Wanna Fix the BCS? Add a “Plus 1”

I tuned in to ESPN’s Outside the Lines yesterday morning to see “College Football: Blueprint for Change” special.  I must say I was not disappointed.

It was compelling all the way around.  Two of the most influential college football coaches in the game (Nick Saban and Bob Stoops) engaged in good debates with ESPN’s college football analysts over how college football should be fixed.  I also liked the fact that they had an athletic director (Joan Cronan from Tennessee) in on the discussion.

One thing I’d like to touch on one of the subjects of debate:  the method of how college football determines its national champion.

There are plenty of folks out there who think college football is better served with a playoff.  I, of course, am not one of those people.  College football has one of the most exciting regular seasons in all of sports because EVERY GAME MATTERS.  Check college basketball’s March Madness to see how devalued its regular season is.

While I do like the current system, I’d offer one suggestion on how we can make the BCS a little more ironclad.

Add a “Plus 1”.

The “Plus 1” would not be implemented every year, only when the situation calls for it.  The most common of those situations is having more than three undefeated teams.

Think back in January 2010 when Cincinnati, TCU, and Boise State were undefeated but didn’t play in the national championship game.  A “Plus 1” would have eliminated that.  TCU and Boise would have played Texas and Alabama in a pair of football games, with the winners playing for all the marbles.  And no, UC would not have participated because its conference (the Big “Least”) and team were weak (it got its ass kicked by Florida in the Sugar Bowl).

We also could have used it last season because you had three undefeated teams in Auburn, Oregon, and TCU.  TCU would have had the chance to play one of those teams instead of Wisconsin.

One last thing for the pro-playoff honks: no playoff system would work because of the following.

  1. No matter how many teams would be in the tournament field, someone deserving will be left out.  Simply put, there would be more bitching and moaning from schools in that scenario than they are now about the BCS.
  2. Since NCAA rules do not allow for football games being played during exam week, the games would go on during the NFL playoffs.  That would not be a smart financial move by the NCAA.
  3. The alumni of the schools in the tournament cannot afford to travel multiple times during said playoffs.

Look, I get that no system is perfect.  The BCS is what it is, but if you get rid of the BCS, do you really want to go back to using polls to determine a national champion?

I think not…

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18 replies

  1. Excellent. Right on point. I would also add for those out there who want to use “home games” for early round playoff matches, that won’t work either. Places like State College, PA or Tuscaloosa AL can’t handle 30,000 people coming into town on a week’s notice.

    My only disagreement is your proposal that we would not have to have the plus one game every year. Oh, yes, we would. It’s all about TV contracts. Try telling ABC or ESPN that you decided to call off the plus one game because there’s two undefeated teams. That won’t fly.

    I think the plus one system will be implemented. There isn’t much opposition and it gives Jerry Jones the opportunity to add his Cotton Bowl at Cowboy stadium into the BCS mix without stepping on anybody’s toes.

    Of course, a playoff is the ideal answer. But, like you, I have not yet seen a proposal that would work.


    • Well, I think a Plus 1 could be used if there were one undefeated and several 1-loss teams or just a bunch of (meaning the top 4) 1-loss teams. Either way it could (and would) work…

  2. Sure, it would work. They would probably do it the same way they do it now. Instead of the #1 and #2 BCS facing each other, #1 would play #4 and #2 would play #3. Then the winners would play.

  3. My Crazy College Football Plan:
    Schools set their own schedule (as they do now) for the first 6 games of the season. That should make sure that all the rivalries are covered and gives the world sufficient games to know who is great, good, bad, ugly, etc. Then the NCAA announces a hoops-like bracket schedule based on rankings. Everyone plays out 6 more games but winners play winners week after week; losers play losers. The idea being that with 120 or so teams the best teams start playing each other toward the end. Setting up the best match ups for bowl week. My plan’s big flaw is location. You’d have to promise teams which weeks they’d be home/away. And you’d have to kinda make regional games because football travel isn’t cheap or easy. But, I think this is better than the playoff system since the season stays the same length. It’s better than the current conference system because it could put like teams head to head in the closing weeks AND two hot teams in the title game. What do you think?

  4. Let me see if I got this straight. Play for six weeks – then rank the top 64 teams and play a tournament for the last six weeks.

    What? That’s insane. You’re going to do away with conference schedules. The Big Ten plays eight conference games and are about to increase to nine. There’s no way that they’re going to agree to cut their schedule in half and not rake in that money. What are you going to do about all the end of season rivalries? Ohio State – Michigan? Auburn – Alabama? USC – UCLA etc? Play them in week six????? O Brother.

    Interesting idea, but impossible to implement.

