Proposal for 16-Team NCAA Div. I-A Football Tournament and Termination of BCS
League of Fans – December 19, 2003
– A. Concerns with the BCS
– B. Preferences for Reform
– C. 16-team Tournament Format
– D. Example of Tournament
– E. Addressing Some Playoff Concerns
– F. Explanation of Scheduling
– G. Example of Scheduling
– H. Conclusions
III. Take Action!
– A. Contact NCAA President Myles Brand
– B. Email Dennis L. Poppe of the NCAA Division I Football Issues Committee
– C. Contact the commissioners of the six BCS conferences
– D. Contact Congress
While no system for Division I-A college football could be perfect for determining a national champion while protecting all interests of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member institutions, student-athletes, bowl games and consumers (fans), the current system is an absolute debacle. It is the position of League of Fans that the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) be terminated and replaced with a 16-team tournament for deciding a national champion, among other changes, that would best account for the needs of everyone.
Div. I-A college football needs a system overhaul and a change toward values that aren’t solely based on money and greed. In short, League of Fans favors: eliminating the BCS; shortening the regular season to 11 games; ending conference championship games; instituting an NCAA sanctioned 16-team tournament, separate from the bowl system, with inclusive provisions for the traditionally strong conferences as well as the traditionally overlooked conferences; giving home field advantage to higher ranked teams in the rounds of 16, 8 and 4; choosing a neutral site for the championship game, with a January bowl game as an option; inviting deserving teams not playing in the tournament to play in the bowl games; and distributing all revenues from the tournament and bowl games fairly and equally to all Div. I-A institutions.
Some of the benefits to such a system would be: an undisputed national champion decided on the field of play through a fair and inclusive tournament; the opportunity for fans and media to follow possible “Cinderella” teams; fewer games overall, benefiting the “student” aspect of student-athlete; even distribution of money; less reliance on bowl game pay-outs; less discrimination against what are currently non-BCS schools; a system under the control of the NCAA rather than a self-serving cartel; a greater value placed on winning one’s conference; deterrents toward excessive head coaching salaries and football “arms race” spending; and less professionalization and over-commercialization of college football.
Details of our concerns with the BCS and our preference for a 16-team tournament are explained in the following proposal.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader. Among the broad range of issues in sports that we work to influence are eliminating the professionalization, over-commercialization and irresponsible business practices in amateur sports, and to ensure accountability to fans.
Along those lines, we echo the sentiments of many people across the country who feel that the ongoing controversy regarding the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in Div. I-A college football will not result in real change because of the control held by a self-serving cartel.
League of Fans has received many complaints and suggestions regarding various aspects of the BCS. Here are some of the most common suggestions: 1) The BCS must be eliminated; 2) the national champion should be determined on the field through a playoff; 3) non-BCS schools should not be left out of the system; 4) bowl games should remain; 5) the commercialism should be scaled back (no more bowl naming rights sponsorships); and 6) all revenue should be evenly distributed among the 117 Division I-A schools.
Through research dealing with the BCS, its origins, its results and its influence on related issues, as well as research regarding possible replacements for the BCS, we formulated the following points of concern with the BCS, explanations and examples of our preferences regarding a playoff, address of common concerns about a playoff, explanation of our preferences for regular season and post-season schedules, and conclusions.
A. Concerns with the BCS
In the view of League of Fans, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), in its current form, is a system that is:
– committing consumer fraud;
– an undisputed consolidation of power and money;
– independent from, and without accountability to, the NCAA;
– in violation of antitrust laws;
– inaccessible to fans and commentators who would like to know how each computer system makes decisions and who programs them;
– influenced by persons and entities without respect to the interests of student-athletes or educational missions;
– exclusive to some, rather than inclusive to all, member schools and student-athletes of NCAA Division I-A football;
– contradictory to every other NCAA sport and every other football division which all have playoffs to determine a national champion;
– bound for error as only two teams have a chance to be appointed to play for the championship;
– over-commercialized to the point of destroying the bowl game experience and tradition for schools, student-athletes and fans;
– responsible for the deterioration of the smaller bowl games which used to be important events for the bowl towns, businesses and participating teams;
– responsible for the diminished value of winning a conference championship;
– lucky when its appointments are not highly controversial, and no better a system for deciding a national champion than the one it replaced;
– in control of the coaches poll, expecting coaches to forgo their independence and vote to acknowledge the BCS winner as national champion whether or not they agree;
– disliked by most fans and sports commentators, spurring outrage in many; and
– self-serving for its own autocratic survival, rather than open to change for the benefit of everyone.
