Despite BCS Decision, Small Universities Remain in the Shadows


After a constant outcry from universities, the general public, and even members of Congress, it seems that college football fans will finally get what they have wanted for years – a playoff system. As many teams grow excited and eagerly anticipate the use of the new format in the near future, others are still left with little chance of proving themselves to be the best in the nation.

The BCS rankings were first implemented in the 1998-99 season, and the controversy began almost immediately. Although Tennessee finished the year undefeated and won the national championship, Tulane finished the season with a 12-0 record and were not even invited to a BCS bowl game. The same scenario occurred the next year when Marshall defeated all of there opponents and were denied any shot at a BCS bowl game, let alone the national championship.

Further examples throughout the years include the 2004 and 2008 teams at Utah, who were invited to BCS bowl games, handily defeated their opponents, and were left watching the title game thinking of what might have been. Boise State, perhaps the most noted for their frustration with the rankings, went undefeated in 2006 and 2009, beating Oklahoma and TCU in thrilling fashion only to be denied a shot at the title. The Utes and the Bronocs have since left their conferences and joined the power conferences of the Pac-12 and the Big East, respectively, in hopes of fair treatment by belonging to a “power conference.”

The biggest controversy, and perhaps the catalyst for the decision made by the BCS committee, came during this past season. After a lot of shuffling of the rankings, the season ended with LSU as the only undefeated team, and two other teams with one-loss records: Alabama and Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State had won their conference title and boasted more notable wins than the Crimson Tide had on their record. What was more, they had already lost to LSU in a conference game earlier on in the season. Despite these factors, Alabama earned a trip to the title game and claimed the title with a 21-0 shutout of the previously undefeated Tigers.

Fast forward to the present; there is a four-team playoff coming, and the nation seems relieved to say the least. However, have we paused to consider that this still might not be the answer that we are looking for? When it came to the selection of the BCS bowl committee, power conferences were almost always favored and thus given better games to play in. How will the teams that finish the season undefeated who don’t belong to a major conference be treated fairly?

Another factor is the team’s strength of schedule. The committee said that the four teams would be selected on a variety of factors, including a strength of schedule. In 2006, Boise State had played nobody of note, yet defeated Oklahoma in one of the most memorable Fiesta Bowls to date. Smaller schools in less noted conferences will not be noticed until they begin to play stronger teams.

That was a problem for the Broncos back then. Nobody wanted to play them for fear of a loss. Smaller schools, unless they play into the evolution of conferences and the constant occurrence of realignment, will never have the opportunity to prove themselves to a committee.

Although a four-team playoff is definitely a step in the right direction, it may not be what we need. Unless the committee can find a way to accommodate these smaller teams, the playoff system may have to expand in order to ensure complete and fair treatment of all teams, no matter what the size of their university is.

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