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'Tis The Season' To Be Grumbling (for college football fans)

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BCS Coaches Trophy.
BCS Coaches Trophy.

It's that time of the year again. You know ... that time. The time college football fans become grumpy and begin grumbling over the BCS and bowl selections.

Since 1992 it has become a college football tradition. Fans gather around their TV sets expectantly awaiting the news... Who will be placed in each of the major bowls? And of course the really big question... "What two teams will be placed in the Mythical National Championship game?"

And this year's results masterfully set the stage for a significant part of the college football world to grumble.

That grumbling was set off by the closest margin of difference (.0086) between No. 2 and No.3 in the history of the Bowl Championship Series. The second closest margin was between Auburn and Okalahoma in 2004 (.0157). Cries have been pouring forth since Sunday about changing the rules to prevent a recurrence of this year's debacle.

Nonetheless there has always been controversy over the ranking and subsequent Division 1 National Champions. No matter what tweaking to the present formula may take place there will always be controversy. It has always been that way and I expect it always will be that way. At least until the highly unlikely formation of a true playoff.

The BCS has gone through several evolutions since it's ancestor, The Bowl Coalition was formed in 1992. The Coalition evolved into the Bowl Championship Alliance (1995-1997) which in 1998 gave way to the current Bowl Championship Series.

As an Auburn fan, I may be in the minority in making the following statement. But I like the BCS. Sure I was disappointed in being left out in 2004. But I was also disappointed prior to the BCS when Auburn was flagrantly snubbed by the voters in 1983 despite playing the toughest schedule in college football.

The difference between the two was that in 2004 we had some type of structure, some rules that everyone understood going into the season. Every one played by the rules and Auburn came up short just like Oklahoma Sate did this year. Fair? No way. But I could live with it because it was so much better than what we had before.

Before the BCS, there were a myriad of different sources picking national champions. Many years there were several schools claiming an MNC from one of those sources.

In addition, there were so many times in the history of D-1 football that teams were shafted out of possible National Championships. Penn State for example had three undefeated seasons without being recognized as No.1. However, South Eastern (and to a lesser extent South Western) teams were more often than not the victims of the snub.

It would take too much space to site all chapter and verses here but the most glaring snub in my life time came when the press decided that the "game of the century" was played in 1966 between Notre Dame and Michigan State.

The Irish coach, Ara Parseighan went for a tie and the game ended 10-10. Back then Notre Dame (9-0-1) refused to play in Bowl games yet was still selected by the voters as the National Champs with Michigan State No.2. What was wrong with that scene? Only that the undefeated and two time defending national champs Alabama (11-0) was placed No.3 after beating Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl 35-7. I mean how can one snub a reigning undefeated champ? I can't answer that one and neither can anyone else. But that was the kind of mess that existed prior to the BCS.

The BCS has leveled that playing field for all the teams not located in the Northeast or West Coast. In fact, in the 14 years of the BCS, Texas has made two appearances and Florida State has made three. More importantly, the SEC has had 8 National Champions including six in a row from 2006-2011. There is no way the SEC would have that type of record in the old system.

Yet the BCS is nearly always controversial despite their purported purpose of finding a true National Champion.

Now this year it's the Oklahoma State Cowboys that have had their Christmas stolen by the pollster Grinch. Nevertheless, I'm not here to address the pro's and con's of whether Bama or OSU deserves to be there. That horse has been beaten nearly to death since Sunday night.

Quite frankly any reasonable person would have to concede that as in most years, at least two teams have legitimate arguments as to why they should get the nod. However, as SEC Commissioner Mike Slive proposed to the NCAA in 2008 and Pat Dye opined in an editorial this week - all this could be settled easily enough. Simply have a 4+1 playoff. I know, I know. There would still be controversy, just as there continued to be after the formation of the Coalition, the Alliance, and the BCS.

But the way you eat an elephant is one bite at a time. The bowls, the TV networks, and the big colleges/conferences are not going to agree to a real playoff any time soon. So it's time for the next evolution toward a playoff - the implementing of the 4+1 system. Down the road there could be an 8+1, and then a12+1 and so on - you get the picture. The system would not be perfect either but it would result in a better chance of getting a real champion as well as moving us toward the ultimate goal of a legitimate playoff.

Using this year for an example scenario, No.1 LSU could play No.4 Stanford in the Sugar Bowl. No.2 Alabama could play No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Rose Bowl. And the winners of those games meet a week to 10 days later in the BCS Championship game. Then next year the Orange and the Fiesta would get the first round of playoffs and the BCS championship rotates to the next bowl in the rotation just as it does now.

Would it do away with the controversy? No it would not. But an argument over who should be No. 4 is not nearly as critical as who should be chosen to play in the de facto national championship game.

Just as with the NCAA basketball selection some team is always going to be on the bubble - no matter where you draw the line. However, that bubble should not be the final game. It's time that the BCS evolves once again. The time for revision of the BCS has come. The time for the 4+ 1 playoff is here. In fact it's way over due.