College Football

The BCS, Major College Football's First Attempt At Naming a Coherent National Champion, Dies at 16

Jimbo Fisher

The Bowl Championship Series, major college football’s first attempt to name a true national champion, has died at 16. The cause of death was a potent mixture of logic, power politics and sweet television cash.

The BCS grew from its predecessors the “Bowl Coalition” and the “Bowl Alliance,” when the Big Ten and Pac 10 agreed to sully the Rose Bowl. The freestanding bowl system had matched the final AP No. 1 and No. 2 overall teams just eight times from 1943 to 1992. The BCS, using a formula composed of multiple human polls and a smattering of dubious math, did so in 13 of its 16 years. The system worked flawlessly, in seasons where there were two clear best teams and there was no decision for it to make.

BCS criticism reached a crescendo in the late 2000s. Auburn and USC teams were controversially unselected for the title game in 2004 and 2005. The departure of the AP Poll (2004) and the elimination of the margin of victory component (2002) sapped much of the formula’s already specious validity. The seminal work “Death to the BCS” highlighted the inequity and the rampant corruption inherent in the system.

Supporters cited an entertaining final slate of games in 2013 as testament to the BCS’ enduring value. Skeptics noted that entertainment quality of the games was in no way a cogent outgrowth of the selection process.

The BCS is survived by a more bloated version of itself, which adds an additional game and more than doubles the generated television revenue.

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