Friday, November 21, 2008

New BCS Deal Stifles College Football Playoff Hopes; BCS Can Still Be Improved

Consider this a follow-up to yesterday's blueprint for change. Stipulating to the realities that the BCS system is in place for at least another half-decade, here are a few positive changes we can make to the current system.

Despite Barack Obama throwing his weight around, don't expect a college football playoff before the end of the BCS contract in 2013, if then. (Yes, really: If then. Make no assumptions.)

There is, however, the opportunity to remedy two significant issues with the BCS system: Who gets included and who picks them.

(1) Implode the "Big Six + Notre Dame" cabal and include any school that cracks the Top 10, regardless of conference affiliation. That both Utah and Boise State could both run the table and both end up in the Top 8, let alone the Top 12 (BCS cut-off ranking), yet one be excluded from a BCS bowl seems the height of ridiculousness.

Allow any team in the Top 10 automatic inclusion in a BCS bowl, regardless of conference affiliation -- even if that means the Big 12 gets 4 spots. (You can already hear the ACC and Big East crying foul -- buy them off by guaranteeing them BCS-sized payouts, even if neither league places a team in the Top 10. As for Notre Dame, shut them out and dare them to gripe.)

(2) Implode the current ranking system: The coaches have a hopeless conflict-of-interest. No one can still say who, exactly, the Harris poll voters are -- and what their qualifications are. The computers are a mish-mash of formulas. There is absurdly little transparency across all of them. Meanwhile, the activist AP poll -- which pulled itself out of the BCS because it didn't want to "make news" -- continues to... make news, by naming its own champ.

The solution: Create one, big, open-to-anyone national poll, and put the selection of the Top 10/BCS teams in the hands of the fans -- and anyone else who wants to participate. (At the very minimum, put the selection of the Top 2 -- the two teams playing for the title -- in the hands of the fans.)

The Obama campaign and the realities of social media have finally illuminated the pathway to having a national Fan Poll to determine the Top 10. This is something that I have been publicly promoting since at least 1997 -- it is entirely feasible, and the sheer scale ensures that no single constituency can impact the overall outcome. Trust the fans -- they know better than the self-proclaimed experts. (As a microcosm, just look at the BlogPoll -- when fans take Top 25 ballotting seriously, you get a very efficient outcome.)

You can sense that much of the current fan frustration about the BCS comes from a lack of a playoff, yes, but also from this lack of transparency, this lack of openness, this lack of control. My two minor suggestions to the current system help to remedy those concerns.

Sorry, Mr. President. Sorry, critics. Sorry, fans. You will not see a college football playoff for at least half-a-decade. But however naive you find my suggestions, it can't possibly be more naive than bellowing about a playoff when the nearest playoff will come halfway through the next decade.

What you can demand is a new openness in your current and flawed BCS system. And that's as good of a place to start as any.

-- D.S.


jg said...

The fan poll is a terrible idea. The schools with the largest fan bases will win out time and again. You think the coaches and media have biases? The fans really have biases and absolutely no one to keep them accountable. The blogpoll does work but it works because the voters in it are experts in the field and watch games like it is there job (and for some it is). A national fan poll will be the death of mid majors and further secure the stranglehold of the big six conferences. Imagine the huge fan bases of schools like Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, etc. They can certainly turn the tide in their schools favor by getting all of their alumni to vote for their school.

derby said...

dan, i was with you until you said put the vote in the hands of the fans.

there could be no greater conflict of interest.

Travis said...

Leave it to the fans? Michigan would be in the title game this year.

Very very bad idea.