In recognition of the above factors, along with the common arguments in defense of the BCS and current bowl system which tend toward hypocrisy and are often complete nonsense, it is the position of League of Fans that the BCS be terminated.
Furthermore, League of Fans supports an NCAA sanctioned and sponsored tournament. Of the many publicly proposed and debated resolutions for a Division I-A football playoff, the solution that League of Fans favors is one involving a 16-team tournament.
B. Preferences for Reform
League of Fans is in favor of the following:
– No official polls (AP or Coaches) until after the third week of the season is played;
– An 11-game season for all NCAA Division I-A teams, two off (bye) weeks for each team during the season which begins no earlier than Labor Day weekend (the Saturday, before the first Monday in September), and ends no later than the 12th Saturday following;
– Eliminating conference championship games for the conferences that now hold them;
– An off (bye) week following the regular season;
– Introducing a 16-team tournament similar to other divisions of college football, with at least one bye week in between the semi-final and championship games;
– Maintaining the college bowl games for deserving teams uninvited to the tournament;
– Fair and equal distribution of all revenues from tournament and bowl games to all Div. I-A institutions.
C. 16-team Tournament Format
– Use of the established AP and Coaches polls to determine rankings, bids and seeds.
– (5 teams) In recognition of the overall strength of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC, an automatic bid would be earned by the champion of each of these 5 conferences.
– (4 teams) The top 4 ranked teams between all other Div. I-A conferences (Big East, CUSA, MAC, MWC, Sun Belt and WAC) who are also conference champions would earn an automatic bid.
– (7 teams) The 7 highest ranked teams (regardless of conference affiliation or non-affiliation) remaining after the selection of the above 9, would earn at-large bids.
– Home field would be earned by the higher seeds in the rounds of 16, 8 and 4, with the championship to be played at a pre-determined, neutral location (possibly a January bowl game).
Why 16 teams rather than 2, 4 or 8? League of Fans favors a 16-team tournament format because:
– it considers the abilities of the best teams from the traditionally strong conferences as well as the accomplishments of the best out of the champions from the traditionally overlooked conferences;
– more teams have the chance to compete, on the field, for an undisputed national championship;
– it gives the fans and media the opportunity to follow possible “Cinderella” teams;
– national fan interest would be greater as more teams from more regions participate; and
– it limits the chance for gross error.
D. Example of Tournament
To provide an example of our preference for a 16-team tournament, we will use the 2003 season as a model. Understanding first that the following adjustments would be required, only for the 2003 season, by:
– adding the Big East to the conferences earning an automatic bid (due to Miami (FL), Virginia Tech and Boston College’s Big East representation, which ends in 2004).
– eliminating an automatic bid between the CUSA, MAC, MWC, Sun Belt and WAC conferences, giving the top 3 ranked teams between them who are also conference champions, an automatic bid (due to adding a Big East automatic bid);
– recognizing winners of conference championship games for those who use them;
– forgoing the 11-game regular season regulation;
– imagining that the 2003 season ended on the third week in November, making such a tournament possible while not placing any more of a burden on student-athletes or schools; and
– imagining that the AP and Coaches polls weren’t first published until after the third week of the season were played.
