Goodbye to the BCS, sort of: A eulogy

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

College football's money-printing postseason will soon have a new name and a new format. But let's pretend the last official week of the Bowl Championship Series is also the birth of something new.

You're dead now, BCS, so this entire conversation is a little strange and one-sided. You can't answer for a lot of things you could be accused of creating.

But that's how eulogies work. As you were in your brief existence, they are unfair by design.

I can say, "Oh, you started a culture of endless politicking built on polling fictions," but that's not entirely fair. Before you came along, we just guessed which the best teams were. We didn't even do what you did, which is to run a one-game, one-off, live football simulation for money.

You were, above whatever else we may say about you, a more formal variation of insane, random guesswork, one involving small sample sizes and extremely random variables. That is probably your greatest, most lasting legacy.

It's still easy to say what you were trying to do: put the two best teams in college football on the same field, to crown the winner of that matchup the champion of the sport. Whether you did that or not depends on the year and on whose teams were the ones picking up conciliatory paychecks in the Fiesta Bowl while two other teams fought it out in the title game.

You made some messes. 2004 was a debacle, a three-way push between Auburn, USC, and Oklahoma that ended with a lopsided zoo fire of a title matchup between the Trojans and the Sooners. The bouncers in 2007 got sleepy and let in a two-loss LSU team that, because Les Miles is an ancient Sumerian demon-god, naturally won the whole thing once it conned its way in the door. The less said about what LSU did to end 2011 against Alabama, the better.*

* Did you read this far down this page? Congratulations, you have already equaled the Tigers' offensive performance in that game.

There were even worse years, though.

You made average football games and sold them at a premium, a superb business strategy.

Ohio State made two title games it probably should not have, losing both badly and setting back the national perception of the Big Ten in previously unimaginable ways. (That's also unfair, but it's also accurate.) The 2012 BCS spat out Notre Dame versus Alabama in a bloodbath that was over in 15 minutes flat, while Alabama's 2009 matchup against Texas remains one of the more deceptive final scores in the BCS' short and unspectacular history. Oklahoma's 21-14 loss to LSU in 2003 might be the most lopsided 21-14 football game ever, though Oklahoma achieved getting 14 points off only 154 total yards of offense. Nick Saban won four BCS titles as a head coach, and every single one of them was a complete atrocity in its own way.

You were a terrible matchmaker, for the most part, and someone who watched every single one of those games would probably agree. In 16 years, the chosen mechanism for selecting the two best teams in college football produced one undisputed classic: the 2005-ending USC-Texas game. The rest are either debatable at best, outright blowouts, or exercises in curious tedium like 2000's Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2.

You made average football games and sold them at a premium. This made you a dishonest way to end a football season. But you had a superb business strategy.

It's also unfair to say you ever got it totally right, or that you even cared too much about getting it totally right.

You operated mostly on polls, and those polls were created by people. To be honest, they were not made by particularly bright people, or at least by people who can be bright about everything all the time.

You asked the coaches to vote on the best teams in college football while they were working 80-plus-hour weeks and facing a dozen or so teams out of more than a hundred a year. You asked writers to know not just a conference, but every team. Some of these things were stupid, and some of them were impossible. Some were both, and that's a kind of accomplishment no matter what anyone says.

You also embraced technology, or at least "computers." I say "computers" with big finger quotes, since one of the important computer pollsters for the BCS described himself with the following words:

"I’m not a mathematician," Billingsley said. "I’m not even a highly educated man, to tell you the truth. I don’t even have a degree. I have a high school education. I never had calculus. I don’t even remember much about algebra. I think everyone questions everything I do. Why is he doing that? Does he know what he’s doing, a crazy kook in Oklahoma?"

Like we said: COMPUTERS. [whooshing noises]

And sometimes those people and computers involved in making the BCS work couldn't make a right decision, mostly because there wasn't one to be made.

Why did we have to choose between Auburn, USC, and Oklahoma in 2004? Every other sport on the planet knows endings are hard to write, and that's why they use the writer's oldest crutch: the battle royale, in which you throw every character into a playoff and see who's left standing at the end. You were a terrible writer, BCS, with plot holes too big to hide or ignore. You had no will to take even the laziest shortcut.

You did have your moments. Most things do, if only by accident.

Michael Vick played the most insane three quarters of individual football I have ever seen, against Florida State in 1999. (Go watch it: it's as good as you remember, and done against the speediest team of the era.)

Ohio State constipated a loaded Miami team into a double-overtime title loss on a pass-interference call, which still boggles the imagination. (Skip Willis McGahee's knee injury on the rewatch. You don't want to see that ever again, and you didn't even the first time.)

Nothing can tarnish USC-Texas, and nothing ever should. It is still the best start-to-finish football game I have ever watched and was only approached by the 2013 Iron Bowl. (Which I need some time on, since it's hard to remember anything but the last three minutes or so, while I remember whole chunks of Vince Young's masterpiece.)

It was still football, and more of it. Did anyone forget the other bowls? The BCS in its memorial can claim those, too.

It can rightfully claim Boise State beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, Young's first rampage through the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2005 against Michigan, and Illinois making not one, but two BCS Bowls. That Illinois thing happened in this lifetime, and there is film of it and and witnesses and everything.

Illinois would lose both of those games. The Illini still have fewer losses in BCS bowls than Notre Dame, though, the team without a conference that crafted a special inclusion into the BCS designed simply around the virtue of being the most relevant football team of 1972. The Irish lost all four of their appearances in the BCS by a combined score of 158-57. The BCS did some good things, and this streak is perhaps the most persuasive point in its defense.

Most importantly, you made everyone more money, BCS. The first year was 1998, when Kirk Ferentz was hired at Iowa for a salary somewhere in the range of $500,000 a year. In 2013, Kirk Ferentz earned $3.9 million to coach the same program, and his starting salary in 1998 would approximate one of Nick Saban's championship bonuses. The BCS is not solely responsible for that inflow of money, but it is one of the reasons for college football's decade-and-a-half long climb into a warm, relaxing lap pool of television cash.

You were a sellable good, BCS. District managers of the world respect that part of your epitaph: no one can ever take away your sales figures.

Finally, we said you were dead, and by name you are. But there's reason to think you faked your death, that the new College Football Playoff is merely an expanded BCS, the same old ramshackle college football trailer with a few rooms hammered haphazardly onto it and a new paint job. That's a distasteful thing to say at a funeral, but it's not like they even tried to hide it all that well.

This funeral is a lie, right down to the empty coffin. When you are nouveau riche like college football is, every step into the future is a burial of the last address, even if you just changed the stationery and a few titles. The BCS barely existed all along, less an original concept than a repackaging of existing goods. It then simply tweaked a detail or two on the birth certificate to move on to more money under a new name in a new town.

If this pisses you off, please forward all complaints -- and unvalidated parking vouchers from today's service -- to the new College Football Playoff. It will deny everything, but that's the best part of the joke.

More from SB Nation college football:

Bowl season TV schedule, with scores and recaps along the way

Bill O’Brien reportedly leaving Penn State for the NFL

Modern Hate: Four huge, behind-the-scenes stories on college football rivalries

College football news | Tons of five-star recruiting updates

Long CFB reads | The death of a college football player

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.