Stop Trying to Bury the BCS. It's Not Dead.

Tom Pennington

The acronym is gone, but the new system is very similar.

The three most toxic letters in college football are B-C-S. The Bowl Championship Series ended up being one of the most reviled elements of college football, so the term is gone. We will never again look ahead to a postseason format bearing that name.

But don't think for a second that the BCS is gone. It will live on, with minor modifications, as the College Football Playoff.

Here is how the BCS website describes the dearly departed system:

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is a five-game college football showcase. It is designed to ensure that the top two teams in the country meet in the national championship game and to create exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games.

Now, let's change six words:

The College Football Playoff is a seven-game college football showcase. It is designed to ensure that the top four teams in the country meet in the national championship playoff and to create exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games.

Surprise! It's not all that different.

The four BCS bowls are all a part of the CFP. Sure there are two more bowls that entered the big boys' club, but despite scandals taking place at the FiestaSugar, and Orange Bowls, the old gang is still around intact.

Automatic qualifying bids of the BCS may no longer be there, but they're replaced by much stronger automatic participation rules for the power conferences thanks to contracts. If the Rose Bowl lost the Big Ten champion to the national title game under the BCS, it couldn't take another Big Ten team to replace it if there wasn't another one in the top 14 of the rankings. With the way that the CFP contracts work, if a non-semifinal Rose Bowl lost the Big Ten champ to the playoff, it contractually must take another Big Ten team even if the next available one is unranked. The same goes for the other four power conferences and their respective contract bowls.

The selection committee format is different in that it's much smaller than the old selection committees. What old selection committees? The Coaches and Harris Polls essentially determined who played for the championship for the final decade of the BCS. For all the attention given to the computer polls, the BCS organizers neutered their power in the 2004-13 formula. It was basically two large panels of people making choices for most of the BCS's time.

Now with the playoff, we have one much smaller panel of people making those choices. Hopefully that single, better composed panel will carry more credibility with the choices it makes, but don't make the mistake of thinking that it wasn't just a group of people picking teams under the old system too.

Most of all the BCS was a method of pooling a subset of postseason games and selling them to TV at a premium price, and the lion's share of that price flowed to the major conferences. The CFP is no different in that regard, except that it's a slightly larger pool with a significantly higher price. It's still rigged heavily in favor of the major conferences, and the even larger amounts of money that it generates strains the NCAA's amateurism fig leaf ever more.

So go ahead and read all of the eulogies for the BCS that have come out over the past month. Just know that the BCS isn't dead at all. It just went to North Korea for spring break and came back with a changed name and two new arms grafted on next to its old ones. It's capable of greater things, even if it is more grotesque now.

Make no mistake. The same heart beats inside, and the same mind controls it. Don't try to bury the BCS. It's not dead yet.

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