By Matt Braunstein
It seems the Bowl games vs Playoff system debate in NCAA men’s Division One Football will continue on with no change in sight. On Wednesday, April 30, the Bowl Championship Series, the organization that controls college football’s national champion selection process, rejected a proposal by Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive to implement a four-team playoff starting in 2010.
Men’s Division One college football remains the only major sport in America that does not finish its regular season with a playoff system designed to determine a champion. Instead, the BCS provides a system of polls combined with various computer formulas to determine the top two teams in the country, who then face off in a major bowl game to decide the champion.
It has been this way since 1998, when the BCS was established in order to help determine the national champion while at the same time preserving a bowl system that has existed for nearly 100 years. Six national conferences, including the Big Ten, Pac-10, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East, Big 12 and SEC committed their champions to play under this system.
However, in recent years there has been a movement spurred by fans, journalists, teams and conference officials to replace the current system with a playoff to decide the national champion. Still, the only way such a drastic change can be implemented is if all the conferences included in the BCS bowl game system agree to playoffs, and they all have rejected the proposal.
BCS supporters rest their arguments on the college football tradition that the bowl games represent, along with the decreased importance of a regular season record that comes with a widely inclusive playoff system. However, every year there is a great deal of controversy surrouding the BCS selection proccess, becasue it is meant to determine the best teams of the regular season based on their record, margin of victory and level of competition.
In this situation the top two teams in the nation are constantly changing over the course of the season, as some teams falter or gain steam toward the end of the season. Under the BCS, a team that dominated early but ended the season with a loss may be selected over a two loss team that became perhaps the best team in the nation late in the regular season. Also, teams that are highly talented but never face the same level of nationally recognized competition as major conference teams do are often ignored.
Despite the majority of fans calling for a playoff, and its success at the D 1-AA and Division II and III level, the BCS and conference presidents still state their intention to stick to the current selection process. There are currently 32 bowl games at the end of the Division I college football system, which are almost all televised and garner millions of dollars for the athletic programs and conferences involved.
There is still debate as to whether a playoff would increase or decrease the earnings of these games. The next time a proposal for a college footbal playoff can be brought before the BCS is in 2013. Those hoping for a change will have to deal with the currrent system for at least another 5 years.