With the Bowl Championship Series proving to be a disaster once again, a major component of the BCS formula has pulled out. The Associated Press has announced that it will remove its poll from the BCS Standings, and with it, the final shred of BCS credibility. This should be the death sentence to the BCS, and the opening of discussions for a possible playoff. However, in yet another effort to keep their cartel on life support, the BCS commissioners are considering appointing a blue-ribbon committee of athletic directors and other executives to name the teams that will play in the national championship game.

Today, with the release of our 2nd annual proposal for a 16-team playoff tournament and termination of the BCS, League of Fans urges sportswriters, coaches, fans and student-athletes to take action and demand change. In the opinion of League of Fans, the proposal below would work best, but we encourage everyone to make their opinions and ideas known. At the end of the proposal is contact information for the major players involved in the BCS fiasco.


League of Fans Hypothetical 2004-05 NCAA Div. I-A Football Tournament Seeds

1. Southern California
2. Oklahoma
3. Auburn
4. California
5. Utah
6. Texas
7. Louisville
8. Georgia
9. Virginia Tech
10. Boise State
11. Louisiana State
12. Iowa
13. Michigan
14. Miami
15. Florida State
16. Pittsburgh


I. Summary

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 on the field, among other changes, that would best account for the needs and wishes of everyone.

Div. I-A college football needs a system overhaul and a change toward values based on fairness. The BCS system is unfair as it is exclusive and puts non-BCS schools at a competitive, financial and recruiting disadvantage. In short, League of Fans favors: eliminating the BCS; shortening the regular season to 11 games; ending conference championship games (though not absolutely critical for this proposal to work); instituting an NCAA sanctioned 16-team tournament, separate from the current 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 (a January bowl game is one 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, benefitting 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.


II. 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, League of Fans: 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 (not absolutely critical for this proposal to work, but addresses the wishes of those who: would rather each game in the regular-season schedule be important and be played to determine conference champions; would like to see more time spent in the classroom by student-athletes; and would like their conferences to be less commercialized);
– An off (bye) week following the regular season;
– Introducing a 16-team tournament similar to other divisions of college football, with a bye week in between the semi-final and championship games;
– Maintaining the college bowl games for deserving teams not invited 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 combined 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).

Some ties may occur as the result of using the combined rankings of the AP and Coaches polls. Tiebreakers would go as follows:
– First tiebreaker goes to the winner of regular season head-to-head match-ups between teams in question, and only if there are no more than two teams tied for the same seed;
– Second tiebreaker goes to conference champions over teams who did not win their respective conferences;
– Third tiebreaker goes to the school with the fewest number of teams from their own conference which are ranked ahead of them;
– Fourth tiebreaker goes to the school whose fellow conference teams, regardless of whether ranked ahead or behind, have a better combined AP/Coaches poll rank;
– Fifth tiebreaker goes to the school ranked higher by the AP, separating the previously combined AP and Coaches polls.

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 2004 season as a model. Understanding first that the following adjustments would be required, only for the 2004 season, by:
– recognizing winners of conference championship games for those who use them;
– forgoing the 11-game regular season regulation;
– imagining that the 2004 season ended on November 27, 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 2004 season would be the following:

1. Southern California (Pac-10 champion, #1 in AP & Coaches polls, automatic bid)
2. Oklahoma (Big 12 champion, #2 in AP & Coaches polls, automatic bid)
3. Auburn (SEC champion, #3 in AP & Coaches polls, automatic bid)
4. California (#4 in AP & Coaches polls, at-large bid)
5. Utah (MWC champion,#5 in AP, #6 in Coaches poll, automatic bid)*
6. Texas (#6 in AP, #5 in Coaches poll, at-large bid)
7. Louisville (CUSA champion, #7 in AP, #8 in Coaches poll, automatic bid)**
8. Georgia (#8 in AP, #7 in Coaches poll, at-large bid)
9. Virginia Tech (ACC champion, #9 in AP & Coaches polls, automatic bid)
10. Boise State (WAC champion, #10 in AP & Coaches polls, automatic bid)
11. Louisiana State (#12 in AP, #11 in Coaches poll, at-large bid)
12. Iowa (#11 in AP, #13 in Coaches poll, at-large bid)
13. Michigan (Big Ten champion, #13 in AP, #12 in Coaches poll, automatic bid)
14. Miami (#14 in AP & Coaches polls, at-large bid)
15. Florida State (#17 in AP, #15 in Coaches poll, at-large bid)***
16. Pittsburgh (Big East champion, #19 in AP, #20 in Coaches poll, automatic bid)

