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Kelley’s Law: Proposed BCS Playoff



Those that scream from the rooftops for a I-A playoff are maddened by the stubbornness of college presidents, ADs, coaches, and fans that state the current system is a good one. One of the reasons for this is the tradition of the bowl season. The other, in the case of the universities and the NCAA, is money – and lots of it. Is there a way of keeping the bowl tradition and have a playoff? Of course there is, but is it something anyone (read: the NCAA and the universities) wants to pursue? The following is a breakdown of what a bowl season with an eight-team playoff could look like.

Currently there are 35 bowl games – with about half of them being ones you probably could not name off the top of your head. That means, of course, 70 teams will compete in a bowl game. For the 62 teams that do not make the field of eight in a playoff, they would be eligible for participation in the 28 bowl games that are either: a) not in that year’s championship rotation, or b) never in the championship rotation.

The bowls eligible for the championship rotation obtain it by virtue of seniority. In other words, the bowls that have been around the longest get to be in the rotation. The only caveat to that would be that the Champs Sports Bowl (played in Orlando and established in 1990) would be omitted from the rotation because another older bowl already serves in that venue. (The Capital One Bowl, formerly the Citrus Bowl, has been around since 1947).

Five bowl games would get a rotation of semi-final and championship games. Those bowls are the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Rose, and Cotton. Four of these sights are currently in the BCS rotation and the fifth, the Cotton Bowl, was once considered one of four major bowls and is one of the five oldest bowl games still serving. (Not to mention it is now housed in the same venue hosting the 2011 Super Bowl.) Once a bowl gets the championship game, they are out of the rotation for two years. In those two years that bowl would still get matchups of top tier teams that just missed the playoffs.

The quarterfinal round would rotate among the twelve next eldest bowl sites. They are (in no particular order): the Gator, Capital One, Chick-Fil-A (formerly Peach), Liberty, Alamo, Sun, Independence, Holiday, Insight (formerly Copper) Las Vegas, Outback, and Motor City Bowls. If the NCAA has a problem with a playoff game in Vegas, then exit it and bring in the Champs Sports Bowl. Each site would get a playoff game once every three years. In off years, they get what they usually get – the best of the rest.

The 28 bowl games not hosting a playoff game would host their events pretty much as they do today, during “bowl week”. (Which is longer than a week, but the structure can pretty much play the same.) The ‘championship’ tier bowls not hosting playoff games can have coveted New Year’s Day spots.

The quarterfinals would be played on the fourth Saturday in December (unless that is Christmas Day then it moves to Sunday which would happen roughly every seven years). The semifinals would be played the next week, which would be the first Saturday in January or the fifth Saturday in December. The championship game would be the next week or there could be an off week inserted for hype – and there would be lots of hype.

That is how the site rotation would work. Now for the issue of who gets in and who is left out. This is fairly simple. There really is only one way of preserving the integrity of the regular season and conference championships, and that is to have conference champions as automatic qualifiers. Granted, there is embedded inequity at this point. Not every conference title is decided in the same fashion, i.e. not every conference has a title game. Also there is the issue of independent schools – though today there are no indees strong enough to make a field of eight, it could happen someday.

The current six BCS automatic qualifying conferences would get automatic bids to the field of eight. This would be subject to review every three years by the NCAA. A conference- say, the Big East- could lose its automatic spot if they did not produce a conference champion that was in the top eight of the BCS rankings for two consecutive years and a non-AQ conference did in each year (the same non-AQ conference would have to have a top eight rep). This would allow for a stronger conference that is not getting an automatic bid, the Mountain West for example, to qualify for one. Other methods of ‘jumping’ a conference to get an AQ bid could come in to play as well.

The other two spots would be at-large spots. A non-AQ team ranked in the top BCS eight could get a berth, and possibly two, but that is not necessarily guaranteed. However, attaining automatic-qualifying status could likely be rewarded to non-AQ conferences showing year-to-year consistency at the top of the BCS rankings. Teams would be seeded based on BCS ranking and play out a single –elimination tournament with the only exception being that two teams from the same conference could not meet in the quarterfinal round.

