first home game since the loss, I got two calls from neighbors offering me free tickets. BYU still has a great shot at a good bowl game, a chance to win the conference, and opportunities to set some impressive individual and team records--but people are giving tickets away. In other words, when a team sets its sights on a BCS game and loses a single game, money starts trickling away. The game may have officially been a sell-out (?), but fewer people in the stands means less revenue (from concession sales, etc.) and means money from sponsors could tail off.

Murray Sperber, in his book Beer and Circus, rightly contends that when a team has been successful, a single loss will reduce the fan base to levels below what it was before championships started happening. The "loser" etiquette is far harder to shake than the "champion" label ever was to earn.

A system (e.g. a playoff) that allows teams to lose but still maintain a shot at a BCS bowl game will mean fans (and their money) will remain with a team after a loss. Multiply this out by all the one-loss teams and it represents a substantial chunk of change. The current college bowl system resembles America of the last eight years: the gap between the haves and the have nots has widened substantially (1). It is now clear that the American financial system needs to be overhauled and requires rigorous oversight. The NCAA needs a comparable overhaul to narrow the gap between the "big" conferences and the middle-class contenders.

(1) see David Cay Johnston's books for proof of this and a discussion of how it has happened.


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you, Corry, in stating that the BCS is flawed; but, my reasons go beyond revenue issues. The absolute necessity to go undefeated is intrinsically unfair not to BYU and the MWC or Conference USA BUT to the power conferences like the PAC-10, the Big XII and, especially, the SEC, where top tier teams battle EVERY week. TCU was BYU's first challenge of the year... and they got hammered, to a tune of 32-7. Florida--arguably the best program in the country--has to play Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky (all bowl-caliber teams) on a yearly basis. And, oh yeah, they beat Kentucky 63-5 this weekend and then-number-4 LSU 51-21 the week before. To escape such a brutal schedule unscathed is a near impossibility. The fact is Florida, who would win a playoff system, may be booted from the final game for losing to a good Ole Miss team by ONE POINT! Considering how exploited their defense was with speed against TCU, BYU would not stand a chance against ANY SEC school this season. (By the way, the SEC is 4-0 in championship games since the inception of the BSC.) Florida, however, plays in this conference every week. And, now, we are looking at the possibility of Utah going to the championship game???

What does this add up to? The real crime is the result of the BCS. Take the past four years for example for this year. You will have a very good (and charmed) team: Texas, Alabama or USC, lined up against the "champion" of some WEAK conference (thank the football gods its not Ohio State again!); and, the final score will be something in the neighborhood of 55-10. Over the past four years, there has been one legitimate BCS Championship: Texas-USC in the Vince Young game of 2004.

To make my final point, I just want to submit this idea: what if the BCS allowed two 1-loss teams to battle it out for the championship (even if Utah, Boise State and Ball State go undefeated)? What if they realized that these are the two teams that would make it to such a game in a playoff system? What if on January 8, 2009 in Miami the Florida Gators lined up against the USC Trojans in the battle of college football's best??? When a championship is the product of bureaucratic number-crunching and we do not allow the players to settle it on the field, such a match-up remains a dream.

Corry Cropper said...

You're right. The BCS was supposed to give us a "true" national championship game... but has rarely delivered.