Fourteen years after the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) began, its oversight committee yesterday approved changing to a four team play-off format beginning in 2014.
The BCS system has been the object of intense criticism since it was first used in 1998, with complaints coming from coaches as well as fans and the media. The debate mainly centered around how much weight was placed on each component used to rank teams: computer rankings, strength of schedule and the coaches poll. My daughter attended graduate school at the University of Florida during the early years of the BCS (2000-2005) and our family eagerly awaited the announcement of the BCS rankings each Sunday. The Gators won two national championships during those years, but watching teams rise slowly in the rankings or fall quickly after only one loss made it clear that the process did not always reflect true team strengths.
The new play-off structure will have four semi-finalists chosen by a committee, much like the choice of teams for the March NCAA basketball tournament. The location of semi-final games will rotate among six existing bowl games for the first 12 years. Winners of the semi-finals will play for the championship at a neutral site on the first Monday in January.
The play-off selection committee will consist of no less than 10 members, possibly up to 20. Members could include college administrators and current or retired coaches. They will determine the semi-finalists by considering each school’s season record, the strength of its schedule, whether the team is a conference champion and head-to-head results.
This plan for determining a NCAA (Div. 1) football champion may just expand the controversy to four teams instead of the current top two. Although the NCAA basketball tournament selection process is highly regarded, I am not sure the committee method will work as well for football. For basketball, 68 teams are chosen; the football selection committee will choose only four. With humans making the choices rather than computers using specific formulas, politics could enter the process. I personally think current coaches should not be on the selection committee.
Revenues from televising the championship games is expected to be much higher than revenue from the current BCS. How the money will be distributed among teams was addressed only broadly at the most recent meeting.
With two seasons before the play-offs begin, there is plenty of time for outside analysis. The current BCS oversight committee would be wise to consider these comments when they work out the details of the play-off format. If so, there is hope for a football championship system that will acceptable to all.
The New York Times