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You Can Put Lipstick On It, But It's Still The BCS

The 2004 Auburn Tigers: The Best of the BCS Era?

By Jay Coulter

For the past week or so, media outlets around the country have marked the 10th anniversary of the BCS by writing glowingly about the virtues of the flawed system. The same writers who have pleaded for a playoff system have suddenly turned nostalgic. While admitting there are obvious flaws, most have rushed to point out the excitement it has brought to college football.  

The SEC commissioner has gotten in on the act. "Even the most cynical person," Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said, "has got to admit it has contributed to the excitement and popularity of college football."  

That's akin to saying that O.J. Simpson made murder popular again in the early 1990's. Just because it's exciting doesn't mean it's right. It's no surprise that Slive would make those comments. He hardly protested when Auburn was left out of the mix in 2004.

I listened to Beano Cook on a podcast today touting the greatness of the BCS and he made an important point, even though he didn't get it. Cook pointed out that the BCS was designed to match number one against number two and that's all. According to Cook, it has delivered. I know Beano is getting long in the tooth, but even he must remember back to 2004. Did the BCS really deliver the second best team to face USC for the title? 

Seemingly letting his guard down recently, Big East commissioner Mike Trangehese admitted that the BCS was not what the fans wanted. "My gut instinct is that the vast majority of people would want a playoff," said Tranghese. "But this isn't about giving people what they want. I just don't believe that. This is about creating a model that works and is in the best interest, hopefully, of student-athletes." 

Support for the BCS has been mixed in the SEC. And it's easy to see why. Many believed the BCS would be a death nail to the SEC. Some reasoned that the conference schedules were much too difficult to produce undefeated teams on a yearly basis. They were right. Where they were wrong was in thinking that teams had to be undefeated to play for a title.  

Since its inception in 1998, the BCS has delivered four national championships to the SEC - Tennessee (1998), LSU (2003), Florida (2006) and LSU (2007). Only Tennessee went undefeated in its championship season. 

Like everything else in life, the BCS wins out because of money. And many credit the three letter acronym with pushing up the ratings and the revenue. Whether that's true is open to interpretation. Many will point to the improved play on the field and the arrival of the superstar coach. Look down the names of the head coaches in the SEC and it's a who's who of the coaching profession. They have become stars in their own right, which only makes the game bigger. 

From a ratings standpoint, College football now trails only the NFL in popularity - its numbers are bigger than Major League Baseball, the NBA and NASCAR.  Let there be no mistake, college football is big business. While the BCS has undoubtedly contributed, it's hard to give all the credit to this system created by former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer. 

Here's an interesting side note. Last week, a panel of ESPN "experts" got together to pick the best SEC teams of the BCS era. What SEC national champion won the honor? None of the above. The panel chose the 2004 undefeated Auburn team as it's best. Considering it was the only undefeated team besides Tennessee, its hard to argue the pick. 

The BCS is without question flawed - when you get right down to it, it's just plain idiotic. But we are stuck with it. The university presidents recently agreed to stick with the system for the next five years. Other teams will get screwed, the system will be tweaked yet again and we may still get no closer to a playoff to pick a real champion. 

After all, money talks. Thanks Roy.