Andre's Reviews > Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series

Death to the BCS by Dan Wetzel
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Mar 02, 12

Read from January 13, 2011 to March 02, 2012

Before I get into the negatives, I have to give the authors of the book a ton of credit for the amount of research they put into this project. They invested a lot of time and effort into crafting their proposal for a 16-team college football playoff and conducted hundreds of interviews in condemning the BCS. It was well thought out and well crafted. The problem: their assertions are not entirely true.

As the title suggests, much of this book was spent demonizing the BCS. That’s fair. The authors never once mentioned, though, that the BCS was better than all the systems that came before it. The open bowl system, the Bowl Coalition, and the Bowl Alliance all failed to do what the Bowl Championship Series has been able to do. In fact, the two seasons immediately prior to the first under the BCS featured bowl seasons during which undefeated teams ranked #1 and #2 in the nation played in separate bowl games. Throughout the entirety of college football history, there were only 11 bowl games that paired the top two teams in the country. The authors give the BCS no credit for this. Even a takedown of a poor system should acknowledge that system’s successes. Failing to do so is dishonest.

The authors of Death to the BCS continually hammer home the assertion that the BCS has been bad for college football. In reality, none of the ills they blame on the system are BCS-specific. The authors’ problems with the system are actually problems with the bowl-only system that has existed since the inception of the Rose Bowl. The BCS makes an easy and sexy target, but it is not the true culprit of the crimes charged by the authors.

This book is also a long exhibition of naivety. University presidents are chided for being gullible and naïve enough to let conference commissioners handle the football business. The presidents are not dumb; they know what they are doing. Colleges are about making money and the presidents’ jobs are, to a great extent, to maximize their schools’ earnings. And, contrary to what the authors of this book would have you believe, earning a higher dollar amount does not always mean making more money. It is more advantageous for the schools in the power conferences to earn a lower dollar amount while maintaining a stranglehold on a larger piece of the pie than it is to gross higher revenues from a larger share. Holding a higher percentage of the pot means more power. That’s a simple concept; Death to the BCS ignores it.

One great untruth perpetrated in the book is that the BCS is responsible for teams jumping conferences. The fact is that the BCS was largely necessitated by conference realignment. The formation of Big East football is probably the biggest factor that led to the BCS’ creation. As recently as the late 1980s, all of the major programs in the northeast were independents. Penn State joined the Big Ten, but Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and one southern school, Miami, gave up their independence to form Big East football. Before the Big East, most of the major bowls had only one (at most) conference tie-in and were able to field attractive matchups because of the independents. The Big East reduced the number of independents to Notre Dame, BYU, and the service academies. As a result, conference tie-ins became a requirement for bowl survival and marquis matchups in the Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta Bowls became harder to create.

Another is the myth that the BCS is the official champion. It is not. The NCAA does not recognize a champion in Division I-A (FBS). This idea was brought forth in a chapter about the USC-LSU split national championship of 2003. Apparently, LSU fans feel that their official championship is delegitimized by USC fans’ claim of being the best team in the country that season. It’s an asinine argument that had no place in the book. Split national championships will always be a possibility when there is no playoff. They were legit before the BCS; they are legit under the BCS. Nothing makes the BCS national championship more important or more official than the AP (or any other voting organization) championship. LSU and USC are both real champions of 2003. LSU fans have no gripe. The NCAA is the official body of collegiate athletics, and they don’t recognize any champion of that level. Revel in your championship and shut up.

The biggest lie in the book, though, is the idea that ESPN levels the college football playing field and makes going to a power program a not so big deal. ESPN money is what drives the conference realignment. The pooled conference TV and bowl money (ESPN runs many bowls) is the force behind what the authors are trying to tear down.

I’m no fan of the BCS, but I get annoyed when I see arguments supported by inadequate evidence.

My biggest gripe with the book is that no consideration is given to the players who play the games. The authors desire a 16-team playoff. That means the national championship would feature teams playing in 3 postseason games. Today, each team only plays one. I find adding games to the college football season a ridiculous idea. Football is a brutal, rough game. Don’t tell me about FCS and Division II and III; those games aren’t nearly as physical and fast as the FBS game. Early in the 2011 season, I remarked that I would never draft South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. He gets too many carries for my liking. He was injured a few weeks later, and the time missed, ironically, may help to lengthen his NFL career, extending the time during which he’ll actually get paid for getting his body broken. Asking these unpaid kids to play more games at this level is absurd. We don’t need to know who the best team is that badly (and, to be honest, the more teams that play for a championship means the less likely it is that the best team will win the championship).

No, I didn’t really feel this book at all, and I think the penultimate paragraph really says it all: “When presidents see what’s really going on, and when the media learns the particulars of the system, and when fans clear the smoke screens, and when everyone collectively ignores the misdirection and forces the Cartel to address the reality of its racket, and when the ideals espoused by Joe Paterno supplant those of Jim Delaney—that’s when the BCS falls like a house of cards.”
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