    • “That’s insane.” Well, I did call it “My Crazy… Plan.” But if I may, let me address your points:

      1. “cut the schedule in half” No – you keep playing even if you loose. You’re out of title contention if you loose in the last 6 weeks (just like most teams are now after only week 2). There is some money in the conference championship games but I think interest in a national playoff would easily offset that. Forget about playing mostly teams in your traditional conference. That’s going away with the super conferences as it is. In fact, my way is better because six games covers the specific match ups you want and a tough schedule doesn’t keep you out of the title race. Example: Florida could play Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Florida State. Go 3 and 3 in 6 epic games and still have a shot at the national championship. This without having to put everybody through another Kentucky game.

      2. “…rivalries…in week six?” The Texas/Oklahoma rivalry does just fine in the middle of the season. Also, imagine if one of those great rivalries you mentioned happen twice in one year!

      3. I’m not talking about “the top 64 teams.” With the last 6 weeks PLUS bowl games you can have ALL 120 teams in the playoff. No bubble teams even if you expand D-1 by 8 programs!!! 🙂

  5. I think you’re writing with your tongue firmly implanted in your cheek. But, I’ll play along.

    Well, several problems still present themselves. You’ve got Florida playing all their tough games in a bunch and there are no early season easy matchups that fill the stadium, make the alumni happy and act like preseason games do in the NFL. Check the schedules of most major programs. They start off with a couple of home games against creampuffs. Coaches want these games as they are still assessing talent.

    Also, the “creampuffs” are counting on these games to create much needed revenue. Why does Eastern Michigan travel to Columbus like sheep going to slaughter? The paycheck! The money they get from playing in that game is vital for funding their athletic budget.

    The TV schedule is set months in advance. You can’t have a six week schedule and eight weeks of games “to be determined”. The networks are counting on certain matchups that people want to see. They don’t like “surprises”. What if everything is set up for a week 10 Oklahoma vs. Alabama matchup and BYU pulls an upset and ruins it.

    Yes, in theory, your idea is great. But, in this world of contracts, athletic budgets, conference affiliations and TV obligations, it’s impossible.

    • “early season easy matchups that fill the stadium” – This makes no sense. Big Games fill the stadium!

      In my plan if a school wants a creampuff they can schedule a creampuff. But big schools schedule creampuffs because they can’t afford to loose more than one game if they want a title. My plan shifts that paradigm.

      Yes, creampuffs line up to get whooped for the money. But who cares? I’m trying to fix College Football not help Eastern Michigan pay for the gymnastics team’s leotards. At least in my plan the little guys have a chance unlike in the current system.

      The TV Schedule is not an issue. The time slots will not change and instead of hoping the predetermined match up pans out in 6 weeks you are guaranteed get two teams fighting it out March Madness style.

      To use your words, this world of contracts, athletic budgets, conference affiliations and TV obligations, would bend over backwards for a piece of the action.

  6. You say that schools can still schedule an out of conference creampuff? Not if they have a six game schedule. If they schedule two creampuffs, that leaves a four game conference schedule. That’s not going to happen. Conferences share revenue so it’s in their best interests to play each other as much as possible and keep that income. You would also kill these new cable stations like Big Ten Network which have become a cash cow for the conferences.

    I’m glad you acknowledge that the thousands of alumni at medium sized to small schools who can no longer even afford to purchase leotards will be 100% against this plan. You’re trying to fix College Football. I’m telling you that the fans are the only ones who want it fixed. The schools, Bowls and TV stations only care about the bottom line.

    Yes. TV schedule is an issue. Ad time has to be sold in advance. The price depends heavily on the market size of the two schools involved. So, if you were expecting Florida vs. UCLA and through a couple of upsets you got Utah vs. New Mexico State, believe me, it would be a huge issue. They would definitely not “bend over backwards for a piece of that action”.

    Currently, most top schools play three or four tough games. Five or Six for the SEC. Under your plan, these college kids would be facing tough competition every week. That’s going to wear them down more and cause more injuries.

    I’m not against your idea. It makes sense on paper. It’s just that the big schools want to maintain their dominance and unfair advantage. They’re not looking to level the playing field. TV also wants the big schools with the big following to play in the big games.

    The game is rigged; everyone’s making money and is happy.

    Interesting discussion. Fantasy vs. Reality.

    • I could continue to debate but I’d start repeating myself. JAG is right about schools trying to maintain there dominance. The crazy man with the crazy plan is done here.

  7. NOOOOOOOO!!!!! Keep the party going?

    Look, while there is no perfect way of fixing college football, why not eliminate the preseason polls? After all, not only are they all subjective, but they also affect the outcome of who plays in the national championship…

  8. You’re right. Preseason polls are prejudicial. They favor the big schools who happen to have a lot of returning starters. It’s totally meaningless from a competitive standpoint.

