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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Beginning in 2014, college football's national champion will be decided in a four-team, seeded playoff. Photo: Wikipedia)

Death to the BCS - finally!


It was a day that college football fans had longed for ever since the controversial Bowl Championship Series was rolled out in 1998.

The BCS, the architects of the plan argued, would always pit the No. 1 and No. 2 teams against each other to determine the national champion. In theory, this sounded like a great plan. After all, with the archaic Bowl Coalition, this was almost never accomplished.

"It's a best of both worlds result that capture the excitement of the playoff while keeping the best regular season in sports and the tradition of the bowls," according to Virginia Tech president Charles Steger on Tuesday. Steger and his colleagues on the BCS oversight committee announced that beginning in 2014, college football will finally have a four-team seeded playoff using two bowl games rotated between six sites, culminating in a true national championship game.

Of course, this common sense announcement wasn't that hard to come up with. All anyone had to do was open up their eyes to know that college football's postseason was broken. But lest anyone think that the BCS was the worst thing that ever happened to the game (aside from the rampant corruption and intelligence insulting lies that tried to justify its existence), choosing the national champion actually used to be even more nonsensical.

In 1990, Colorado and Georgia Tech split the national championship because while the Buffaloes were obligated to represent the Big Eight in the Orange Bowl, the Yellow Jackets were forced to represent the ACC in the Florida Citrus Bowl.

The very next season, Miami and Washington shared the national championship. The Hurricanes were obligated to play in the Orange Bowl while the Huskies were contractually forced to play in the Rose Bowl.

In 1994, Nebraska won the national championship even though Penn State was also undefeated.

After the 1994 season, the Bowl Coalition (which did not include the Pac-10 and the Big Ten conferences because of their long-standing ties to the Rose Bowl) was dismantled in favor of the Bowl Alliance.

Of course, the Bowl Alliance was no better, producing a split national championship between Nebraska and Michigan in 1997. In fact, only nine times in the 35 years between 1963 and 1997 did the No. 1 and No. 2 team meet in a bowl game. The vast majority of those times it was purely on accident.

This stroll down memory lane is tedious but important because the notion that the BCS is the worst blight to ever hit organized athletics is a total fallacy. The fact of the matter is that until the BCS was created, chaos reigned all over the college football world.

Enter Roy Kramer.

The grandfatherly native of the Eastern Tennessee town of Maryville, Kramer created a way for most of the bowl games to remain intact, but to advance the game beyond having split national champions year after year.

For the first time, there would be a true national championship game. For the first time, the Big Ten and Pac-10 were on board, irrespective of their New Year's Day Pasadena ties.

But while the BCS always accomplished its promised goal of No. 1 and No. 2, the mechanisms to achieving that led to more controversies than anyone could have imagined. In addition, even the contests within the BCS not designated as that season's title game were overrun by controversy.

In 1998, Kansas State, the No. 3 team in the final BCS standings had to play in the Alamo Bowl while lesser ranked Ohio State and Florida both played in the BCS.

Two seasons later, Florida State leapfrogged over Miami for the right to play in the championship game despite the Seminoles losing head-to-head to the Hurricanes in the regular season. Both teams finished with one loss, and Miami finished No. 2 in the human polls.

The humans were overruled by the computers.

To even further complicate matters, Miami's one loss came to another one-loss team, Washington. In reality, there were three teams with a legitimate claim on No. 2 at the end of the regular season.

In 2001, Nebraska advanced to the national championship game despite not even winning their own division, much less their own conference. Again, the human polls, which ranked the Cornhuskers No. 4, were "corrected" by the computers.

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