The Last Straw

Submitted by Brian on January 11th, 2012 at 12:16 PM


people who like the BCS: no people

Would be this: A dull blowout that invalidates the regular season and proclaims a second-place finisher in their own division a national champion when other one-loss teams are shut out because of… stuff. And things. Afterwards, a system designed to protect the sanctity of the regular season above all causes the winners of that blowout to print up shirts declaring "we won the one that counted."

This makes people upset. A foaming Dan Wetzel is still being chased by a helicopter containing men with tranquilizer guns:

Miles even made the case postgame that LSU should be in consideration for the AP title based on its season-long body of work, including the previous triumph over Alabama.

“That’s for the voters to figure,” Miles said.

When the coach of a team that was shut out in the championship game is arguing that he should win the championship anyway, the system is an unqualified disaster.

The sport’s power brokers will meet here Tuesday to discuss the future, and many have predicted significant changes. If there is one positive from this tractor pull, it’s that it should help continue the groundswell toward a playoff, even if it’s just four teams to start.

See also a suicidally depressed Michael Weinreb and a puzzled Brian Phillips.

BCS ratings are collapsing along with attendance in an era when football is thriving. Average bowl attendance hit a 30-year low, and that's based on increasingly fictional announced numbers. Clemson and West Virginia played the least-watched BCS game ever. Moving to ESPN has caused ratings to shrink 21% from two years ago. The BCS has finally pissed off too many people to be permitted to live. So says just about everybody.

Except Jim Delany, obviously.

“There’s a real concern about a slippery slope and what a playoff means to college football,” Delany said.

If he said it again, I'll say it again: you should have thought about that in 1998. It doesn't matter. Now that college football postseason's horrendous structure is hitting the big guys in the wallet, change is coming.


The NYT says "change to the current structure of college football's post season [is] imminent" based on interviews with everyone, with a four-team playoff the most likely outcome. Matt Hayes quotes the usual high-ranking official saying simply "It gets done."

The logistics are uncertain since there are apparently "50 to 60" ways you can structure a four team playoff, and by God these bowl games fleecing us yearly are valued partners. The way to do it is to cut them out of the picture and maximize the piles of revenue by assuring sellouts: home games. On New Year's day, if you like, with Pasadena waiting a week or so later, on an actual Saturday maybe.

That won't happen because the Fiesta Bowl will throw a hissy fit, but whatever half-ass change to the BCS college football's power brokers come up with to prevent the torches and pitchforks from reaching their door will actually, finally be a meaningful expansion of opportunity for the two to three schools that get screwed every year there isn't a USC-Texas matchup, which is 90% of years. It will be maybe three quarters of an ass.

As long as they start detaching themselves from their parasites, this is a major step towards sanity. If the boring regional wank-fest that was the national championship game had been preceded by LSU and Alabama wins over Oklahoma State and Oregon or Stanford, oh well. They earned it. Instead they were handed it. That's a bridge too far for a sport already under siege for being fraudulent.



January 11th, 2012 at 1:17 PM ^

Ignoring conferences etc. there was a consensus #1 team in the country – LSU – before the game on Monday.  The eventual #2 lost one game, to the then-consensus #1, on the strength (weakness?) of missed FGs.  Yeah, they <i>lost</i>... And Alabama won the rematch.  Obviously, there are other teams with claims to make that they got screwed – mainly OK State (that never got a shot).  Stanford and Boise State also have cases to make.  In terms of what actually happened, though, the only team that played LSU close all season came back and dominated.  I don't have any complaints about handing 'Bama the title (other than the fact that it's Alabama and Saban); if LSU had won there would be even less room for argument.  In fact the only disaster case – Alabama winning a close one – didn't happen.

All that said, the BCS process is a sham and makes no sense, what between imbalanced schedules, potentially corrupt voting procedures, broken computer algorithms, and so forth.  To say nothing of the Ponzi scheme the bowls are these days.  I'm not trying to defend the BCS as such, I just think that this year's <i>result</i> is actually kind of defensible.


January 11th, 2012 at 1:40 PM ^

.....if one forgets about how OkSt. lost their game, or the fact that transitive property doesn't necessarily work well in cfb(Stanford).

In OkSt.'s case, while their loss was to an eventual 6-7 team, the loss happened immediately following a tragedy that happened and affected their entire sports family. If the plane crash doesn't happen, that loss likely doesn't happen.

In Stanford's case, they lost to Oregon, who lost to LSU. However, that game was close until both James and Barner went out with injuries and a true freshman, playing in his first game, fumbled twice giving LSU short fields and both 3rd quarter TD's. Without the injuries to James and Barner, keeping both out of the game for significant periods, that game is a toss-up. And, as we at UM know full well, just because we beat someone, and another opponent gets manhandled by them, doesn't mean we can automatically pencil in a victory(UM/ND/MSU).


