Ellis Johnson believes the BCS "worked pretty well"
Flawed, broken, unfair; just a few of the adjectives used to describe the BCS as it's been set up since 1998. With a playoff about to replace the BCS, much of the college football world seems to believe the game has taken a step in the right direction. Ellis Johnson is not one of them.
"I do think we run the risk of hurting some of the things that make college football the most unique college sport in America," says the first-year Southern Miss head coach. "Just because basketball has had success with a playoff, and even baseball...it doesn't mean that it fits college football."
Though he's not the only one to hold this view, Johnson argues that with the advent of a playoff, and the removal of BCS system as we know it today, the meaning and importance of the regular season becomes diminished. "When it gets to the end of the season, and every game that you played means a lot in the total picture," says Johnson, "if you go to a playoff format, you're going to have teams able to lose one or two games down the stretch, or somewhere in their season, still be able to squeeze into that four-team bracket, and once they get in, they play their way to a championship."
Then there's the argument of how many teams should the playoff consist of. The four-team format will begin at the conclusion of the 2014 season. While some say four is a perfect number, because it means the regular season will maintain it's relevance, some, like Johnson, argue it's only a matter of time before fans, schools or coaches start shouting for more teams to be let in.
"Sooner or later, it's going to go from picking the two best teams at the end of the year, now we're going to pick four," argues Johnson. "Whoever the fifth one is going to cry until they have eight. Once we have eight, someone's going to start crying until we have nine.
"Basketball right now has 6,048 or something like that. I don't know how many they have in the brackets, but the last team that didn't get picked is still crying."
Speaking of which, the NCAA men's basketball tournament began with only eight teams in 1939. Fast-forward 73 years and ten field-expansions later, 68 teams can now play their way into the national title game.
It's pretty safe to assume a 60-team expansion of the college football playoff isn't coming anytime soon, but Johnson feels more emphasis on a post-season tournament means less emphasis on the games leading up to it. "I just don't think it's ever going to be enough, and I think one day, they're going to diminish the importance of each football game during the year," he said.
A big knock on the BCS was that it somehow denied certain "non-automatic BCS qualifiers" a shot at the title, even if those teams boasted undefeated records. Examples that quickly come to mind are the 2009 Boise State team that went through the regular season 13-0, the Texas Christian University squad that rolled to a 12-0 undefeated regular season, or the 12-0 Auburn Tigers of 2004. All three went on to win BCS bowls, Boise State winning against undefeated TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.
Johnson's not buyin in.
"I don't mean to diminish anything they accomplished, but the teams that just barely missed out," said Johnson, "Utah, TCU, Boise St., etc., over the last several years, I think to use that as an argument to say the BCS formula did not work is a bogus argument."
With the exception of the Auburn team, who had to take a back seat to the University of Texas versus the University of Southern California (arguably one of the greatest Rose Bowls ever played), the Southern Miss head man feels the BCS did it's job of identifying the two best college football teams in the land and allowing them to duke it out for all the marbles; including last year's rematch of Alabama and LSU.
"The fact of the matter is, I think the two best teams ended up playing for (last year's championship)," said Johnson, "and I think the best team won it."
And what about this committee that is supposed to replace the computer system and decide who will take the field come playoff time? Who will this committee consist of? What criteria will they measure a team by? "You got your Republicans, you got your democrats, I don't know how you trust anybody," coach Johnson colorfully put it.
"I think (the computers) have some validity. You take the human element out of it."
Who's to say if the decision by the BCS Committee was the correct one. If one thing is certain, it's that no one will know until 2014.
College football fans aren't always assured of a great national championship game (i.e. 2012 national championship), but they can be certain of one thing. The BCS is always there to stir debate. Even after the decision to do away with it, Head Coach Johnson is proof that hasn't changed.
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