If you ask some people, taking a positive stance on the Bowl Championship Series is akin to rooting for the IRS in a tax audit. Or rooting for the house at the blackjack table.
But whatever your thoughts on the merits of the BCS are, relative to an end-of-season college football tournament, there are some basic facts that are undeniable:
The BCS is a better postseason arrangement than any that preceded it
With a state goal of producing a national championship game and providing for other marquee matchups across four top-tier bowl games, the BCS has been an unqualified success. Seven teams from conferences without annual automatic qualification have played in BCS bowl games in the past seven years, including TCU, which won the 2010-11 Rose Bowl. That’s seven teams in seven years, or one more than reached top-tier bowl games in the 56 years before the BCS was created.
Further, in the 62 years between 1936 and 1998, when the BCS was founded, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams played for the national championship in bowl games 11 times. In the 13 years of the BCS, the top two teams have met for the national title 13 times by BCS metrics and 10 times by the Associated Press rankings – including the last seven years in a row.
The BCS is popular
Among sporting events in the United State, the BCS National Championship Game regularly trails only the Super Bowl in terms of television ratings. According to a survey of the nation’s 120 Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches, 93 percent prefer the traditional bowl system over a playoff. And according to ESPN, 70 percent of student-athletes prefer the current system to a 16-team playoff.
While it’s more difficult to quantify, the BCS also has a profound impact on the college football regular season, which is generally regarded as the most exciting in sports. Week 1 of this year’s season, for example includes Oregon against LSU, Boise State against Georgia, and for BIG EAST fans, USF at Notre Dame. Those games alone will give the winners a terrific head start in the race for the national title. A loss makes things significantly more difficult.
The BIG EAST is one of the original founders of the BCS and continues to be one of six conferences that receives an automatic annual bid. Under the terms of the agreements with the bows and ESPN Inc., which covers the 2010-13 seasons, the BIG EAST champion is assured of a spot in a BCS game each year.
It’s worth noting that BIG EAST teams were selected to play in traditional BCS bowl games long before the BCS existed. BIG EAST teams have played in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl 10 times, the Allstate Sugar Bowl nine times, the Discover Orange Bowl five times and the Rose Bowl presented by Vizio four times.
Along those lines, the automatic-qualifying conferences are those that have proven themselves over time, not by looking at a particular year. The system does not, for example, take the top 10 ranked teams each year and slot them into the five BCS games. The bowl system has never worked that way, nor does any intercollegiate or professional league at any level. A sub-.500 team won the NFC West last year and played in the NFL postseason ahead of a team that won three more games in the regular season.
In the BCS, results from the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 regular seasons will be evaluated to determine whether a seventh conference earns automatic qualification for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 bowl games. The evaluation factors the average ranking of a conference’s highest-ranked team, the average computer ranking of all conference teams and the number of teams in the top 25 of the BCS standings each year, with adjustments to account for differences in the number of members of each conference.
The BCS, then, has been very good to the BIG EAST, and vice versa. West Virginia’s 2006 Sugar Bowl win against Georgia was considered to be a milestone for the new-look conference and the Mountaineers scored another signature win by thumping Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. Cincinnati finished one place – and maybe even one play – away from appearing in the 2010 National Championship Game. And Louisville and Connecticut have both represented the BIG EAST on the national stage since 2007.