Therefore, the seeds using League of Fans’ preferred 16-team tournament format for the 2003 season would be the following:
1) Southern California (Pac 10 champion, #1 in AP & Coaches polls, automatic bid)
2) Louisiana State (SEC champion, #2 in AP & Coaches polls, automatic bid)
3) Oklahoma (#3 in AP & Coaches polls, at-large bid)
4) Michigan (Big 10 champion, #4 in AP & Coaches polls, automatic bid)
5) Texas (#5 in AP & Coaches polls, at-large bid)
6) Ohio State (#6 in AP, #7 in Coaches poll, at-large bid)
7) Tennessee (#7 in AP, #6 in Coaches poll, at-large bid)
8 ) Florida State (ACC champion, #9 in AP, #8 in Coaches poll, automatic bid)
9) Kansas State (Big 12 champion, #8 in AP, #10 in Coaches poll, automatic bid)
10) Miami (FL) (Big East champion, #10 in AP, #9 in Coaches poll, automatic bid)
11) Georgia (#11 in AP & Coaches polls, at-large bid)
12) Purdue (#12 in AP, #13 in Coaches poll, at-large bid)
13) Iowa (#13 in AP, #12 in Coaches poll, at-large bid)
14) Miami (OH) (MAC champion, #14 in AP, #15 in Coaches poll, automatic bid)
15) Boise State (WAC champion, #18 in AP, #16 in Coaches poll, automatic bid)
16) Utah (MWC champion, #25 in AP & Coaches polls, automatic bid)
Pairings would follow a typical 16-team tournament format, with higher seeds hosting games until the championship, which would be played at a pre-determined, neutral site (possibly a January bowl game) at least 2 weeks following the semi-finals:
1 v. 16
8 v. 9
5 v. 12
4 v. 13
6 v. 11
3 v. 14
7 v. 10
2 v. 15
E. Addressing Some Playoff Concerns
One of the biggest concerns and most publicized arguments against any type of a playoff for Div. I-A, is that it would conflict too much with the academic missions of institutions and place a heavier burden on student-athletes. The solution supported by League of Fans is one that would not place an undue burden on institutions or student athletes. In fact, there are fewer games than in the current system, and the season would not begin any earlier, nor extend later than it does under the current system.
Looking at the total number of games, assume hereafter:
– that a “student-athlete game” counts as one game for each team playing in a single contest;
– that each of the 117 Div. I-A teams played 11 regular season games, totaling 1,287 student-athlete games (some Div I-A teams play games against Div. I-AA opponents who are not counted in this “student-athlete game” total);
– that a 16-team tournament would require a total of 30 student-athlete games (15 actual games); and
– that if the current bowl games remained in place, that would total 56 student-athlete games (28 bowl games).
Using League of Fans’ preferred scenario would total 1,373 Div. I-A student-athlete games (or an 11.7 game avg. per team), with 45 teams finishing with 11 games, 64 finishing with 12 games, four finishing with 13 games, two finishing with 14 games, and two teams playing 15 games. Whereas the actual number of student-athlete games played for the 2003 season in Div. I-A is 1,442 (or a 12.3 game avg. per team). Hence, in general, fewer games played, no added practice time for student-athletes, and no more stress placed on the academic institutions than under the current system.
Furthermore, if the academic institutions of Div. I-A were genuinely concerned with the “student” aspect of student-athlete and their exploitation for commercial purposes, they would not have allowed the schedule to expand as much as it has in the recent past, and they would stop the flood of games now played on weeknights during their academic calendar. In 2003, for example, there were games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. How do these developments give student-athletes more time for classes and exams? League of Fans believes our proposal improves on this important issue.
F. Explanation of Scheduling
League of Fans favors a season that begins no earlier than Labor Day weekend (the Saturday, before the first Monday in September), and ends no later than the 12th Saturday following. This leaves 13 Saturdays for each Div. I-A team to play 11 games.
Under the system favored by League of Fans, conferences would determine their champion by using the results of their regular season conference games, without the use of the extra game that some conferences have added over the last several years which have further commercialized their conferences, institutions and student-athletes, and diminished the value of the scheduled season.
Automatic and at-large bids for the 16-team tournament would be chosen and seeded following the publication of the final regular season AP and Coaches polls, likely the Monday following the regular season. This gives almost two weeks for host schools to prepare, for travel arrangements to be made and for tickets to be sold and distributed.
There would then be an off week (bye) on the 14th Saturday, at which time bowl bids would be announced for those teams not invited to the tournament, but deserving of the chance to play a bonus game against an evenly matched opponent who they wouldn’t have played otherwise at a destination where they wouldn’t have played otherwise.
On the 15th Saturday, the 16-team tournament would begin at eight separate locations. For broadcasting purposes, the NCAA and networks may wish to have some games played on Friday or Sunday.
On the 16th Saturday, the round of eight would be played at four separate locations.
On the 17th Saturday, the round of four (semifinals) would be played at two separate locations. Bowl games underway.
On the 18th Saturday, off (bye) week for the tournament, bowl games continue.
On the 19th Saturday, NCAA Championship tournament game at a pre-determined neutral location (possibly a January bowl game), major bowl games continue.
