|The BCS. Go Big or Go Home
One of the greatest things about college football today is the emotion of it. The athletes are students just like us, they aren’t paid, and they just play for the glory of their school’s jersey. Some with hopes to play at higher, professional levels, but most just want to keep playing football. There is a certain beauty to the sport that way. Hoping that someday their team will be one of the famous “BCS Busters” that are so highly praised by all schools looked over by the BCS system, teams like Utah, Boise State and others have proven themselves “worthy” to run with the big boys. What most fail to realize, however, is how much the BCS system, as notorious as it may be to some schools, actually helps schools considerably with what has become the business of college football. “What of a playoff system?” some ask, but from one devoted fan of a non-BCS team to another, I hope to help you see why, through its many flaws, the BCS is the best thing that could happen to college football today.
Symbol of the BCS
Chart Showing the Difference in the Money Earned by BCS Conferences Compared to Non-BCS conferences
There is a great uproar in the world of college football fandom in how terrible and awful the BCS system is and how great a playoff system would be for our wayfaring schools out here that seem to get overlooked. Our first question should be “why is the BCS so important anyway?” “What good does it do that a playoff system wouldn’t?” The biggest issue is one word that we know all too well, ‘money’. The money that is involved is really I think the biggest plus for those schools who, with a winning season, are allowed to participate in a BCS bowl game. Games that include the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Cotton bowl in which the champions of different conferences are automatically invited to participate in the BCS. For example the Rose Bowl, the champions of the Big 10 and the PAC 10 conferences receive automatic invitations to this BCS bowl game. For non-BCS schools these games, though not a national championship, mean the world to teams for two main reasons. The first being the chance to obtain national recognition as a school and a conference. As we’ve previously seen in the numbers and the chart, the second reason would be because the BCS games bring boo coo bucks to schools and to conferences as a whole. That is where the issue lays. As these big schools continue to make big money they are then able to afford more scholarships. Scholarships are so important to a program’s success because if you can offer an outstanding high school student athlete a scholarship to come and live, get a great education and eat all free of charge, that player is going to have a lot more time to put all of his energy into getting good grades and playing the very best football that he can. If a school can afford a number of scholarships, then they are going to be able to bring on very skilled and very dedicated student athletes to win games and represent the school as an institution. We’ve seen this happen time and time again with big schools such as Florida, Ohio State, USC and others that can recruit players very well because of their prestige and, well to be honest, the money they have to give players in the form of a scholarship. It’s no surprise that afterwards these teams are the ones we see after the regular season competing in major games if not the National Championship.
Urban Meyer after winning the Nation Championship
In my years of listening and participating in this argument I always hear that the BCS is destroying the excitement of college football. That our local teams play so hard and do so well but they never get recognized. Even coaches like LaVell Edwards of BYU think that there must be some sort of scheme that would, “level the playing field” with the other teams. In my mind, the game has never been so exciting. Sure there are teams out there that are usually going to receive a bid to go to BCS bowl game, but I know for a fact living where I do that every year there is talk of “BCS busting”. That to me keeps the game watchable; it keeps our lower level teams wanting more and the fans on the edges of their seats hoping for that chance to go to the big dance. If for example the NCAA did decide to change from the BCS system to the playoff system that everyone seems to think is the solution, I’m sure there would be a lot of good that came from it. For example, it would be nice I’m sure to have a playoff system because that way we would know for sure who the “best” team was that year because they beat out everyone else. This is a very valid point that makes sense that may work, but what of the money? What of the business of college football? If we changed to a playoff the game would change completely. Instead of making money, college football would lose money. If we start to think about it, the way the system works now, teams have to win every game if they want a chance to play in a serious bowl game. This makes the game more intensity and keeps viewers coming back weekend after weekend to participate in the intensity and the emotion of their teams. Television channels and sponsors would start to lose money due to the lack of viewers who would quickly lose interest in the game that didn’t have as much pressure and emotion involved in every game. What most experts say would happen is that the game would lose its flare all together if it were to go to a playoff system. On average, a team that makes it to a BCS Bowl receives $18 million for their school and their athletic programs. This money is coming from sponsors, sponsors that pay very large amounts of cash to have their names shown representing a bowl game. And it’s not only the BCS bowls that have such great support; there are a vast number of lesser bowls that are sponsored by different companies all across America. If we went to a playoff system, what would happen to those bowls? What would happen to that revenue that the NCAA receives from the sponsors of those great and lesser bowl games? Teams would start to rig their seasons to play against just the easiest opponents thus giving them an easier birth into the playoffs. Coaches would opt to save their star players and keep them from playing much until the playoffs. “Under the rules”, according to Stern of Business Pundit, “the championship teams of the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pacific-10 and Southeastern Conferences go to the B.C.S. automatically. This season, the first team in each conference to qualify [for a BCS bowl] receives $18 million” no matter what. Business Pundit continues, “That money is distributed in that team’s conference. If a second team from a conference qualifies, the conference shares an additional $4.5 million”. As you can see from just this one example of a few conferences, the BCS brings in a lot of money to teams within its family ties. And that money is just for qualifying to play in the BCS bowl game. If they win, they bring home a much bigger check for their school and the entire conference. “So much in fact”, Stern says, “that the six big conferences don’t want to share money with the smaller conferences”. The schools aren’t the only ones that benefit from winning big BCS bowl games. It’s no coincidence that the Top 10 best paid coaches are all at the head of teams that are constantly battling for the national title. According to America’s Best and Top Ten, Pete Carroll of USC, Urban Meyer of the University of Florida and Charlie Weiss of Notre Dame are all coaches that make over 3 million dollars annually. One wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one of these teams going undefeated in a season.
Truly this is a system with its own faults, its own weaknesses, but it is the best thing that could happen to college football as we know it. College football is one of the oldest and most beloved cultural pastimes in this country and with that fame comes business and money. In conclusion the BCS keeps the great teams going and the new teams fighting hard, I can’t think of anything more exciting for fans all over the college football spectrum.
Evans, Richard W. Evolution of Bowl Money Distribution. The Mountain West Conference Connection, 2008.
Unknown. Pros, Cons of a College Football Playoff. USA Today, 2004
Unknown. America’s Top Paid Coaches. America’s Best and Top 10, 2009
College Football Online. 2009-2010 Bowl Game Schedule. Nationalchamps.net, 2009