• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

BCS vs. Playoffs

Matt Yglesias makes an interesting point with regards the BCS format that the top division of college football uses to determine its national championship:

Perhaps the most damning quick observation you can make about the BCS system is that in the twelve meetings between the number one ranked team and the number two ranked team, the number two ranked team has won the game exactly six times. If #2 is better than #1 half the time, then who’s to say how often #3 hasn’t been better than #2?

That’s a fair point and, essentially, the reason that I support a playoff.  That, and the fact that undefeated teams from weak conferences have no real shot at advancing to the title game and that once-beaten teams from great conferences are essentially eliminated from contention in most years, despite being arguably better than the teams that advance.

But that doesn’t mean that the chief argument in favor of the current system — that it preserves the integrity of the regular season, essentially turning every game into a playoff — doesn’t have merit.

This weekend’s NFL playoffs gave us an excellent case study of that.  The Seattle Seahawks, which finished atop the atrocious NFC West despite a 7-9 record, became the first team with a losing record to advance to the playoffs , despite teams with 10 wins having to stay home and watch them on television.  They hosted the 11-5 New Orleans Saints in a single-elimination game.   Not only did the Saints have four more wins during the regular season, among them was a 34-19 shellacking of those Seahawks.    Naturally, Seattle won the rematch and will advance.

Did TCU deserve a shot to play for the national championship?  They did.  But even a four game playoff would have included once-beaten Stanford, which had been creamed by Oregon the first weekend in October.  Why should Stanford have gotten a rematch as equals?

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Janis Gore says:

    A better question is what to serve for dinner that won’t interrupt the game. Pizza is out. The husband doesn’t care that much for cheese.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  2. PD Shaw says:

    It’s Monday, so red beans and rice?

    Yeah, too late to soak ‘em.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  3. Ernieyeball says:

    “…top division of college football…”
    Apparently the author is confused.
    There is a top division to NCAA college football. It is Division I. Division I is divided into two subdivisions. The FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision). The only NCAA Division I Championship game has already been played.
    What school did Joyner go to, Wossamotta U?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  4. Janis Gore says:

    Solved. Steak and potatoes. Those SEC fans need to keep up their strength.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  5. tom p says:

    While I understand and sympathize with all the calls for a championship game, isn’t this “collegiate athletics”? (emphasis on the “collegiate”).

    I also understand that these colleges make millions off of these players and the players are PROHIBITED from making so much as one thin dime from their exploits.

    (and you thought slavery went out of fashion with the Emancipation Declaration…. HA!)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Ernieyeball says:

    Don’t know that Black slaves in the US ever had the opportunity for a top notch University education. Seems I read some states made it illegal to teach slaves how to read.
    I think you may be overstating the dire straits of today’s varsity athletes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Trumwill says:

    Tom, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get a DIME playing right tackle for my junior high school football team. Sure, the school lost money on the team, but unlike most college programs they didn’t lose millions.

    Oh, and what Ernie said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Trumwill says:

    That is precisely why I am against a playoff system.

    If you want to watch a regular season of marginal or moderate importance followed by a post-season where a hot streak crowns a team “champion”, you can follow any other sport. Why turn college football into what everything else is? It’s the only system where the fear of losing out on a championship exists with every single game.

    Had there been a 4-team playoff, there would have been a fierce debate over the 4th team. During the Nevada game, one guy was saying the fourth slot should go to Alabama. You’d have to go to 8 teams then, moving first base to 91 feet cause of all those ties at 90. Then 16 teams. And if the FCS is any indication, even more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  9. tom p says:

    >>>Don’t know that Black slaves in the US ever had the opportunity for a top notch University education. Seems I read some states made it illegal to teach slaves how to read.
    I think you may be overstating the dire straits of today’s varsity athletes.<<<

    First off: Who said slaves have to be black?

    Ernie (and trumwill) I am definitely overstating the dire straights of todays college athletes…

    but consider:

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/frank_deford/01/06/ncaa.money/index.html

    These "colleges" sell their athletes uniforms after a game for who knows how much money…

    HOWEVER, God forbid that one of these athletes should try to make a little money off of what they do on the field of play.

    Considering the fact that any of these athletes are one play away from the dust bowl of history (ACL anyone?) I find it unconscionable that universities make millions off these guys and they are not allowed to make a thousand.

