BCS may be ready to cave
Patience wearing thin at the top
In the 13 seasons that the Bowl Championship Series has existed in its current form, there have been far more critics than fans of it. “BCS’’ has become a buzz term for greed, conspiracy, and chaos. Its leaders have even been labeled a “cartel’’ by some.
Last week, at the first of a series of meetings that will determine what the BCS will look like in its next phase (which starts in two years), the movers and shakers discussed their options.
They talked about expanding from four to five BCS bowls (book it that Dallas will be the fifth BCS bowl, if there is still a BCS). They talked about changing the requirements for the automatic qualifying bids currently held by six conferences (Big East, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten, ACC, SEC).
They talked about changing the rules that have allowed schools from non-automatic conferences such as Boise State and TCU to get BCS bids in the past few years.
And they talked about one other thing: scaling down the entire system to simply one game - the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country playing each other at the end of the season.
Technically, BCS supporters will tell you, that has always been the main purpose, but the overpowering presence of television expanded the process to include the other BCS bowls.
But the powers that be in the BCS - namely Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive - are tired of being human pinatas.
They have had enough talk of conspiracy and cartels and how the non-automatic schools should be on equal footing.
As Delany suggested last December in a forum in New York, their patience with being pummeled by BCS critics was wearing thin.
“If you think you [the non-automatic qualifying leagues] can continue to pressure the system and we’ll just naturally provide more and more and more,’’ he said, “I don’t think that’s an assumption that our presidents, athletic directors, football coaches, and commissioners necessarily agree with.’’
If you connect those words with the discussions of last week, you get an idea of the direction Delany and Slive want to take. No more automatic qualifiers, no more talk of having equal access for everyone in all the bowls.
It is clear what may happen.
The BCS will have one championship game, going to the highest bidder in any city that wants to pony up. The Big Ten and Pac-12 will solidify their deal with the Rose Bowl, and the SEC its deal with the Sugar Bowl.
Everyone else is on their own. The SEC and Big Ten will be fine, because they have a bowl bid secured and enough good teams to send one or two other teams to the former BCS bowl games.
The bowls will go back to the business of bidding on teams, not in terms of won-lost records, but because of television appeal and fan support.
Good luck to Boise State, TCU, and Utah in coming out ahead of Michigan, Alabama, Florida, and Texas in an open market.
Good luck to the Big East in getting a bid to any BCS bowl game unless it can produce something close to a top 10 team, much less a top 25 team.
The critics can yell as much as they want about conspiracies, but the BCS message at the start of the season will be clear.
Everyone is eligible to play in the championship game. Just win your games and get the votes necessary to make the top two slots in the BCS rankings.
There will be no automatic-qualifying conferences, so everyone is equal.
The best bowls will get the best teams, and right now those teams will come from the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and ACC.
What people forget is that before the BCS, when the bowls had their own deals with the conferences, championship games between Auburn and Oregon, Alabama and Texas, Oklahoma and Florida, and Ohio State and LSU were not possible since those teams had to honor bowl commitments.
Delany and the other BCS commissioners talked about suffering from “BCS defense fatigue’’ as the critics have pounded them.
With a new deal being worked on, the solution seems clear: blow up the BCS as it now exists.
But if that happens - and it looks like it very well could - don’t count on a playoff system with equal access filling the void.
Without the support of the big boys, it’s not going to happen.
The BCS will indeed be dead, but college football will not necessarily be better off without it.
Mark Blaudschun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.