Computer geeks, changing criteria make BCS mess
There are at least two ways of looking at the controversy surrounding the Bowl Championship Series (a bit of a misnomer in that only one game matters) and its computer-driven decision to rank the University of Southern California Trojans third and thus not eligible to play in the (thoroughly) mythical national championship game in the Sugar Bowl.
You could view the BCS mess as a solution to a nonproblem. Before the clamor for a way to determine a true national champion in college football, there were polls and bowls. Sometimes the coaches’ poll agreed with the sports writers’ poll and sometimes it didn’t. College football fans got to argue all winter — and in the meantime dozens of teams got to go to bowl games that provided entertainment for couch potatoes and often several intrinsically interesting and competitive games.
The BCS system was supposed to fix all that supposedly lamentable chaos. Instead, it has created more controversy. The computer polls and their constantly changing criteria made each year’s results more confusing and unsatisfactory. The main result was to reduce interest in all the other bowl games except the BCS matchup.
If it’s so important to have an undisputed national champion (which we doubt), it should be decided on the field. That wouldn’t eliminate all disputes, but it would be better than letting computer geeks narrow it down to two. Most fans and most football schools would be fine with a four-team or eight-team playoff format — or a “poll bowl” (two contestants chosen by human beings) a week after the traditional bowl games.
It’s no reflection on the teams from the University of Oklahoma or Louisiana State University to say the ouster of USC — ranked No. 1 by The Associated Press — is a travesty. The BCS system is at fault.