Imagine, if you will, that your child has just entered the most prestigious spelling bee in the nation. Not only did your child spell every word that he or she was challenged with, but they did it with ease and a sense of confidence that could not be matched by any other. In this so-called tournament of spellers, the final challenge comes down to three children, yours being one of course, and two others. We will name these two Jack and Jill. Jack has also spelled all his words correctly, however Jill misspelled otorhinolaryngological (yes, it is a word) wrong earlier in the day.
So the judges meet. They all come to the front of the audience and tell you that Jack and Jill will be competing in the championship. Blasphemy, you say? Well they go on to explain to you that they used a system, which is a computer, to pick the final two based off of multiple factors. This arbitrary system has decided that Jill’s words were all around tougher to spell than your child’s. So, even though your child spelled all of them correctly he or she has to sit and watch the two other children compete in the championship.
What kind of world would allow such a horrendous act to take place? Ours! This is exactly how the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) system in college football works. Money, control, greed – it all adds up to the same thing: why this system is still in place and why it should be replaced with a playoff system. To make this a little more simplified let’s quickly go over what the BCS system is, how it works, why it is still in place, and lastly how to excommunicate it from the sports world.
Its mastermind, former Southeastern Conference commissioner Roy Kramer, had a simple mission when he unveiled the system in 1998: pinpoint a formula that would pit the nation’s two top-ranked teams against each other in a winner-take-all contest. The BCS system is based on a collection of data from two human polls and six computers called “the computers”. (Wright, 2012) The data that is pulled from the two polls and combined with the formula that is used by the computers forms a ranking, this ranking then decides what bowl games the teams will play in the final portion of the season.
Ryan Wright, an analysis from bleacherreport. com, one of the most widely used websites for sports stats and information goes into depth about Peter Wolfe of USA Today along with a few other lads, who actually created the six formulas that go into “the computers”. Wright goes on to say, “The weekly computer results will vary as each computer is programmed to attain different results. For example, Peter Wolfe’s formula is not completely known to the general public but what is known is he weighs previous outcomes, game locations, common opponents, and the probability of winning versus losing”.
Even though this system obviously shows the ability to make errors, most advocates argue that the BCS system is in the best interest of the athletes, fans, and sponsors because the bowl games generate huge profits for schools and their local economies, keep the season shorter for student athletes, and almost always have the two best teams playing each other for the national title. These are all strong points as to why the system is still in place, so let’s take a quick second to look at some of these points a little more in depth.
The one that jumps out the most is how the bowl games generate huge profits for the schools. However, in the book titled “Death to the BCS”, written by three sportswriters, they explain how actually around 60% percent of the teams that participate in the bowl games at the end of the season actually spend more money to play in the games than they receive for participating. The also go on to explain how this occurs, “A big reason that accepting a bowl invitation can be financially burdensome is because the bowls often require schools to buy large allotments of full-price tickets that they’re unable to sell.
For the 2009 Fiesta Bowl in Arizona, for example, even a rabid football school like Ohio State was only able to sell little more than half its 17,500 tickets. The result: a $1 million loss. ”(Death to the BCS, 2011) After reading that and having it confirmed by factcheck. org, it is really hard to understand how this system can generate “huge” profits for the schools participating. Another vast argument for supporters of the BSC system as previously mentioned is that it almost always has the two best teams playing in the national title game, based off of the rankings that it pulls.
They may go as far as to present the fact that since the inception of the system that the top two teams have faced each other eight out of 11 seasons (73%), according to ProCon. org. Nonetheless, out of these 11 seasons the system has inaccurately decided who the “top two” teams are and this is where the belly of the beast lays. For example; the University of Utah has been excluded from being ranked in the top two teams not only in 2004 but 2008 as well, despite being undefeated. This same situation has happened to Boise State University in 2006.
The sad irony in all of this is that every time one of these teams has been excluded from the championship game they have been surpassed by teams who have one or more losses during the season. ProCon. org the same site that gave the 73% statistic above also went on to explain how in 2003 because of the inconsistency in the system the University of Southern California (USC) was ranked number one by both human polls, however “the computers” ranked them number three, thereby excluding them from the final game.
So, how does a system that makes so many errors stay in place? Well here comes the kick to the stomach. There are eleven total college football conferences that hold teams throughout the nation in them. Out of these eleven conferences, six of them are considered BCS conferences and the other five are called non-BCS. What this means is that the winner of each BCS division gets to automatically play in a bowl game where the teams from the non-BCS divisions have to be selected based off of rankings and votes.
So basically the supporters of the BCS system come from these major conferences and want to keep it in place because they wish to not lose their control of who plays in what games. In the past 14 years nine undefeated teams were excluded from the BCS National Championship game while teams with one or more losses were included. Eight of those nine teams were non-BCS schools. (Atkin, 2012) So like the title of this paper states, “where is the democracy”, in this system?
Recently democracy has started to show its beautiful face in the college football world though. President Barack Obama stated his support for a change on November 16th, 2008 on 60 Minutes, “If you’ve got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season and many of them have one loss or two losses, there’s no clear, decisive winner. We should be creating a playoff system… It would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season. I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. ”
The people have spoken (well at least President Obama) and college football has approved a 4 team playoff that will start in 2014. (Schmolick, 2012) There are still many talks about how this system will work and what it will lead to in the future, however the beast still lays there waiting to attack and make another gigantic football mistake. The BCS system is still in play when it comes to who plays in these playoff games and until we completely discard the BCS and got to a playoff only system and start anew this monster will still be corrupting the football world.