The Bowl Championship Series is supposed to feature games that pit the top teams in the country against each other. The BCS bowls are supposed to be an opening act leading up to the BCS National Championship Game the following Monday. The four bowls — Fiesta, Sugar, Orange and Rose — are supposed to be played in front of capacity crowds and post enormous TV ratings. There is just one problem. The BCS doesn’t do any of these things.
In the days between the last BCS bowl and the National Championship Game, it’s hard to think back on these four games and not be unimpressed. Of the eight teams to play in the four games, only three were ranked higher than 10th in the final BCS rankings. With their twisted logic and flawed conference contracts, the BCS decided to pit No. 15 Clemson against No. 23 West Virginia in the Orange Bowl but left No. 6 Arkansas, No. 7 Boise State, No. 8 Kansas State and No. 9 South Carolina out of the BCS.
A big reason certain teams are chosen over higher-ranked teams is because the BCS selects schools with bigger fan bases, which they hope will translate to higher ticket sales and bigger TV ratings, netting these “nonprofit” bowls millions of dollars more in profits. However, the BCS’ historic failure to host games with relevance and appeal has meant that attendance is at its lowest average since the 1978-1979 season.
Finally, that brings us to those “ever-growing” TV ratings that the BCS routinely boasts about. Unfortunately for the BCS, saying something repeatedly doesn’t make it true. The reality is that TV ratings for the BCS are plummeting. The Sugar Bowl posted an overnight rating of 6.3, which is down 11 percent from last year, and the Orange Bowl posted an embarrassingly low overnight rating of somewhere around 4.5, making it the lowest-rated and least-watched BCS bowl of all time. Compare that with the 17.1 rating from the Dallas Cowboys’ game against the New York Giants, a regular season game with playoff implications.
When shown in its true light, the BCS is not what it claims to be. So, now the question becomes: What can be done to make this system more popular and more financially beneficial for universities?
Well here’s a novel idea: a playoff system.
Much of the argument for the status quo and against a playoff system is that people mistakenly believe that under the BCS system every game counts and with playoffs every game would not. But the reality is that under the current system every game doesn’t count. If every game truly counted then the national championship wouldn’t be a rematch of a game that already happened. And if every game really counted then you wouldn’t have four top-10 teams passed over for a game between No. 23 West Virginia and No. 15 Clemson, which lost three of its last four games. Please tell us again how this system preserves the sanctity of the regular season?
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.