NCAA's March Madness Shows NCAA's BCS Flaws


March can be a stressful time of the year for college football fans who believe their sport doesn’t need a playoff.

College basketball has March Madness, an amazing time of the year where a single sport snags what feels like every sports headline. Sportscaster analysts debate which team was a disappointment and which team still has a chance to shock. Sports talk radio hosts discuss whether individual talent or team basketball is important to success. Sports sites are filled with discussions about bracket picks.

College football has the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). There is no playoff in college football, at least at the highst level. The top two BCS teams are determined by a confusing computer formula and are scheduled to play each other in the championship game. Aside from the championship game, there are four other games which give the remaining top six - and then an additional four - teams a chance to prove that…well that they’re better than whatever team they’re playing that day. Debates rage on SportsCenter and sports radio around this time,  too. But, more often than not, it's people discussing whether the college football post-season is flawed.

Proponents of the current BCS format that exists in college football have several popular arguments:

“Every game of the regular season counts in college football”

This is every BCS fan’s motto. The response: not really. If every game of the college football season mattered then at the end of the season only the two top teams should be able to play for the championship. The problem is what happens when multiple teams are tied for the same record? Only in the 1999-00, 2002-03, and 2005-06 did one of the two championship teams not have the same record as a team that didn’t get selected to play for the championship. Ultimately, if multiple teams have the same record and you begin choosing based on anything besides win-and-loss totals, you start putting emphasis on particular games rather than every game.

“Everyone ignores the college basketball season until the end, nobody does that with football.”

This is a fair point. For the most part you can only count on casual fans to turn on a college basketball game when there is a good match-up. The problem with this argument is that it implies that March Madness is the reason. The reason that a lot of fans tend to tune out college basketball is because there are so many games. More games means less emphasis on the result of each particular game. If you reduced the number of games in college basketball but left in the post-season playoffs, the games would be as important as college football games. The NFL is the perfect example of having fewer games per season, thereby increasing the importance of each game, but still having a playoff system to determine the champion.

“There are far more college basketball teams than football teams, and the layoff for football games is much longer.”

True, on both counts. However, no one is saying you can’t have a football playoff system with a proportional amount of teams. You don’t need sixty-four teams in the college football payoffs. A fraction of the one hundred and twenty teams in Division-I college football would be more than enough. Further, while a lot of the magic of March Madness is that you have a bunch of games in a short time period, that’s not the only reason it’s great. The idea of allowing teams to determine their own fate when it matters most is what appeals to fans, not the length of time it takes. If we had to stretch the college football playoffs out over a month, nobody would have a problem with that.

“The BCS keeps college football in the news.”

Sure. Steroids kept baseball in the news, too.

At the end of the day, opposing views exist because people can see things to argue for on each side. However, it just seems like the arguments for the current post-season structure of college football are flawed. You get an eventual champion who you could often argue doesn’t even deserve to be in the game. At least with the college basketball format, barring a very low seed winning it all, you get a champion who deserved to be in the playoffs and ultimately won when they needed to win. If it’s good enough for every other major sport, I don’t know why it’s not good enough for college football.

What do you think? Do you like the BCS format? Or does March Madness make you realize how messed up the college football postseason is?


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