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BCS and ESPN are happy with current college football format

Despite criticism of the 13-year-old system that determines college football's national championship, the BCS is here today -- and probably here to stay.

January 10, 2011|by Chris Dufresne | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

It was a tough year politically for the Bowl Championship Series, which had to go on the defensive after being called all sorts of nasty things in an ominously-titled book: "Death to the BCS."

Yet, despite criticism of the 13-year-old system that determines college football's national championship, and calls for a 16-team playoff by some, the BCS is here today -- and probably here to stay.

"I will stand here and tell you this system works," BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said Monday morning in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the annual breakfast meeting of the Football Writers Assn. of America.

The BCS, at least for now, appears to have the full support of ESPN, finishing up its first year of a four-year contract. ESPN executive Burke Magnus, who also attended Monday's FWAA meeting, said his company will not push for any further expansion.

"We tread lightly here," Magnus said. "We're not the stewards of the game. We're not the ones who set the format. We don't see that as our role in any way."

Hancock and Magnus said minor tweaks to the system, such as a "plus-one" playoff, are possible. Hancock, though, said "there is no overwhelming support to do anything different."

Hancock said the expansion to a 16-team format, as outlined in the "Death to the BCS" book, is virtually a non-starter in discussions. Last month, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who is staunchly opposed to any playoff, said college football would sooner go back to the old bowl system than to an NFL-type format.

Hancock confirmed that the "old system" is "in the spectrum" of possibilities. It appears, though, the BCS will continue -- even as the critics continue to attack.

"It's human nature to want something different," Hancock said. "But it's so easy to sit back and throw snowballs if you don't have to have responsibilities long term."

Hancock contends that an NFL-style playoff would be ruinous to a multi-layered bowl system that dates to the 1902 Rose Bowl.

Hancock said he is tired of the invectives. The BCS has been called everything from a cartel to communism. He notes the system was created in 1998 to match No. 1 vs. No. 2 in a national title game. That was only possible if the Rose Bowl agreed to give up its anchor/anchors if they finished first or second.

Prior to 1998, the top two teams met only eight times in the previous 58 years.

The BCS has had snafus, no doubt, but has managed 10 times in 13 tries match the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Associated Press poll.

Monday night's title game between Oregon and Auburn has been one of the most anticipated ever.

"It's not sinister," Hancock said of the BCS. "There's nothing evil about it."

Hancock said Texas Christian, without the BCS, would never have had a chance to play in, or win, the Rose Bowl. The Horned Frogs capped a 13-0 season with a 21-19 win over Wisconsin in Pasadena.

Hancock said it was too early to even talk about a modified playoff, one additional game, because there are three years left on this ESPN contract. Hancock said a "plus one" would certainly have to involve adding a fifth BCS game to join the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar.

Magnus is convinced a "plus-one " game would draw huge interest, but added "it's impossible to know how it works because it doesn't exist."

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