Are We Really Better Off With the BCS?
Maybe it’s because the Badgers aren’t playing on New Year’s Day for the first time in a few years. Or maybe it’s the residual football ennui from a disappointing season just completed by the Packers. But I sit here surfing through the channels trying to find some reason to tune into one of today’s bowl games.
As I write this, I’m watching Michigan State play Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. It should be an interesting matchup. Underachieving Georgia, ranked #1 in the pre-season polls, is looking for some redemption against an above average Michigan State team from the Big(11)Ten. Even though the game is currently tied, I just can’t seem to get interested in this or any other of today’s games.
It used to be that New Year’s Day was the biggest day in the college football season. Even if your favorite team wasn’t playing that day, you could watch the bowl games knowing that there was at least a possibility that 3 or 4 of them could have an impact on the so-called ‘national championship’. Personally, as a UW and Big Ten fan, I used to look forward to the Rose Bowl’s matchup between the winners of that conference and the Pac 10; realizing that there was a better than even money chance that the Big Ten’s representative would end up getting hammered. To prove that some things never change, that will probably happen today, too. Even so, there was always something magical about that contest. And if that didn’t suffice, there were usually compelling matchups in the Sugar, Orange and Cotton Bowls.
Now, most of those games don’t even occur anymore on New Year’s Day with the BCS spreading them out over the week leading up to the national title game. Fox Radio’s Steve Czabin complains that the BCS has rendered all but one of the bowl games as “exhibition games” in an effort to determine a definitive national champion. It’s Czabin’s contention that the BCS doesn’t go far enough, essentially limiting the contenders to the two highest ranked teams. I agree that the bowl games now amount to exhibitions, but I believe it’s because the BCS has gone too far.
Advocates of a playoff system point to the NCAA basketball tournament as the correct model to crown a champion. But even that system doesn’t always guarantee that the best team wins. Does anyone really believe that Villanova was a better team than Georgtown in ’85? Or that N.C. State was better than Houston in ’83? Those teams caught fire at just the right times. And even with 65 teams participating, there are still complaints about deserving teams being left out. The exciting thing about the NCAAs is that they’re compressed into a month. Most people concede that wouldn’t be practical in football. Along with the major conference championships, there are already too many bowl games to maintain interest.
Call me a curmudgeon if you will, but I miss the old days before the BCS. Where is it written that college sports must have a be-all and end-all champion? And are we really better off for it? I miss looking forward to New Year’s Day and watching college football all day long. Now it’s basically been reduced to the equivalent of just another fall Saturday.