January 11th, 2012 at 2:23 PM ^

Thats the problem, everyone focuses on the losses only and pretty much ignores all else. 

Okla St.'s loss was by far the worst (i'm completely ignoring any extenuating circumstances, as tragic as they were) but their wins were also by far the best.  Everyone loves to cite that Alabama only lost to the #1 team because of missed FGs while Okla St lost to a 6-6 team as proof they are deserving.  Yet if you looked at who each team beat, it would clearly favor Okla State.   


January 11th, 2012 at 9:36 PM ^

.....of the argument against Bama even deserving a shot. It has to do with the perception of the voters believing that every other team in the SEC was tough as well, meaning Bama and LSU had very tough seasons to go through. In LSU's case that was true, having played, and beat, the Pac12 and BE champions, who beat the B1G champ and ACC champ in their respective BCS bowls.

OkSt. played, according to Sagarin, the 3rd toughest schedule in cfb this year. They went 7-0 vs. top 30 ranked teams. Bama went 4-1. Considering wins, OkSt. had a better argument to be the #2 team and play in the MNC.


January 11th, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

As we get bogged down in an argument about what's fair and what system will produce a true National Champion, we're overlooking a crucial part of sports, it's supposed to be entertaining.

Somebody, years ago after Boise State hit like 18 circus plays to beat Oklahoma, that everyone in the country would be rooting for the Broncos in the semifinal round, except for the fact it didn't exist.

Connecticut wasn't the best team last season until they reeled off six straight and won the Nat'l Champ. Butler wasn't the 2nd best team the last two years, but had everybody rooting for them in consecutive games. March Madness is fun because it produces moments like Bryce Drew and George Mason.

I see no reason a college football playoff couldn't do the same.

Wouldn't a Stanford-LSU match-up have been insanely entertaining to see if Luck & Co. could take down the dominant Tigers? Same with Bama versus Weeden and Blackmon.

Does the regular season still matter? Of course! What if Okie State loses to Oklahoma on the last day and gets knocked out? What if Luck doesn't lead the comeback against USC.



January 11th, 2012 at 1:45 PM ^


Excellent post!  We worry so much about what the system should be to produce X result, or what teams we should root for because it benefits our team because of Y.  It is fun to be a fan.  It is fun to root for your beloved team and against your least favorite.  It is even fun to have some controversey.  What's fun about being a fan is the freedom to root for, or against, whomever you want and not rooting based on some sort of equation.  

French West Indian

January 11th, 2012 at 1:32 PM ^

...suffering a crisis of taxonomy.

Notice that 100 years ago when cheap air flight/long distance travel was illogical for a group of 85+ college students, the teams all clustered with like-minded other teams in terms of geography, i.e., conferences.

Today, the masses are arguing for a true national champion but there is really only about 20-30 teams that have any realistic chance at this on a yearly basis.  These teams are now, of course, spread across the nation and are members of various conferences.

The first step to creating national playoff would actually be to eliminate the traditional conferences and re-categorize the FBS into perhaps 4 classes of about 30 teams each.  The Michigans & Alabamas could be in Class1, the MSUs & Auburns in Class2, Northwesterns & Vanderbilt in Class3, etc. 

Then you could easily have a fair & balanced season with a logical playoff that should produce a controversey free champion every year.  In fact, that would 3 or 4 national champions (one from each class) every year.

It would be a very logical yet boring & tradition-striped system that would give up nothing to talk about and virtually no distraction from work.  Playoffs = communists winning !!!  All hail the bowls !!!



January 11th, 2012 at 1:51 PM ^

The best line in the article: "Now that college football postseason's horrendous structure is hitting the big guys in the wallet, change is coming."


I've ALWAYS believed this very thing.  If you want a timeline towards playoffs, the progress towards playoffs is inversely proportional to the television ratings/revenues.


This season's concomitant dropoff in ticket sales and ratings across the board for the BCS, and especially at the NC level, therefore, represented a BIG step in the right direction.


As long as there is money to be made, playoffs will come.  Not because it's RIGHT, but because it is simply more profitable.  Period.


January 11th, 2012 at 1:55 PM ^

The home game finally making a southern team play in the cold is long over due.  Maybe a Big Ten team and fans will not have to travel across the country and play in thier opponents back yard for once.


January 11th, 2012 at 2:07 PM ^

4 to 6 teams should be selected at the end of the year to bash each other over the head with a shovel. The survivor wins the No. 1 ranking, a trophy and all the undisputed glory.

The bowl games were just sad this year. There were empty seats in the Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl this year. That's a complete disgrace.  They've had their day.

If you didn't watch the FCS championship playoffs, you missed some great games.  In the end, North Dakota State 14-1 beat Sam Houston State (14-1) and was voted unanimously the No. 1 team. They settled it on the field in an away game.

