Posted: Wednesday December 8, 2010 12:58PM ; Updated: Wednesday December 8, 2010 2:01PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

A radical proposal for improving the BCS process; more mail

Story Highlights

Eliminating automatic bids would create more satisfying BCS matchups

Oregon's path to the championship game is among the easiest of all time

Boise State will prove more by facing 10-2 Utah than a 7-5 ACC team

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If the BCS system did not include automatic bids, the Fiesta Bowl could have passed on Jordan Todman and 8-4 Connecticut.
If the BCS system did not include automatic bids, the Fiesta Bowl could have passed on Jordan Todman and 8-4 Connecticut.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

To my surprise, this year's "morning after" inbox on the Monday following the announcements of the bowl pairings did not overflow with the usual anti-BCS venom. But people are obviously frustrated with many of the matchups, and I am too. So much so, in fact, that I'm here to propose a radical overhaul to the BCS selection process.

The prevailing thought seems to be that the BCS conferences would never give up the automatic-qualifying status for conference champions. However, do the bowls hold any sway in BCS negotiations? At this point, the Orange Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl are probably tired of hosting subpar teams from the Big East and ACC.
-- James, Ann Arbor

You'd be surprised by how little sway the bowls have when it comes to BCS decisions. Their execs are in the room for meetings. They make suggestions. They're in constant contact with their respective conference partners. But for the most part the conferences dictate almost all BCS policy, and the bowls themselves hold little leverage. What are they going to do, drop out and pass up the opportunity to host the national championship game?

But something needs to be done to give the BCS games more flexibility with their matchups. This year, the Sugar Bowl was the only one of the four with any freedom in its selections. The Rose Bowl was obligated to take TCU. The Orange Bowl was obligated to take either Stanford (since it finished in the top four) or Big East champ Connecticut. The Fiesta Bowl had to take whichever one was left. Meanwhile the Gator Bowl, which offers one-fourth the payout of a BCS game, had its choice of at least two SEC teams (Mississippi State and Tennessee) and three Big Ten teams (Michigan, Iowa and Northwestern), chose the Bulldogs and Wolverines and will likely sell out for the second straight year. Think the Oklahoma-UConn Fiesta Bowl will sell out? Think that bowl would voluntarily choose that matchup?

My proposal: Eliminate automatic bids altogether. Are they really necessary at this point? The Big Ten and SEC are going to get their two berths most years regardless. The Pac-10 will always have the Rose Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl would continue its Big 12 affiliation (or if not, the Orange Bowl would gladly step in) and perhaps even start an informal alliance with the Mountain West and BYU. The only leagues in danger some years would be the ACC and Big East, but remember that in four of the five seasons prior to this one the Big East's champ was ranked in the top 10. Those teams all would have been selected regardless of AQ status.

I'd also suggest lifting the limit on teams per conference. And structuring the revenue distribution so no one goes broke, just as Notre Dame and the five non-AQ leagues are assured a share every year now regardless of whether they qualify a team. The same would hold true if the Big East didn't send a team one year -- it wouldn't get a full share, but it wouldn't be left for broke, either.

Under this system, and assuming roughly the same selection order, we could have had the following more logical, enticing pairings this year:

Rose: 11-1 Wisconsin vs. 11-1 Stanford

Fiesta: 11-2 Oklahoma vs. 12-0 TCU

Sugar: 11-1 Ohio State vs. 10-2 Arkansas

Orange: 11-2 Virginia Tech vs. 10-2 LSU

About the only negative is that Michigan State still gets shafted. The Orange would probably go for the closer team with the more ravenous fan base. But that's also kind of the point: The bowls would go back to being able to create the matchups they prefer rather than being pigeonholed by BCS constraints.

Stewart, I'm pretty new to college football but I've been really enjoying what I've seen. A lot of long-time fans I know keep griping about the BCS and how the bowls are divvied out. If the BCS had never been, and the bowls functioned like they did in 1994, how would today's postseason look? Do you think, this year at least, it would be any better than what we have now?
-- E Blaine, Prineville, Ore.

I love playing this game! Mind you, it's hard to replicate exactly because the Southwest Conference still existed in '94 and the Cotton Bowl was still on par with the other four big games.

But I have to say, with this year's teams, it would not have been very satisfying. For one, the matchups aren't that much better than they are now. And with Auburn currently No. 1 in the AP poll and bound to the Sugar Bowl and Oregon at No. 1 in the coaches' poll and bound to the Rose Bowl, we'd be looking at a possible split national championship.

Using AP rankings:

Rose: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 4 Wisconsin

Orange: No. 9 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 Virginia Tech

Sugar: No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 6 Ohio State

Cotton: No. 3 TCU vs. No. 8 Arkansas

Fiesta: No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 17 Nebraska

How did 8-4 Temple get left out of the bowls? I thought there was a rule that said 6-6 teams could only be selected if there weren't any eligible 7-5 or better teams left. Since I'm too lazy to look it up and you're getting paid anyway, could you explain?
-- Alex, Pickerington, Ohio

There was such a rule as of last year, but the Big 12 quietly pushed through a piece of NCAA legislation last offseason that basically says all at-large teams shall be treated equally -- the idea being, 6-6 Kansas State is going to buy more tickets to a bowl game than 7-5 Louisiana-Lafayette, so why force the issue. I don't disagree, but it's a little harder to stomach when the excluded party is an 8-4 team that beat BCS participant Connecticut by two touchdowns.

It came down to the fact that the MAC had four teams that finished 8-4 or better but only three guaranteed spots. With no such restrictions in place, the New Orleans Bowl wound up the only game this year with a true at-large spot and chose 8-4 Ohio over 8-4 Temple, primarily because the Bobcats beat the Owls during the season.

If this had been last year, someone would have had to select Temple before 6-6 Clemson or Georgia Tech could get a bid. The ACC had nine eligible teams for eight spots. The ACC has a contingency deal to fill the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl's vacant Pac-10 spot, which it did with 7-5 BC, but last year the 6-6 rule would have taken precedent. Realistically, the ACC teams and Temple would have all gotten bids, while 6-6 Middle Tennessee -- a surplus Sun Belt team that got in because of that league's contingency deal with the Little Caesars Bowl -- would have been left out.

 
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