In 1998, the college football system was altered to finally figure out who should be the one and only national champion at the end of the season. The BCS (Bowl Championship Series), was created to fix the NCAA’s problem of having multiple teams staking a claim to the national championship whenever one would finish at the top of multiple polls.
The fix was to take variable factors, feed them into a computer and at the end of the season have whichever two teams that were ranked #1 and #2 in that system to play in a championship game. A game that was held separate from the long time tradition of certain conferences playing in specific bowls. For a long time, you knew exactly where a team would be playing despite having a chance at the title. It didn’t matter. If you won the Big 10 you played in the Rose Bowl. The ACC? Orange Bowl. This new system in 1998 ended that myth. It became clear that whomever was #1 & #2 based on everything from strength of conference, non-conference schedule to record and polls, those two teams would be playing no matter the arguments. The winner was the clear champion.
That system was ok, but not perfect. It was a chance to silence the critics. But one thing always rang clear. The public wanted a playoff. In the 50’s through even the 90’s there were powerhouse conferences. The system of the BCS was almost perfect for those eras. But now? Teams like Boise State, TCU and before joining a power conference, Utah, upset the status quo. Teams that were running the table were left out of the big game because the bigger conferences didn’t think they were worthy to play in non-conference games and thus not ranked high enough in the computer.
That was one such factor. The other arose this season when 2 teams from the same division in the same conference ended the season playing for the national championship. Alabama who lost to LSU earlier in the season was still #2 in the system based on the factors and thus got a rematch. A rematch in which Alabama won. But one would argue that if you can’t win your division let alone your conference how can you be in the title game? In the end the right team won but did they deserve to even be in the game to begin with?
Finally power conference leaders such as Larry Scott, Jim Delany and John Swofford as well as Notre Dame’s Jack Swarbrick got together and once again appeased the public. Starting in 2014 there will be a committee that is responsible for picking a 4 team playoff to determine the national championship. There is little doubt that the power conferences will still get preferential treatment but hopefully with enough public pressure, teams like Boise State will get a crack at seeing if they deserve to be there.
For now we all wait and see. But for once the NCAA got it right.