To BCS or Not to BCS
by Jim Alderson, 6/5/01

I read Wayne Crumpís recent Voice of the Fan article with great interest. It was an impressive piece that clearly demonstrated that Wayne had given the bowl selection process a great deal of thought. He is to be congratulated, although I would point out that I beg to disagree.

I am an aficionado of bowl games and trips, and really donít care for anything, such as even a pseudo-playoff, that screws with them. While I can be numbered among those who probably would follow Tech around the country more than once per year to observe Hokie post-season football, the single trip to an interesting location (although I could have wished for warmer Jacksonville weather, and did) is my football vehicle of choice. The lack of a playoff is what makes college footballís regular season the most compelling around. Teams have an eleven, soon to be twelve, game playoff. My feeling also remains that the playoff issue will be resolved within a decade or so with the evolution of a Division I-A Super Division of four sixteen-team conferences, with the four championship game winners advancing to a three-game BCS.

Wayneís proposal would make the BCS more inclusive with the addition of the non-BCS conferences. That ain't gonna happen. Aside from the fact that, for instance, two of last yearís second-tier conference champions, Marshall and Louisville, had no business anywhere near the BCS (speaking of the Cards, I canít begin to tell you how elated I was to read of Louisvilleís football coach telling alumni gatherings that it was vitally important for good old Loserville to gain admittance to the Big East, as continued membership in CUSA just wasnít going to cut it. I for one would be in favor of inviting the U of L hierarchy to Providence as long as I could watch them grovel and beg for admission, and then be told to take a hike. Well, well, guess what has come around, Cards?) and TCU did a fine job of playing themselves out of contention; the current football landscape is about exclusion, not the other way.

College football has basically evolved into a Division I-A+, consisting of the six BCS conferences, and a DI-A-, where CUSA, the MAC and WAC along with the Mountain Something, and the latest addition, the Sun Belt, comprised of a bunch of hyphens and directions, reside. These six big leagues are hoarding the better bowl bids and the lionís share of television cash. Since Tech is a member of the Big Six, it works for me. Any proposal that informs the Lord of College Football Roy Kramer that a nickel of what accrues to the fattest of football fat cats, the SEC, will be diverted to a Tulane or East Carolina is going to be dismissed out of hand. The task of the day is whittling down the numbers, as the BE has done in solving its Temple problem, and the proposal, by the SEC, naturally, to set standards for I-A that a lot of the lower-tier schools canít meet. It is unfortunate for those not residing in a BCS conference, but that is life. Title IX is forcing the rich to get richer, and they are doing just that. A basketball-style playoff and/or division of the pot would negatively impact those huge budgets in the SEC and Big 11, and they are not going to allow it.

There are bowl problems, to be sure, most emanating from conference tie-ins that tend to wed the same teams to the same bowls. I had been in favor of a proposal floated that would have created a secondary BCS among the Gator, Citrus, Cotton and Holiday that would have chosen from a pool of non-BCS qualifiers. A holiday trip to Orlando would be a nice one, and no doubt the restaurateurs, hoteliers and barkeeps around Disney would welcome the twenty-five thousand Tech fans arriving with open arms, but that proposal got nowhere, primarily due to the Big East, which, at the moment, only has one school whose fans travel, and the ACC, which has two. And one does wonder how the FSU faithful will react if they find themselves in Jacksonville this year instead of their usual New Orleans or Miami destinations, which might very well happen. The Citrus has a very good deal going with its SEC/Big 11 contract, guaranteeing large traveling parties from both conferences, and with only a minimal risk of getting Northwestern and a non-existent one of having to take Vanderbilt. They were not about to jeopardize that by running the risk of getting stuck not with Tech, Clemson or the Noles, but with Miami, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, along with, although it does seem a remote possibility these days, the Hoos or Heels.

The bowl contract business is liable to be a tricky one for Mikey. Notre Dame has saved the Gator bid, but the Music City, irked that they didnít get Tech every year, has ditched the BE in favor of the large alumni bases found in the Big 11. Geography has made attendance at the Insight dreadful, and since in three years they havenít once gotten the big television draw of the Canes or Irish, the future of that bid has to be considered iffy. Mikey has his work cut out for him finding sufficient bowl bids. Last year, a bowl-eligible Syracuse team was ignored due to their inability to sell more than a handful of bowl tickets, and one can imagine the horror in Jacksonville and Nashville if Temple somehow lucks into a bowl this year. A lack of BE bowl bids is a situation that is liable to bite us one of these days.

With all due respect to Wayne and his fine piece, I really donít see it happening. What I do see is gravitation by the power conferences to a posture that puts even more distance between them and the others, to in the end, a super conference with built-in championship games that will go a long way toward solving the playoff question. What is needed is a rotational system among the second-tier bowls to allow for more travel variety, but, unfortunately, that doesnít seem to be in the near future. The ideal solution, of course, is for Tech to win the BE every year, since I doubt I will ever grow tired of trips to New Orleans and Miami. And I sure would like to visit Pasadena.

Jim Alderson, who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports.  While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1.  For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.


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