The BCS really isn't that bad.
No, really. It's not.
It doesn't give a "true" national champion, but what will?
Playoff? How many teams? When would it start? Would it be an eight-team playoff, beginning the week after conference championship games, smack-dab in the middle of final exams at most schools? Are fans -- and students -- expected to pay to travel for these games right before Christmas?
Want to add a plus-one to the bowls? Sounds OK on paper, but that would eliminate one of the best things about bowl games -- every team has had weeks to rest, making them the only postseason games without weary competitors. Further, playing that deep into January might interfere with the NCAA's gentleman's agreement with the NFL not to step on each other's turfs (the reason the NFL doesn't air Saturday games until late in the season). So don't bet on it.
And does anyone really think a playoff would stop the complaining around this time of year? No matter what, somebody on the margins will whine. The BCS chooses two teams to play for the national championship, and there's almost always a third team complaining about being left out. Expand to an eight-team playoff, and get ready for talk radio debates on how it's impossible for some committee to decide which two-loss team is the best.
So until someone comes up with an idea for how to make a playoff work, the BCS is the best we've got.
And the glass is half full. Lost in the bitchin' and moanin' is that the BCS, while far from perfect, is a significant improvement over the pre-Bowl Coalition/Alliance/BCS system. Here are the actual matchups for BCS games this year.
BCS Championship: Ohio State vs. Florida
Rose Bowl: Michigan vs. USC
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Notre Dame
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Boise State
Orange Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Louisville
Now check out what the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls would probably look like if were still playing under the rules of 15 years ago (with no BCS Championship game.) Of course, there was a Southwest Conference back then, but let's ignore that complication.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Notre Dame
Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. Auburn
Orange Bowl: Oklahoma vs. LSU
As champions of the Big Ten and Pac-10, respectively, Ohio State and USC would head to Pasadena. SEC winner Florida would go to New Orleans to take on an at-large foe, most likely bowl darling Notre Dame. Big 12 (formerly the Big 8) champ Oklahoma would go to Miami to take on LSU, which would probably get a nod because of its top-five ranking and its fans' willingness to travel. The Fiesta Bowl, one of the few bowls to give fat payouts without having automatic tie-ins, would have a hard time passing up Texas and Auburn, traditional powers with lots of fans willing to hop in the Winnebago and head to Glendale (thus guaranteeing a sellout).
Now, check out the good the BCS has done.
1. Without the BCS, it wouldn't even be possible for Michigan or Florida to play Ohio State. Florida would be tied to the Sugar Bowl. Looking for Michigan? You'd find the Wolverines in
2. Tampa. Without the BCS, Michigan would have gone there as a choice of the Outback Bowl (known as the Hall of Fame Bowl in 1991). The Big Ten had a tie-in, where the Hall of Fame Bowl selected the second Big Ten team. Think Wolverine fans are complaining now? Just imagine how that one would go over.
3. The BCS provides a perfect Sugar Bowl matchup: LSU and Notre Dame. The Sugar Bowl comes back to the Superdome with the local school playing against the nation's most famous Catholic school, in a heavily Catholic state that's spent most of the last year and a half talking to God. It gets no better than that, and 'twas only possible with the BCS. Otherwise, the purple and gold would spend New Year's scaring the bejeezus out of the "beautiful people" on South Beach. That would be really entertaining, but nothing like the Sugar Bowl.
4. The BCS gives a feel-good story -- Boise State gets a day on a grand stage and a fat check for its troubles. If the Broncos beat Oklahoma, it's a beautiful story. Should they be exposed, at least that's one less "what if?"
5. This year's Orange Bowl is the least sexy BCS matchup since Utah-Pittsburgh in the '04 Fiesta Bowl. But in a week when so many are crying about what team deserves to be in the BCS Championship Game, folks might want to remember the days when big-money bowls were only accountable to big boys and the bottom line. The Big East has been better than expected, but who really thinks Louisville would have gotten to the Orange Bowl without the BCS?
Go ahead and hate the BCS. Just don't forget that things could -- and have been -- worse.
And let me know when you're sure how to make things better.
Bomani Jones is a columnist for Page 2. Tell him how you feel at firstname.lastname@example.org.