Most of what ails the great game of college football can be fixed with one swing of the axe: Get rid of the BCS. No sport is plagued by a single entity that is the source of their ills like college football. Eliminating the BCS would both move the game forward and bring in new fans and return much of the rich tradition that is its very fabric.
College sports has a corruption problem. The source of that corruption in college football is the BCS. As we are seeing now with the Fiesta Bowl scandal the system is rife with payoffs to politicians and athletic department officials. How university presidents can still justify alignment with this system is beyond me. It compromised competitive integrity by allowing polling to determine the sport’s champion. Even the NCAA’s integrity has been compromised. When conference and bowl commissioners are able to override rules enforcement there’s a major problem. If college football wants to save what’s left of its integrity, it will give the BCS the boot.
Now, that is easier said than done. The BCS has been more than financially kind to its members and has staved off attacks from “non-AQ” schools by tossing them a few table scraps. A playoff system like the one outlined by Dan Wetzel would not only restore competitive integrity to the sport, but bring in revenues and attract new fans (any casual fans follow the NCAA basketball tournament?) to the sport. The catch is that the BCS conferences would have to end their Animal Farm philosophy where “some schools are more equal than others” and allow the revenue to be equally disbursed among all Division 1-A conferences and schools.
The other issue is standing up to those who benefit solely from the current system. It’s not like the BCS bowl commissioners, earning 6-figure salaries for planning one annual event, are going to go quietly. Neither will the AD’s and conference commissioners who enjoy their free cruises and golf junkets. And ESPN talking heads like Kirk Herbstreit, who currently wield power with their votes, will have to take a back seat as well. Thinning ESPN’s workforce ought to be a winning argument on its face! But it will probably take the courts or an act of Congress to break up this unholy alliance.
If the BCS were gone, with conference winners now guaranteed a shot at the title, teams could then back off the current trend toward “super-conferences” and realign themselves with more traditional rivalries. You think TCU really wants to compete in the Big East? If it’s their only shot at cashing in they do. Did Utah really want to leave the Mountain West and traditional rival BYU? To get into the big dollar game, they sacrificed all that tradition.
With the BCS out of the picture, the only other change I would recommend to college football would be limiting weeknight games. Yes, it’s a great opportunity for the Middle Tennessees of the world to get on ESPN, but it’s moving the game toward overexposure. Additionally, it’s pretty hypocritical of university presidents to cite concern over the academics of the players while allowing them to travel for a late night football game on a school night. The NCAA should limit such games to one night per week (Thursday would be good) and allow teams to play in such games once per year. That would leave room for smaller programs to get TV exposure while preserving Saturdays as “appointment” television much like the NFL has done with Sundays.
No sport can match college football’s combination of exciting play and pageantry and rich tradition. All of this is at risk with the BCS. If college football wants to become the dominant sport in our culture, they’ll step back from some of the money on the table and realize there’s a bigger pile waiting if they fold this lousy hand.