Hefferon: Bid good riddance to BCS (Jan. 15)
Jack Hefferon | Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Looking back, Jan. 6 will be remembered as Liberation Day for college football.
On the greatest stage in college sports — a national championship at the Rose Bowl — Jimbo Fisher and Florida State toppled a tyrant and signaled the final defeat of a broken system.
The Seminoles manufactured an incredible comeback to best Auburn, 34-31, ending a seven-year run in which the BCS champion emerged from the Southeastern Conference.
That meant, of course, that an SEC team had been named the best team in college football for seven straight years. But it also meant that, for eight straight years, it was determined that one SEC team — if not two — would be part of the National Championship. That determination was made by the BCS: a combination of biased voters, a profits-driven committee and mysterious computers that has thrived under the SEC’s reign of terror.
I’d claim that the system was biased towards the South, but clearly that’d just make me a bitter Yankee throwing stones at the Goliath down in Dixie. Since the start of the BCS era in 1998, the SEC has won more bowls, had a better winning percentage in bowl games and won more BCS bowls than any other existing conference. The only real football is played in the SEC. Any other conference champion couldn’t go .500 against the gauntlet that is the SEC schedule. Football is religion in the South, and these statements are the preached gospel. (If I recall, Tim Tebow is the patron saint.)
However, the system under the BCS established machinery in which the SEC was set up for glory — and national title berths — every year. Based on the historic trend of SEC success, the preseason top 10 usually contained three or four SEC teams, anticipated to be the next national champion. Sometimes they survived their schedules, other times not. Any losses were written off by the overwhelming “depth” of the conference and catapulted the winning SEC team into the BCS conversation, as well. By the time bowl season rolled around, the SEC continued to keep its three or four best teams in the top 10, even outranking some undefeated champions from other conferences less favored by God.
The SEC would then tear off success in the bowls, validating the next year’s rankings and starting the cycle over again. But the bowls radically favor the SEC. Of the 35 bowl games played this postseason, 19 were located in the SEC’s footprint (states with an SEC school).
Sure, the SEC’s 7-3 record in bowl games this year was the best of any conference, but only one of its 10 representatives had to travel outside of that conference footprint (Auburn’s trip to the Rose Bowl).
Compare that to the Big Ten, which went an inferior 2-5 this bowl season, but played none of its games within the Big Ten’s boundaries. Iowa had the shortest trip of any of these seven schools: some 1,200 miles to Tampa (where it lost to an SEC team in SEC territory).
Even the more fair-weathered Pac-12, with plenty of sunny sites available for December and January bowls, played just one-third of its nine bowl games within their footprint.
And of the five BCS bowls, either two or three were played each year in SEC states.
The BCS system was rigged towards the Southeastern squads, but the only thing providing it with widespread credibility was the SEC’s run of seven championships, a run as unlikely as it was impressive.
But Florida State’s win this year, combined with the end of the BCS system, ends the SEC’s stranglehold on title berths. The four-team playoff system instituted next year will probably feature two SEC teams more often than not, but the Seminoles’ win punches a hole in the conference’s mystique, stealing some momentum from the vicious cycle that ensured an SEC team a place in the championship.
The SEC is, most years, the best conference in college football, and it’s not going anywhere. But thanks to Florida State, its stranglehold on the chance at a national championship has been seriously loosened.
Contact Jack Hefferon at [email protected]
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.