Tiebreakers used in the seedings:
* Utah seeded ahead of Texas by virtue of second tiebreaker.
** Louisville seeded ahead of Georgia by virtue of second tiebreaker.
*** Florida State over Tennessee and Wisconsin, Tennessee eliminated by virtue of third tiebreaker, Wisconsin eliminated by virtue of fourth tiebreaker.

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) 2 weeks following the semi-finals:

(1 v. 16) v. (8 v. 9)
(5 v. 12) v. (4 v. 13)


(6 v. 11) v. (3 v. 14)
(7 v. 10) v. (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 would be fewer games than with the current system, and the season would not have to begin earlier, nor extend later than it does under the current system (even providing for bye weeks).

With fewer overall games played, there shouldn’t be any more practice time for student-athletes, and no more stress placed on 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 2004, for example, there were games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. How do these developments give student-athletes more time for classes and exams? The League of Fans 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 this system, 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. (Note: It is not critical that conference championship games be eliminated for the League of Fans plan to work)

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 2004 calendar as an example without making any changes to the bowl schedule:
– November 27 is the 13th Saturday (end of the regular season). Under the current system, it is already the end date for some schedules.
– Mon., Nov. 29, the Monday following the end of the regular season would be the date for announcing the tournament bracket and locations.
– December 4, the 14th Saturday, would be the date for announcing bowl invitations.
– Dec. 11, the 15th Saturday, would be the tournament’s round of 16.
– Tues., Dec. 14, the bowl season begins with the New Orleans Bowl.
– Dec. 18, the 16th Saturday, would be the tournament’s round of 8.
– Tues., Dec. 21, Champs Sports Bowl.
– Wed., Dec. 22, GMAC Bowl.
– Thurs., Dec. 23, Fort Worth Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl.
– Fri., Dec. 24, Hawaii Bowl.
– Dec. 25, the 17th Saturday, would be the tournament’s round of 4 (semifinal). This could be altered to the Friday before Christmas Day.
– Mon., Dec. 27, MPC Computers Bowl and Motor City Bowl.
– Tues., Dec. 28, Independence Bowl and Insight Bowl.
– Wed., Dec. 29, Houston Bowl and Alamo Bowl.
– Thurs., Dec. 30, Continental Tire Bowl, Emerald Bowl, Holiday Bowl and Silicon Valley Classic.
– Fri., Dec. 31, Music City Bowl, Sun Bowl, Liberty Bowl and Peach Bowl.
– January 1, the 18th Saturday, would be an off week for the tournament. Cotton Bowl, Outback Bowl, Gator Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.
– Mon., Jan. 3, Sugar Bowl.
– Tues., Jan. 4, Orange Bowl.
– Jan. 8, the 19th Saturday, would be the NCAA Championship tournament game. This could be altered to any day between Jan. 4-8.

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 2004-05 bowl games, this proposed 16-team NCAA tournament fits in nicely, with minimal disruption and no extension of the season.


H. Conclusions

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. Coaches, players and fans have grown weary and disgruntled over repeatedly being told that a playoff can’t be done. Although various proposals for a playoff are up for debate, League of Fans feels that this 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.

Shawn McCarthy, Project Director, League of Fans


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