“Bowl Championship Series” aside, tonight marks the annual two-team tournament for the national championship in NCAA Division I’s Football Bowl Subdivision.
At least it involves two undefeated teams this time, unlike in a recent past year when a two-loss team was allowed to play and win and claim a “national championship.”
But the system still stinks. On the outside looking in will be Texas Christian, winner of the Rose Bowl at the end of an undefeated season but unable to play for the title.
At least it wasn’t a blatant injustice this time, because the two teams that will play — Auburn and Oregon — are at least the undisputed champions of major conferences.
It still isn’t right.
I’ve got a better idea, a compromise between those who are willing to go with a “plus one” game in the future and those wanting a full-fledged tournament like in basketball. Personally I come down on the side of a 16-team tournament, but it doesn’t look like that is going to fly anytime soon.
Instead, let’s use all the existing bowls and have an eight-team, seven-game tournament for the title.
Under my system there would be two rules for creating the eight-team bracket:
(1) Every team that concludes an undefeated season with at least nine wins against FBS opposition must be included, and
(2) Automatic bids will go to the champions of the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big XII, SEC and PAC-10 conferences.
Should in some highly unusual circumstances there be more than three unbeaten teams from outside the “big six” conferences, the lowest-rated conferences would lose that season’s automatic bids.
Every bowl that is currently in operation would be allowed to continue, selecting teams according to previous or new arrangements with conferences to fill the 30 games not involved in the Bowl Championship Tournament. But no bowl not involved in the Tournament could be played on the same day as a Tournament Bowl, and in no case could a non-tournament bowl be scheduled later than the 8 p.m. EST time slot on Dec. 31.
Six current and one new bowl would be the tournament sites. Four first-round games would be played, one on a Thursday night and the other three two days later on the final Saturday before Dec. 20.
Semifinal games would be played on New Year’s Day, and the final on the first Saturday night Jan. 6 or later.
Higher-seeded teams would play closest to home, and the seven cities rotate spots in the tournament.
Here’s how the tournament would have proceeded this time (we’ll go with the bowls’ old names here for the sake of argument):
Dec. 16, 8 p.m., Peach Bowl: No. 1 seed Auburn (13-0) vs. No. 8 Connecticut (8-4).
Dec. 18, noon, Hoosier Bowl (in NCAA headquarters city of Indianapolis): No. 4 Stanford (11-1) vs. No. 5 Wisconsin (11-1).
Dec. 18, 4 p.m., Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Oregon (12-0) vs. No. 7 Virginia Tech (11-2).
Dec. 18, 8 p.m., Cotton Bowl: No. 3 TCU (12-0) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma (11-2)
Jan. 1, 4 p.m., Orange Bowl: Auburn-UConn winner vs. Stanford-Wisconsin winner.
Jan. 1, 8 p.m., Sugar Bowl: Oregon-Va. Tech winner vs. TCU-Oklahoma winner.
Jan. 8, 8 p.m., Rose Bowl.
Now seriously folks, isn’t that better than the BCS? The academics argument is gone, because the three “extra” games are all played after Christmas. And the idea of fans not being able to travel to the extra games has always been a red herring. Give each school just 10,000 tickets and you’d never hear the end of the squealing. Every game would be a hard sellout (before the schools took their allotments) in advance.
The top level of U.S. college football is the only major sports competition in the world in which a team can have a perfect season and be excluded from a chance to win the championship. And when the “bowl system” was first introduced, teams all traveled long distances by train and — think about it — there was no such thing as radio.
There’s a better, modern way. Let’s do it.