I like the idea of having the No. 1 and 2 teams in a playoff with some at large teams, and for the higher ranked teams to have earned home-field advantage. 




January 11th, 2012 at 2:35 PM ^

and have supported the BCS. This season ended that notion.

I understand that the current system benefits us and the other auto-qualifiers, but it's just too much now. What I would like to see happen is a 6 team playoff: the top two would get a buy week and the other four will play for the right to be in the semifinals. There would be five auto-qualifiers (B1G, P12, SEC, B12, ACC) and one at-large, good luck everyone else. This would preserve the integrity of the regular season as only the conference champ would have the ability to play in the playoff. It would be a nice step, but I don't think the conferences would go for it at this point. 

I would also like to see the concempt the P12 and B1G expanded to the SEC and ACC as well. Let the four major conferences (other than Texas and OU its hard to count the B12 as a major conference on a year to year basis, but I guess you could add them if really needed) and have a four week B1G v. SEC, B1G v. ACC, B1G v. P12 weekly matchup, with all four playing all four. This would NEVER happen, but damn, it would make the season that much better. 

EDIT: Thinking more on the playoff format, the games should be played at the home field of the higher ranked team with only the championship being played at a neutral site, probably rotating the location like is done now (but substitute the Fiesta for the Cotton). The games were empy this year. I was at the Sugar Bowl and there were LOTS of free seats. If the games were to be played at home the games would be sold out. Sure, it's cold usually in the north in December and January, but that's an advantage northern teams should get like the southern teams now get every single year with where the current bowls. 

The number of bowls should be reduced, 35 is simply too many. I thing the big bows could remain in this format, you have the second place teams play in the traditional matchups with only the six teams playing outside of the 'bowl system.'


January 11th, 2012 at 3:17 PM ^

The biggest problem with a plus 1 system is that are you going to get fanbases to travel (generally a fairly great distance) twice in the span of the week, especially when it won't be known if you are in the championship game until a week before?  The title game will become another generic Super Bowl filled with rich people and corporations that have no ties to the team.   Especially if they insist on the idiotic premise that the game should be on a Monday night

A six team playoff makes the most sense.  Start around xmas weekend for the first round, NYD for the 2nd round and the following weekend for the finals.   No classes interrupted.

Top 2 teams get a bye.  Have the quarterfinals and semifinals at the home stadium of the higher ranked teams.  So the number 3 and 4 ranked teams get the home game in the quarterfinals and the number 1 and 2 seeds get the home game in the semifinals and then the championship game is at a bowl game.  It would be a logisitcal nightmare trying to get great attendance since how many fans are going to be able to book travel one week in advance and get airfare and hotel rooms at a reasonable rate before they can even think about buying bowl tickets.  At least if the game is on a weekend it'll make life a lot easiers. 

I'm still on the fence of auto-bids.  On one hand it does mean you earn it if you only invite the conference champs and it takes away the ridiculously of having biased voters or computers doing a selection but it also would probably result in an anti-trust violation (assuming the Big East keeps their auto-bid, it would shut out the non-BCS teams).


January 11th, 2012 at 2:17 PM ^

The FCS championship examples since 1978 have been interesting, like having both Georgia Southern and Furman football teams fly all the way out to Tacoma, Washington to play in the title game (1985).  5,000 people were present for that game.

I'm sure that wouldn't happen for an FBS championship game. But as a neutral site,Michigan stadium holds 110,000+ fans for crying out loud.  It would have been killer to have LSU play Alabama in the Big House for the national championship. 



January 11th, 2012 at 2:24 PM ^

going to a bowl game is almost exactly like going to a pro football game. totally corporately monetized, bland stadiums, just two teams that only have the football game in common playing each other.

as for the BCS tourney thing, it rarely affects michigan, (although i hope it does moreso in the future), so my main concern is how it affects gameday and regular season games, and a four team tourney won't really, so whatever.


January 11th, 2012 at 10:06 PM ^

as I sat there, was that the stadium was so empty. I think the other factor is that the games are so spread out now. Many don't even fall during the "holiday" season. Kids are back in school, etc. I know that was almost a deal-breaker for me. To be able to go to a warm weather venue over the holidays, make a trip of it with the family (or with friends if a student at the school) was always an attraction of the NYD bowls. I get the TV piece, but that doesn't even seem to bear out, because who even knows that the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl is on Tuesday night. Half the games are results on the crawl or a duh-duh-duh duh-duh-duh on my phone. I think compressing them back over a narrower span of days worked better and made people care more. I agree with Brian that you know the system is broken when attendance and ratings are where they are, at a time when football seems to be at a zenith.


