Is the BCS a bunch of B.S.?



“With every major conference and all of the major Bowls on board for the first time in history, college football was assured of finally being able to match the top two teams in the nation every year. The outstanding question then became how do we determine the top two teams?” (Billingsley).

The answer came from two SEC officials, including commissioner Roy Kramer, who devised a system where teams would be ranked based on averaging together a series of national polls. At the end, the top two-ranked teams would play for the national championship in a rotation between the Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose bowls. The BCS was born.

But the system still needed some tweaking. The five polls used for the ‘98 season included the Associated Press and ESPN Coaches polls, which rank the top 25 teams weekly from the start of the season, along with polls by the USA Today, The New York Times and the Seattle Times. Three more polls were added for the ‘99 season.

Following each of the first three seasons of the BCS, the system was reevaluated and went through more changes. The biggest off-season change this year was eliminating the margin of victory, which in the past had encouraged teams to run up the scores in their games in order to pick up valuable BCS points. But critics said that was detrimental to college football because it encouraged lop-sided outcomes.

The current BCS formula is a combination of four parts:

1) the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, as well as the average of eight computer polls with the highest and lowest rankings thrown out;

2) A team’s strength of schedule based on the won-loss records of all its opponents;

3) The number of losses by a team; and

4) The number of a team’s “quality wins” -- defined as wins over top 15 opponents in the final BCS Standings. A team is rewarded more for defeating a higher-ranked opponent, but in the BCS System -- and this is usually where things get complicated for anyone not familiar with the system -- it’s addition by subtraction.

The BCS System is based on having the lowest score -- the two teams which meet for the national championship are the teams with the lowest scores in the final BCS Standings. Scores are determined by first adding together a team’s average ranking from the AP and ESPN polls, the strength of a team’s schedule and its number of losses, if any. The “quality wins” are then subtracted from that total, providing the BCS ranking. So, a team will have more points subtracted from its total by defeating a high-ranked opponent.

OK, now that we're all BCS gurus, it's time to look at the future of the BCS...