Could the BCS Save the Bowl System – by Destroying It?

USA Today recently revealed a document that basically lays out what the conference commissioners are looking at with regards to changes to the BCS. I’ll take a look at the playoff proposals contained therein at a later date, but for the moment I want to take a look at the other thing the document reveals: proposed changes to the bowls that wouldn’t be part of a playoff.

Although much has been made of the possibility of the BCS managing only the national championship game, if, as seems likely, the BCS commissioners go to some form of plus-one, the current five-bowl BCS would ultimately go in the opposite direction and be expanded to, in addition to the national championship game, five, six or even ten games, including the semi-finals. Rather than having bowls draft teams as happens now under the BCS, or having convoluted tie-in structures determine nearly random matchups as happens now for the non-BCS bowls, a committee would determine which teams would go to these bowls, with an aim of creating “evenly matched and attractive” games in geographically appropriate locations.

This gets to the heart of why the BCS, for so long adamant that they would never institute a playoff of any sort, is now almost certain to institute the plus-one. It’s not declining ratings for the BCS itself – that’s a predictable result of the BCS’ move to cable. It’s the increasing triviality of the bowls, where more than half the teams in FBS are going to a bunch of meaningless games no one cares about. This option where the BCS would create eight non-semifinal bowls smacks of the BCS taking over the entire bowl system by monopolizing most of the Top 25, unifying it under a single banner and creating more interest, while having the BCS committee take over the setting of bowl matchups could result in the best slate of games we’ve ever had, largely helping to justify the bowls’ continued existence and in part restoring what the lesser bowls looked like before the maze of conference tie-ins took hold. It could conceivably even be seen as setting the stage for a later expansion of the playoff to eight or sixteen teams.

It also occurs to me that by trying to make these bowls “evenly matched”, the most likely result is going to be similar to what the bowl system would look like if there were only two conferences on the top level of a promotion-relegation system. Maybe, in the long run, that dream isn’t so crazy after all.

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