sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

....Another brief hiatus as I went mountain biking on this awesome trail, watched a lot of football and finished up this project:

Texas’ 41-38 win over USC in the national championship game is being billed by many as the greatest college football game ever.

“The standard by which all future championship games are measured,” wrote one newspaper, while another said the game was “the result of a system that, like all others, is imperfect, but served up something wonderful for all college football fans.”

Evidently. The Rose Bowl also scored big in the television ratings, as over 36 million tuned to the highly-anticipated matchup, producing a 21.7 Nielson rating. That rating was the best ever for a national championship game and the best for the Rose Bowl since 1986.

So the Bowl Championship Series works. Right?


Now that the excitement over Texas-USC has died down, it’s worth noting that change still may be in the BCS’ long-term future.

There’s already short-term change. Next year, a fifth game will be added to the BCS schedule. On Jan. 8, 2007, Phoenix will be the site for the BCS Championship Game, one week after it hosts the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The championship game will then rotate among the Orange, Sugar and Rose Bowls, meaning one bowl will host two games every four years.

The extra game is not the so-called plus-one model in which the winners of the BCS bowls meet. The BCS championship will still feature the top two teams determined by the BCS ratings. But with the extra two slots in BCS bowls, four at-large bids for independents like Notre Dame and Navy will be available.

There’s also a new BCS coordinator. SEC commissioner Mike Slive has taken over for Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg, who held the job for two years, a period when the BCS thrived financially but was also under intense scrutiny.

Under Weiberg, the BCS landed a four-year, $80 million deal with Fox to broadcast the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls from 2007-2010. ABC still holds the rights to the Rose Bowl, and the championship game when it is played there, through 2014.

But the BCS also took quite a bit of heat during Weiberg’s tenure. Amid all the questions about whether the BCS poll was really matching the top two college teams, two major outlets, the Associated Press and ESPN, pulled out of the poll.

Weiberg also fielded question after question about the possibility of college football playoff, a possibility that he didn’t see “coming any time soon.”

Slive, however, has indicated that the extra game “creates a situation that could tolerate” the plus-one format.

“We have to think long and hard when we start to talk about expanding the postseason about what impact it will have on the regular season,” Slive told the Football Writers Association of America.

But Slive’s comments came with the warning that any changes would be with the blessing of university presidents, the lack of which will continue to be a major stumbling block.

So while a playoff isn’t on the horizon, the extra bowl slots created a need for the BCS commissioners to take a look at the qualification process for automatic bids, a process that will open the BCS up top emerging football programs.

The major wild card was Notre Dame, which has made one BCS bowl appearance in the system’s seven years’ existence.

Beginning in 2006, Notre Dame will earn an automatic BCS berth with a top eight ranking in the final standings.

There’s also a pretty good payoff: the Irish are now guaranteed BCS money even when they don’t play in a game. Formerly, Notre Dame would get $14 million when it played in a BCS game, but nothing when it didn’t.

Interestingly enough, the Irish won’t receive a full share when it qualifies for a BCS game, only the equivalent of a second team from a conference, which is $4.5 million. In years where the Irish did not qualify, they would receive $1 million from the BCS.

The inclusion of Notre Dame and Navy, which announced it would be eligible for the BCS in June, highlights the BCS’ sensitivity to the increasing strength of teams outside the ACC, the Big 12, the SEC, the Pac-Ten, the Big Ten, and the Big East. The Big East is especially vulnerable to a closer look at its value to the BCS following the defections of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to the ACC. But the addition of Cincinnati and Louisville hopefully will retain the conference’s strength.

But the opening of the selection process also means major conferences could lose out on a BCS bid.

Next year, one conference champion from the non-BCS conferences — the MWC, WAC, C-USA MAC and Sun Belt — will automatically qualify for the BCS by either finishing in the top 12 of the final BCS standings or finishing in the top 16 of the BCS standings and ranked higher than the champion of one BCS conference.

By those standards, MWC champion Texas Christian, ranked 14th in the BCS poll, would have gotten a BCS bid over ACC champion Florida State, which was ranked 22nd.

Another proposal for a new evaluation was put forth whereupon all Division I-A conferences could qualify for a BCS berth, based on the conference’s overall strength. In addition, there will be an appeals process by which conferences can make their case for a BCS berth. The new evaluation and appeals system could begin as early as 2008.

The appeals system is a two-step process. BCS officials would look at the average rank and overall strength of the conference, and if a school is clearly in the top six, then there will be a further evaluation of its with other major conferences. There will also be a provision that will allow a conference to be considered if it was not similar to five of the others, an opportunity for a conference to make a case.

For now, it is likely the BCS would retain the cap of no more than two members from a single conference participating.

There’s little doubt that, if anything, the ACC, which is now loaded with football powerhouses following the defection of Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami from the Big East, would benefit from the lifting of the two-team cap.


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