LESSON II: Why It's Unsatisfactory
In its early form the BCS title game was meant to match up the top two teams in the polls. However, the AP and the football writers who vote in its poll balked. "They wanted to report the news, not make it," says Kramer. So a system was created that used not only the two polls but also computer rankings, which have become the biggest target on the BCS's back, for an obvious reason. "The system couldn't guarantee a One versus Two," says Tranghese. "We knew that from the beginning."
The public would like a full-blown eight- or 16-team playoff. "We're not going there; the presidents do not want it," says Pac10 commissioner Tom Hansen, voicing the BCS's mantra, usually couched in worry for the players' classroom schedule (sidebar, left).
The oft-discussed compromise is one extra game, played after the bowls, that matches the two teams still standing at No. 1 and No. 2. But while the BCS has agreed to add a fifth game for its next contract, that game does not create this hoped-for "plus-one" system. "That's also a playoff," says Hansen. "We aren't going there, either. ABC kept coming back to us with the plus-one, but it's not going to happen."
However, Miami president Donna Shalala suggests that the plus-one will not die easily. "We at Miami do not support a playoff bowl game," Shalala told SI. "But I think it's going to be a significant issue in the near future. There are going to be discussions."
LESSON III: Who's Left Out
Conferences outside the power six have sought access to the BCS bowls (and their money) from the start, and the fifth game, with two more at-large spots, is meant to meet that demand. But what the outsiders really want is the football equivalent of the NCAA basketball tournament's automatic bid. "The lower-level BCS-conference teams can be 1--10 every year but someday rise up and get a chance that we don't get," says Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson. "It's all about access for us."
Why? Obviously, playing on the national stage boosts a program's profile. But the immediate, tangible payoff is even more important. Consider that the BCS currently throws the Mountain West and four other mid-major Division IA conferences a $1,050,000 annual bone. In the Mountain West that money is split among eight teams, in shares of $131,250. A Fiesta Bowl berth for Utah would bring the Utes more than $5 million and its conference brethren no less than $1 million.
BCS conferences budget this type of money every year. "We always count on X dollars in revenue sharing," says Virginia Tech AD Jim Weaver. When the Hokies went to the national title game in '99 they earned more than $4 million. More than $1.5 million of that went to improving football facilities and coaches' salaries.
"I don't like the fact that we can't pay our assistant coaches enough," says Meyer. "That money would make a difference."