G. Example of Scheduling
Using the 2003 calendar as an example without making any changes to the bowl schedule:
– November 22 is the 13th Saturday (end of the regular season). Under the current system, it is already the end date for some schedules.
– Mon., Nov. 24, the Monday following the end of the regular season would be the date for announcing the tournament bracket and locations.
– Nov. 29, the 14th Saturday, would be the date for announcing bowl invitations.
– December 6, the 15th Saturday, would be the tournament’s round of 16.
– Dec. 13, the 16th Saturday, would be the tournament’s round of 8.
– Tues., Dec. 16, the bowl season begins with the New Orleans Bowl.
– Thurs., Dec. 18, GMAC Bowl.
– Dec. 20, the 17th Saturday, would be the tournament’s round of 4 (semifinal).
– Mon., Dec. 22, Tangerine Bowl.
– Tues., Dec. 23, Fort Worth Bowl.
– Wed., Dec. 24, Las Vegas Bowl.
– Thurs., Dec. 25, Hawaii Bowl.
– Fri., Dec. 26, Motor City Bowl and Insight Bowl.
– Dec. 27, the 18th Saturday, would be an off week for the tournament. Continental Tire Bowl.
– Mon., Dec. 29, Alamo Bowl.
– Tues., Dec. 30, Houston Bowl, Holiday Bowl and Silicon Valley Classic.
– Wed., Dec. 31, Music City Bowl, Sun Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Independence Bowl and San Francisco Bowl.
– Thurs., January 1, Outback Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Gator Bowl, Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl.
– Fri., Jan. 2, Cotton Bowl Classic, Peach Bowl, Fiesta Bowl.
– Jan. 3, the 19th Saturday, would be the NCAA Championship tournament game. Also the Humanitarian Bowl.
– Sun., Jan. 4, Sugar Bowl.
Acknowledging that there would most likely be changes to the bowl scheduling should this proposal become reality (including the national championship possibly being featured in a January bowl game rather than altogether separate), it is clear that even without any changes to the schedule for the 2003-04 bowl games, this proposed 16-team NCAA tournament fits in nicely, with minimal disruption and no extension of the season.
League of Fans believes, as do most commentators and fans, that the BCS has failed and it is time for the system to be eliminated. We are also tired of hearing that a playoff can’t be done. Although various proposals for a playoff are up for debate, League of Fans feels that our proposal for a 16-team tournament most fairly addresses the interests of those who matter most: the student-athletes, the institutions, the NCAA, the fans and college football as a whole.
Whatever the changes or replacements to the BCS, the NCAA needs to take control of Div. I-A college football in the interest of all 117 member institutions, their student-athletes and fans, and end the domination by the self-serving and elitist BCS conference commissioners. Their should never be so much power in the hands of so few without accountability as demonstrated by the BCS. And there is no reason why a governing body such as the NCAA should watch while the BCS cartel lines their own pockets and further pillages college football.
III. Take Action!
Interested readers may wish to express their displeasure with the BCS and help effect change. League of Fans suggests contacting the following people who are debating the issue and have decision-making power for change.
A. Contact NCAA President Myles Brand
National Collegiate Athletic Association
P.O. Box 6222
Indianapolis, IN 46206-6222
tel (317) 917-6222
fax (317) 917-6888
B. Email Dennis L. Poppe of the NCAA Division I Football Issues Committee
C. Contact the commissioners of the six BCS conferences
John D. Swofford
Atlantic Coast Conference
P.O. Drawer ACC
Greensboro, NC 27417-6724
tel (336) 854-8787
Michael A. Tranghese
Big East Conference
222 Richmond Street, Suite 110
Providence, RI 02903
tel (401) 272-9108
James E. Delany
Big Ten Conference
1500 West Higgins Road
Park Ridge, IL 60068-6300
tel (847) 696-1010
fax (847) 696-1110
Kevin L. Weiberg
Big 12 Conference
2201 Stemmons Freeway, 28th Floor
Dallas, TX 75207
tel (214) 742-1212
fax (214) 753-0145
Thomas C. Hansen
800 South Broadway, Suite 400
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
tel (925) 932-4411
fax (925) 932-4601
2201 Richard Arrington Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL 35203
tel (205) 458-3000
fax (205) 458-3031
D. Contact Congress, where a Senate investigation is underway regarding the BCS
Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard to be connected with your senators’ or representative’s office:
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Authored by Shawn McCarthy, League of Fans
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