    In most of the world, profiting off the labor of another is supposed to impart a renumerance (sp?)(word?) College football is no longer about an education…. it is about money pure and simple.

    Which is why I said:

    "isn’t this “collegiate athletics”? (emphasis on the “collegiate”).I also understand that these colleges make millions off of these players and the players are PROHIBITED from making so much as one thin dime from their exploits."

    Yes, it is a little over the top, but these guys are selling their bodies…. and?????

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Nightrider says:

    Isn’t the more relevant question for this forum why this colossal money-making machine is still tax-exempt?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Ernieyeball says:

    Q: Who says slaves have to be black?
    A: These guys.

    Constitution of the Confederate States of America
    Article I, Sec. 9, Par. 4
    No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. tom p says:

    “Q: Who says slaves have to be black?
    A: These guys.”

    Ernie…

    Dead on….
    but not quite..

    Read Rome, Athens,….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. superdestroyer says:

    Most schools lose money on sports. If the football teams loses money does that mean that the players have to reimburse the school.

    Any who believes that college sports makes money does not follow the sport. Out of the 100+ Division I-A (old term) only about twenty break even on sports. If not for the tax deductible contribution, no school would make money.

    Most college students are being charged to maintain the athletic department when no money flows from the athletic department to the university.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. LaurenceB says:

    Why turn college football into what everything else is? It’s the only system where the fear of losing out on a championship exists with every single game.

    – Trumwill

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Trumwill is not an alumni of one of the dozens of college football teams that belong to non-BCS conferences. For those teams there is no “fear of losing out on a championship” with each game. For them, that possibility never existed. It truly does not matter whether they win or lose – they have effectively been eliminated from the championship before the season starts.

    And, as Dr. Joyner noted, that’s one big reason why the current system sucks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. LaurenceB says:

    And, yes, I am not watching the game tonight. Why should I? By Trumwill’s logic, TCU already won the championship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Nightrider says:

    >>>.Any who believes that college sports makes money does not follow the sport.<<<<

    Right, just like the Steinbrenners and their creative accountants. College sports overall may not make money at least on paper (after they claim the expense of all of the scholarships), but the typical FBS football programs make a lot of money and I guess they don't pay any taxes on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Ernieyeball says:

    Athens GA yes. Rome NY no.
    I said Black slaves in the United States.
    I guess I was trying to keep the discussion in the family.
    If you want to compare today’s NCAA college jocks to Spartacus go for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Trumwill says:

    Laurence, you should be careful with that limb_climbing cause you might injure yourself. In actuality, I am an alum of an FBS non-AQ school. I wish there were a way to give TCU and my alma mater a chance at a national title without also giving teams a fourth chance not to lose a game and still be champs, but there isn’t. Playoffs, once instituted, expand. And suddenly little else really matters. Right now, the Boise States can either go crazy with their BCS Bowl win or they can drop down to FCS and play in a tournament. That will have to do.

    Nightrider, schools use creative accounting in the other direction. It looks bad when you’re sinking money into an athletics program that doesn’t support itself financially. So they pretend they’re doing okay and not losing millions of dollars. It’s always the outside auditors and analysts that release the dreary reports.

    Tom, the money the program makes is often used to try to just pay the bills or for those few programs making money end up putting it back into the university and facility that the players benefit from. There is a wrench in the system, but it’s not the NCAA. It’s the NFL for not allowing players to go pro immediately. It would be better if 18-20yo had the option of playing for money. But it’s not up to the NCAA to provide that option.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. superdestroyer says:

    Nightriders,

    The typical Division I-A (FBS) school loses millions on its athletic program. Every school in the five non-BCS lose money. In addition, every conference has schools that lose money such as Wake Forest Maryland, Texas Tech, Stanford, Northwestern, Washington State, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, South Florida, etc).

    Most schools transfer millions in students fees to the athletic program. The average student is paying 100′s per year for the privilege of having Div I sports. Also, schools sell loses for around $400K a game that is why Louisiana Tech play two or three SEC schools every year.

    Also, all of the athletic programs do not have to pay for all of their expenses. The money made by the Penn State, Texas, or Auburn football programs does not cover the stadium construction and maintenance costs.

    People need to remember that the coaches are not employees of the universities but actually independent contractors who work for the athletic foundation when that athletic foundation is a separate not-for-profit corporation from the university.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0