Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two Paragraphs on the BCS

While I feel that an 8 or 16-team playoff is the only legitimate way to determine a national champion in college football, I understand that we won't be getting a playoff any time soon. So, for the time being, I'll give up my spot among the choir of voices calling for a post season tournament and focus instead on improving the current BCS system. The aim of the current system is to select the country's two best teams and have them play each other in a single National Championship Game. But the means of choosing these teams is flawed. Human polls account for two-thirds of the BCS standings. Many of the voters in these polls (coaches, former players and coaches, some local media) have knowledge of one team, conference, or region but are not equipped to compare teams from across the country (especially now that the AP poll is not part of the formula). Factors such as preseason ranking (see Auburn 2004) and program reputation (see Utah 2008) also influence the final rankings.

One alternative would be to assemble a selection committee, similar to the those that determine at-large bids to post season tournaments in other sports. Unlike poll voters, selection committee members would be responsible for watching and studying all possible championship contenders and would be required to reach a consensus on the number one and two teams. This season, a selection committee might have selected Alabama and Texas or they might have put Cincinnati in the championship over the Longhorns (since the Bearcats played a tougher schedule and had more quality wins). At any rate, they would have to reach a decision through reasoned debate. A selection committee almost certainly would have avoided the controversies in past years that led to the BCS formula being tweaked so many times (e.g. in 2000 Miami, instead of Florida State, likely would have played Oklahoma; in 2003 co-champions LSU and USC likely would have met in the championship game). Another alternative would be to rely entirely on the computer polls that currently account for one-third of the BCS formula. The biggest criticism of computers is that they can't watch the games. That's true, but computers can rely only on objective data (winning percentage, opponents' winning percentage, margin of victory if the powers that be allow it, and so on) and are completely free from bias.


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