Executive director Hancock defends BCS
As the 14th season of college football’s Bowl Championship Series gets ready for this week’s opening kickoff, I know there are some fans who wish the game followed the same postseason format as NCAA basketball. As great as playoffs can be, a football tournament would do immense damage to the best regular season in all of sports and it would end America’s bowl tradition as we know it.
College football is unique and that’s what makes it so special. No sport has a regular season as exciting as college football’s, in large part because football does not have a postseason tournament. The focus is on four months, rather than four weeks.
Every game counts in college football’s regular season. Any tournament-style format would quickly diminish the value of football’s unique regular season, especially the frequently touted 8- or 16-team formats.
The BCS championship game, which last year matched Oregon and Auburn, was watched by more people than the World Series, the NBA finals, the Stanley Cup finals, and the NCAA basketball finals too. Attendance at regular-season college football games last year hit a record high of 37.7 million people.
The sport is thriving. College football works and works well, because of its unique regular season and because of the bowl tradition and bowl experience for the student-athletes. No other sport has a structure or a history like college football, although every sport does have something special about its postseason. As the person who managed the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for 13 years and who now administers the BCS college football championship game, I think the differences among the sports should be celebrated, not vilified.
What works in football may not work in basketball, and vice-versa.
For example, the men’s college basketball championship game this year came down to a contest between #21 Connecticut and unranked Butler. As reported in the Wall Street Journal last spring, the equivalent championship game in football would have been between Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois. In college football, the best teams are identified by their performance over an entire season – not because they happened to get hot for a while. Other postseasons have distinctive features as well. The National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association are unusual because a majority of teams, 53 percent, qualify for the postseason. In the NFL last year, the NFC West winner, the Seattle Seahawks, made the playoffs with a 7-9 record, while five teams with better records, including one 10-6 team, did not.
I say vive la difference.
College basketball and college football are different creatures with singular cultures and traditions and there’s no reason they should become carbon copies of each other. But, as sports fans have proven, you can still love them both.
Bill Hancock is the executive director of the Bowl Championship Series.
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