    However, they won’t be eliminated. The big schools want favoritism. USA Today, Sports Illustrated, ESPN and the other sports publications use the preseason polls to sell papers, increased ratings and get people hyped about the season.

    TV networks need the polls to market the games. (Super Saturday! Be sure to watch #1 Oklahoma right here on ABC!)

    You both make good objective arguments. However, you don’t include the economics. And it’s the economics which decide everything in major sports today.

  9. This is not a recent phenomenon. It’s been about the money for a long time. For over 50 years, the Rose Bowl was a closed shop. The Big Ten Champ vs. The Pac Ten Champ. Why? The Bowl was guaranteed a game between a “home” team on the West Coast and a big market team from the Midwest. Even when the Big Ten hit a bad spell and went 1-12 from ’75-’87, the Rose Bowl wouldn’t think of kicking the Big Ten out as many suggested. They had great ratings and thousands of midwesterners leaving the snow to come out and spend money like crazy in sunny Pasadena. The only other conference they might have considered was the SEC, but they already had their lucrative Sugar Bowl tie in.

    Any suggestion you guys have will fail unless it makes more money for the big schools and Bowls than they already rake in.

  10. 1. No matter how many teams would be in the tournament field, someone deserving will be left out. Simply put, there would be more bitching and moaning from schools in that scenario than they are now about the BCS.’

    So what, who cares. A team bitching about having 3 losses and being left out is much more palatable than an undefeated team bitching and being left out (which would have still happened with Cincy under this dumb proposal).

    2. Since NCAA rules do not allow for football games being played during exam week, the games would go on during the NFL playoffs. That would not be a smart financial move by the NCAA.

    Change the rules. Start the season earlier. These are lame excuses. Football players miss way less class that basketball players miss in the NCAA tournament. Everyone has exams at different times now anyway, so I don’t believe this excues.

    3. The alumni of the schools in the tournament cannot afford to travel multiple times during said playoffs.

    Who cares? Get rid of the bowls completely except for the national title game. All games have homefield advantage to the higher ranked team until the title game. Eliminates the travel complaint (game will sell out, worse team won’t have to send anyone), Will finally be able to see if the SEC is good and can also win in 0 degree weather or if they are just a bunch of track stars that do well in their basically homefield bowl games.

    Finally homefield advantage makes sure you won’t have teams resting starters, as losing at the end of the season would cost you at least one home game.

  11. Daniel,

    As soon as you said, “get rid of the bowls completely except for the national title game”, your argument went on life support. The Bowls are an invaluable moneymaker for the big conferences. Even the minor bowls serve as a great way for ESPN to fill in holiday programming. A minor bowl in mid December still gets twice the rating of a hoop game between top 10 basketball teams.

    You want to have home playoff games. Your response to the fact that fans of the away team might not make the trip is, “who cares”?

    Let me tell you “who cares”. Hotel owners, restaurant owners, bar owners, city councils who count on tourism dollars to balance the books. You want to get rid of the Rose Bowl! The Sugar Bowl! Have a playoff game in Boise, Idaho;Tuscaloosa, Alabama or ice cold Camp Randall, Wisconsin instead? Good luck with that, buddy.

    Even the Poinsettia Bowl, sponsored by the San Diego County Credit Union, had an attendance of over 48,000 and was quite profitable for everyone involved.

    I’m not arguing that your idea is not fairer. It is. I’m just saying that you are not going to topple these multimillion dollar institutions to implement a fairer system.

    “Money talks, B.S. runs the marathon” – Nino Brown

  12. A playoff would make more money than the bowls. The bowls make money for the bowl committee’s not the conferences. Uconn ate 380,000 because they couldn’t sell all their fiesta bowl tickets. The TV contract for a playoff would demand at least $250 million the first year, and would only make more money after. A home playoff game would be worth $5-$8 million easily, and that’s if they didn’t raise prices from regular season rates. Read Death to the BCS. The bowls make money is wrong. Think about this way. You have these committees that make money that would otherwise be going to the schools.

  13. You’re right about UConn losing money on ticket sales. But the $17.5 million Fiesta Bowl check awarded to each team more than made up for that. Yes, there are some isolated examples of Bowl games not selling out or falling short of expectations. But the vast majority do very well. That’s why they keep adding them.

    This year, I think there are 36 Bowl games, which is insanity. There are not 72 teams worth watching in a Bowl game.

    We’re on the same side. I’m just telling you that if the system changes at all, it will change in small steps, not big leaps.

    Be happy to get a “plus one”. Then, push for something else. Scrapping all the Bowls and having a playoff is a pipe dream, my friend.


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