Roy Kramer pleased with BCS

Roy Kramer never claimed the Bowl Championship Series was perfect, nor was he so naive as to think there wouldn't be some controversy along the way.

But, as college football bids adieu to the BCS on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif., when No. 1 Florida State faces No. 2 Auburn for the national championship, Kramer will know very contentedly that it served its purpose and, more times than not, served it well.

"Despite the criticism, I think perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the BCS was the increased interest in college football and elevating it to a national sport from a regional sport," said Kramer, who implemented the idea heading into the 1998 season.

"We were able to maintain the significance of the regular season, which was a goal. The regular season is the backbone of college football, so that was very important. And even though some people might say there are too many bowls, we were able to maintain and expand the bowl system. Look at the number of Mid-American Conference teams going to bowls now. And without the BCS, you never would have had Boise State playing Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl or Hawaii playing in the Sugar Bowl.

"Rather than it being restrictive, I think the BCS broadened college football."

Kramer, who's now retired, still follows college football as passionately as he ever did. He plans to be in Pasadena for the Vizio BCS National Championship and, perhaps fittingly, can't remember a more exciting finish to a regular season than this year's.

"The last three weeks of this season were about as good as it will ever get," Kramer said.

It's hard to argue that point when you consider some of the wild finishes, stunning upsets and memorable plays.

The pressure of trying to squeeze into those top two spots in the final BCS standings is not for the meek and has repeatedly produced its share of compelling drama down the stretch.

"The exciting thing has been to watch it work its way out as we got to the end of the regular season," Kramer said. "Even this year, everybody was moaning and groaning at one point that we might have eight undefeated teams and that it was going to be absolute chaos.

"A lot of times, what people forget is that the BCS was meant to determine the top two teams at the end of the year and not in October."

Kramer, the former SEC commissioner, knew that the end of the BCS was near and that a playoff was coming after Alabama and LSU wound up playing in a rematch for the national championship to cap the 2011 season.

"There wouldn't have been nearly as much pressure to go to a playoff had that not happened," Kramer said. "Everybody still would have been talking about it, and I'm not saying that it eventually wouldn't have happened, but that game certainly expedited it."

The outcry, at least outside the SEC's borders, was deafening. Alabama didn't even win its division championship that season and lost at home in November. Yet the Crimson Tide were able to forge a rematch with LSU, which won all 13 of its games that season against one of the most difficult schedules in the country.

Rather than it being restrictive, I think the BCS broadened college football.

-- Roy Kramer

Kramer understands how a lot of fans would be upset that the national championship game would be a rematch of two teams from the same conference, but he contends that the game that probably had more to do with reshaping college football's system for determining the national champion was Oklahoma State's upset loss to Iowa State that season.

"That was the game that changed the course of the discussion more than anything else," Kramer said. "That's the game that put Alabama back in the mix."

Kramer still chuckles over a conversation he had with a media member after Alabama's 21-0 win over LSU to win the 2011 national title.

"He called me and was talking about how terrible it was that Alabama and LSU would be in that game," Kramer recalled. "I asked him if he voted in the AP poll, and he said that he did. I asked him who he voted No. 1 and No. 2 in his final poll [before the final BCS standings coming out], and he said it was LSU and Alabama.

"He then quickly let me know, though, that he didn't think those two teams should be playing in the championship game. I told him I thought that was the purpose of it, to get the two best teams into that game."

One of the most frequent criticisms of the BCS has been that it's skewed in favor of the SEC, especially given the league's seven-year national championship streak.

Kramer, with his long SEC ties, counters, "It's so skewed that an unbeaten Auburn team was left out in 2004. People forget that.

"It's skewed toward the SEC because they've had better teams over time."

Kramer is like all college football fans. Even though the BCS was his baby, he's eager to see the College Football Playoff and how it changes the sport.

He has talked casually with a few of the members on the selection committee, and the only real advice he has for any of the decision-makers is to be wary of expanding the playoff.

"That's where they have to be careful," Kramer said. "Four is still a very tight fit. If you get beyond that, I think you cheapen the regular season at some point. Then it doesn't matter who wins the SEC championship game because both teams are going to go. I think you're hurting the game more than you're helping it."

And if fans think the controversy will subside with a playoff, they might want to think again.

As Kramer correctly points out, Alabama, Baylor, Michigan State, Ohio State and Stanford could all lay claim to those final two spots in the playoff this season.

Somebody's going to be left out.

"You're going to have three or four teams that look exactly alike, and what you're getting down to at the end of the year, to a great degree, is evaluating teams who all have one loss and have played different schedules," Kramer said. "I told somebody recently that schedule strength is always important if it's the other team. If it's your schedule strength, it's not important."

Ultimately, Kramer agrees that whom you beat and where you beat them should carry the most weight in selecting the teams.

"Conference championships are going to be important, and so is schedule strength, but those two don't always go hand-in-hand," Kramer said. "You might have a team with one loss that's played a whale of a schedule and another team that's unbeaten and won its conference championship. Where do you draw the line?

"Whichever way you go, you're going to be wrong. But that's OK. As we've seen with the BCS, a little controversy hasn't necessarily been a bad thing."