January 11th, 2012 at 2:31 PM ^

There are 11 conferences. Give one spot to each team that wins their conference and one independants spot (forces ND to join a conference too. yay!). Simple. If teams from the pits of conferences aren't close to competing for a national championship, then they should no longer be in the FBS. Cut out any non-conference games which decreases the schedule. 

Edward Khil

January 11th, 2012 at 2:43 PM ^

Since the advent of the BCS, most years there have been 2 or 3 teams that deserved to be considered possible national champions before the MNC game, based solely on their regular seasons (and conference championship games).  (One year ['05?] it could have been argued that five teams could make such a claim.  But that's rare.)  This past year, only LSU could have legitimately made such a claim.

If you expand the field to four, most years someone is going to get in who does not deserve to be considered national champions, based on their regular season (and CCG).  But, in my opinion, this is better than leaving a 3rd and possibly 4th team out who does have a legitimate claim.

When the field expands to four, and a team winds up being considered 5th, they should, instead of whining, ask themselves if they really deserved to be considered the best team, not the fourth-best team.  Same goes for the #9 team in an 8-team field.

Under that test for legitimacy, I don't see that there would ever be a need to expand beyond a 6-team field.


January 11th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^

I think what we want is a playoff and an undisputed national champion.  Except where the hell do we get "undisputed" without neutral sites, etc?

I don't think we care about the "best team of the year" anymore, because of the scrapheap of history has so many examples where it just didn't matter: I mean, just look up this list of teams why don't you: 1968 Ohio State, 1971 Michigan, 1978 Penn State, 1982 Georgia, 1983 Texas, 1983 Nebraska.  

So Alabama won the BCS title game in 2012. They knocked off the undefeated No. 1 team in the country and hey are called the BCS national champion.  

This is nothing new for the last 50 to 60 years of Div. 1 college football. I agree it's disappointing, but it's interesting that we're suddenly sick of this.

I don't consider Alabama is the best college football team of 2011-2012.   In the same way that I don't consider the 1983-1984 Miami Hurricanes to be the best  football team in the nation that year either.  If Nebraska had won that game, they'd be 13-0 and finished No.1 and I still don't believe that 1983 Nebraska team was the best team on the field that year.

Actually it may have actually been Auburn (11-1) that played a much tougher schedule than Miami or Nebraska. Auburn's only loss was to Texas at home by 13 pts.  But the Tigers beat #5 Florida, #7 Maryland, at #4 Georgia, at #19 Alabama, and vs #8 Michigan in the Sugar Bowl in succession.

It's too flimsy man.

Only with a playoff gauntlet with neutral sites can we say that teams have a more or less equal opportunity to obtain an undisputed championship.  But nobody wants to do this.  We have to watch these rinky-dinky-nobody-cares bowl games.

I'm starting to think that all we want is a  national champion, because "undisputed" seems impossible.



January 11th, 2012 at 3:14 PM ^

Pardon me for being naive, but, I'm pretty sure Alabama is the best team in college football, 2011, as proved by their shutting out LSU when all the chips were on the table.

I understand the whole regular season thing, but, I also think the idea is to identify the best team in the country.  And I think the BCS did just that.

Yes, opinions are involved.  Whether you have +1, or a +3 or a +7, you're still going to be looking at single elimination of 1, 3 or 7 teams that were chosen based largely on the opinions of poll participants.  If you can't tell, I preferred the "mythical" thing.  Call me old and stupid.  it won't hurt my feelings.








January 11th, 2012 at 3:20 PM ^

But maybe Alabama only looks like the best team because they won the popularity contest.  Who's to say Oklahoma State or Stanford aren't the best team but you wouldn't know because they didn't get the opportunity? 

At a minimum, at least with a +1 or a 6 or 8 team playoff, the winner would've had to have beaten 1-3 other top ranked teams and by that point, there would be no more argument because no one would have a comparable resume with such quality victories


January 11th, 2012 at 3:33 PM ^

I am perfectly happy with the "popularity contest".  I'm just not hung up on the question of who's number one.  To me, college football is a many-splendored thing with maize and blue and winged helmets being the most splendiferous.  There's just so much more to it than the wins and losses and if, a few times in my lifetime Michigan ends up undefeated, I will die contented.






January 11th, 2012 at 3:35 PM ^

While that could be a concern, the amount of money to be made is going to far outweigh whether there will be some empty seats in the semi-finals. 

Heck, a lot of people might try to go to the semi's because they know if their team makes the Championship game tickets will be really hard to get.  If the Championship game is at an 80,000 seat stadium, each school is probably only going to get 20-30,000 tickets. 



January 12th, 2012 at 11:58 AM ^

But why isn't the playoffs just the conference champions plus a few at-larges.

Big 12


PAC 12



Big East

At large 1

At large 2


That's eight teams - all conference champs plus two for the ND/BYUs/Boise States and/or Conference #2 at larges.

Boom!  What am I missing?