How would this look if applied? Let’s take the 2009 and 2008 seasons and apply the scenario.


Conference champs getting automatic bids: #1Alabama (SEC), #2Texas (Big 12), #8Ohio State (Big Ten), #3Cincinnati (Big East), #9Georgia Tech (ACC), and #7Oregon (PAC-10).

At-large bids: #4TCU and #5Florida

Quarterfinals: 1Alabama vs. 9Georgia Tech at the Gator Bowl

2Texas vs. 8Ohio State at the Liberty Bowl

3Cincinnati vs. 7Oregon at the Alamo Bowl

4TCU vs. 5Florida at the Insight Bowl

(For the sake of keeping title games intact, the #1 and #2 teams will be placed the title game and two other teams are randomly chosen as winners. This is not a commentary on who probably would have won had those games actually been played.)

Semifinals: Alabama vs. Florida at the Sugar Bowl

Texas vs. Oregon at the Orange Bowl

Championship: Alabama vs. Texas at the Rose Bowl

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Conference champs getting automatic bids: 1Oklahoma, 2Florida, 5USC, 8Penn State, 12Cincinnati, and 19Virginia Tech

At-large bids: 3Texas and 4Alabama

(NOTE: Utah was #6 that season but would not have gotten a bid due to Texas and Alabama both having higher BCS ranks, BUT – the ACC would lose its automatic qualifying status for 2010 because they did not have a top eight team in 2008 or 2009. The Mountain West would get that bid for 2010 because TCU was #4 in 2009 and Utah was #6 in 2008. The MWC would keep that automatic bid until it unseats itself.)

Quarterfinals: 1Oklahoma vs. 19Virginia Tech at the Capital One Bowl

2Florida vs. 12Cincinnati at the Sun Bowl

3Texas vs. 8Penn State at the Motor City Bowl

4Alabama vs. 5USC at the Holiday Bowl

Semifinals: Oklahoma vs. Alabama at the Fiesta Bowl

Florida vs. Texas at the Sugar Bowl

Championship: Oklahoma vs. Florida at the Orange Bowl


Projecting ahead for this season – and it is simply for the sake of illustration. Who may end up winning conference titles and how playoff games would actually turn out is anyone’s guess. Auburn and Oregon, since they are currently ranked #1 and #2 will be granted their conference’s championships and placed in the national title game.

Conference champs getting automatic bids: 1Oregon (PAC-10), 2Auburn (SEC), 3TCU (Mountain West), 7Wisconsin (Big Ten), 8Nebraska (Big 12), and (unranked) Pittsburgh (Big East)

At-large bids: 4Boise State and 5LSU

Quarterfinals: 1Oregon vs. Pittsburgh at the Outback Bowl

2Auburn vs. 8Nebraska at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl

3TCU vs. 7Wisconsin at the Independence Bowl

4Boise State vs. 5LSU at the Las Vegas Bowl

Semifinals: Oregon vs. Boise State at the Cotton Bowl

Auburn vs. TCU at the Fiesta Bowl

Championship: Oregon vs. Auburn in the Sugar Bowl


And what of the bowl games that wouldn’t be in the playoff rotation for this year? How about a Stanford vs. Ohio State Rose Bowl and an Oklahoma State vs. Alabama Orange Bowl, both played on New Year’s Day? BCS bowls not hosting the title game in the current system are irrelevant except to the schools participating. The proposed system would be no different. The fan bases of each school can still invade their team’s bowl destination and there still would be lots of advertising for television and swag for the players.

This system would create a fair amount of discussion, if not full on controversy. Granted, there are bugs in the system. It would however, create the playoff most fans seek, and it would create equity between the AQ and non-AQ leagues. Plus, most importantly, it would create so much revenue for the NCAA that it would make March Madness look like a neighborhood lemonade stand. All proposals are up for debate. Please feel free to pick this one apart as you see fit. The Law would love to see alternative ideas.



By Jay Kelley
Big 12 Fans Staff Writer


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