Contrary to popular belief, the Bowl Championship Series rankings weren’t so bad.
No, really, they weren’t.
Sure, the BCS had its share of faults, those of which have been hammered at and debated about since its inception back in 1998.
However, there were positives. It gave us a number of matchups its predecessors – the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance, which didn’t have the backing of the Big Ten and Pac-10 (now Pac-12), wouldn’t have. Those leagues just had to keep the precious matchup at the Rose Bowl, which left the nation with a split national title between Michigan and Nebraska in 1997, the year before the BCS came in play.
The double-overtime Fiesta Bowl between Miami and Ohio State in January of 2003, won by the Buckeyes? Doesn’t happen without the BCS.
Remember the 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and USC which crowned the Longhorns national champs? That iconic scene of Vince Young pumping his arms doused in confetti wouldn’t have been played 5 million times if it weren’t for the BCS.
Sure, there were seemingly yearly debates about who should play whom for the national title, but we had a true national championship game with the BCS, which was rarely the case pre-1992, when the Bowl Coalition was formed. That system gave way to the Bowl Alliance in 1995. Under both, there where instances where a certain team couldn’t play for a championship because of the Rose Bowl agreement (Penn State in 1994, Arizona State in 1996 and Michigan in 1997). The BCS fixed that.
The BCS everyone always trashes also opened the door for mid-major programs, such as Northern Illinois, a team which doesn’t earn an Orange Bowl berth in 2012 without the BCS system. Teams like NIU playing in a major bowl were an afterthought before the BCS was in place. Heck, BYU won the national title in 1984 but still played an unranked Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl.
It allowed teams like NIU, Boise State and TCU to go up against the big boys. And for the record, non-AQ teams finished 5-3 in BCS games, and that number includes TCU’s loss to Boise State in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.
What the BCS was is a step in the right direction. Next year, college football is going a step further with the College Football Playoff, which will be a great thing.
There won’t be any more debates over teams No. 1-2, which happened countless times under the current system that faded into the sunset with Monday night’s title game at the Rose Bowl.
New Year’s Day, which has seemed to have lost some of its luster, will step into the spotlight once again in 2015. The ratings for next year’s Rose and Sugar Bowls, which will host the first round of College Football Playoff semifinals Jan. 1, will be through the roof. The next season, New Year’s Eve will be at the forefront, with the Cotton and Orange Bowls hosting semifinals.
Opportunities for mid-major programs will grow even bigger, as the top-ranked conference champion from the “Group of Five” conferences, which will now include the American Athletic Conference, gets an automatic bid into one of the six College Football Playoff bowl games. They will be played on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 the next two seasons and are currently being dubbed the “New Year’s Six.”
A selection committee will choose the four playoff teams, as well as the rest of the New Year’s Six bowl participants and matchups. It won’t be a bunch of greedy bowl executives making that call, as is the case now.
For a lot of college football fans, the BCS may be remembered as a disaster. It’s far from that.
It was a positive step forward for the college football world, which is taking another big step ahead next season.
Is it Jan. 1, 2015 yet?
• Steve Nitz is the Daily Chronicle’s NIU beat writer. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @SNitz_DDC.