NCAA Football

Death to the BCS: Worth Reading, Still Doesn't Solve Problem

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The Bowl Championship Series is annoying, convoluted, wrong-headed, money-grubbing, goofy, asinine, stomach-turning, painful and pathetic.

And those are the parts that work. Seriously, the negative sentiments surrounding the BCS have long been established. College football fans all know it, and we've known it for the last 11 years.

So when three writers -- all talented, all capable of telling a good story -- wrote a book called, "Death to the BCS" my first reaction was: Tell me something I don't know. Everybody wanted the BCS to die a slow, torturous death way back in 2001. I thought we threw our hands up in exasperation and moved on a long time ago. 

Yahoo Sports staffers Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan haven't moved on. With this informative 192-page handbook, they do an excellent job of explaining why the current system is so flawed -- from overpaid bowl executives to dubious non-profit claims. Through some nice investigative work, the trio pieces together a narrative that pinpoints why the evil BCS "cartel" is more concerned about maintaining its monopoly than producing a fair and exciting postseason.

That's where the book is at its best.

But the book fails when it tries to present a viable alternative to the current format. And that's the key. If we all know the current system is broken, the book can only be considered a complete success if it designs a dazzling, air-tight replacement. Yet while portraying presidents and execs who dare support the wretched system we currently "enjoy" as nothing short of criminal swine (sometimes too much), they offer up a playoff solution with holes.

Wetzel, Peter and Passan are from the "16-team playoff" school of thought. They say it will resemble the NCAA basketball tournament because it will let underdog universities (currently left out of the BCS bucks bonanza) a chance to compete with the big boys.

Very true. But the proposal, which is featured on the back of the book's jacket, has giant flaws: It simply glosses over what schools and stadiums would host games (the writers say everybody would love to travel to Nebraska in December and January to watch their team play) and it kills itself by erroneously arguing that a 16-team playoff can protect the sanctity of the regular season. According to the writers' proposal, their plan: must protect, if not increase, the value of the regular season.

The college football regular season is the greatest in all of sports (conversely, the sport also has the worst postseason) and the writers say their proposal wouldn't harm the regular season status quo in any way.

Not possible under this plan.

In its detailed scenario, the book says 11 conference champs would be awarded automatic bids to the tournament, while five schools would receive at-large bids. Let's go over some problems with that scenario:

-- No more must-win games in September
When Boise State played Virginia Tech on Labor Day weekend in 2010, it was riveting theater because we knew the Broncos would be eliminated from the national championship picture if they lost to the Hokies. Here it was, the first week of the season and we're watching a must-win game. That is the beauty of college football. If you go to a 16-team playoff, however, that game becomes just an average, run-of-the-mill regular season game. Boise State can lose that game and still qualify for the 16-team tournament as WAC champs. That hurts the regular season.

-- Great battles, that can now be lost
When Michigan and Ohio State, or any other big rivals in the Top 10, play at the end of the season ranked No. 2 and No. 3 respectively, that is a monster game. The loser is knocked out of the national championship hunt. But under the book's new format, if Ohio State loses -- they'd get another shot in a 16-team format. Suddenly, that game goes from monumental to appealing. That hurts the regular season.

-- Use college hoops as a warning -- not a guide.
In college basketball, it's wonderful that a team like Butler can advance to the finals -- but have you seen the regular season recently? Please tell me the last December game fans across the nation were excited about. You can't. Both those teams can lose that game -- and come back later. Meanwhile, league postseason basketball tournaments have become all but unwatchable. The Big Ten tournament? The PAC-10 tournament? Nobody cares -- everybody sits around waiting for the Big Dance. Consider how football would work. It's Alabama vs. Florida in the SEC championship game. Big game, right? Well, not really. Both teams will qualify for the 16-team postseason regardless of the outcome so this game -- which had been a de facto playoff game before -- now means little. Florida will get somebody like Troy (Sun Belt champion) or Central Michigan (MAC champ) a week later.

Wetzel, Peter and Jeff Passan are 100 percent right when they say the BCS should die. But that's not really an argument anymore. If we're ever gonna fix this thing, we must devise a plan that is simple and completely honest. For instance, if we say the second most important piece to our proposed plan is that it won't hurt the regular season, then that must be the case.