The Bowl Championship Series is designed to make money. Crowning a champion is secondary, and only the most naive would argue otherwise. This [accepted?] fact might be less infuriating were, well, the BCS even bad at its primary function. Now the bodies that make up the BCS make money — last year the SEC and Big Ten netted over $22 million and the other Big Six conferences, $17 million-plus. Yet each season with at least one BCS game played before mid-November, .500-team caliber crowds it becomes readily apparent that even in its core principle the BCS is flawed.
This season’s example: the Sugar Bowl invitation bestowed upon a Virginia Tech that finished 0-2 against teams in the final BCS/AP/USA Today Top 25 polls over higher ranked Boise State (1-1 vs. Top 25) and Kansas State (2-2, including a defeat of the Heisman Trophy winner’s team). Justification funneled through media was the Hokies’ passionate fan base was more apt to purchase tickets, airfare and lodging to watch its team battle Michigan. And yet, Tech’s inability to sell tickets has Frank Beamer sales pitching at basketball games.
Beamer shouldn’t be in such a position. By every measure, VPI should be playing an SEC foe in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, a shorter trek from Blacksburg and a game for which the Hokies are more deserving. But let’s forget the three teams’ records’ against quality opponents for a moment. Let us even forget that by its own metric for success, the BCS says Boise State and Kansas State are superior teams. Accepting that the BCS is going to do what benefits it economically cannot even be a reasonable argument anymore.
Consider that in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, BSU played in the second most well-attended of the four non-title BCS games. The Broncos and TCU, two non-AQs, drew nearly 74,000. Florida-Cincinnati and Iowa-Georgia Tech were both roughly 10,000 shy of that mark. The same bowl a season later, featuring an Oklahoma program that boasts one of the largest fan bases in college football, saw its attendance drop by 6,000.
Now the Fiesta Bowl’s decline can be attributed to Connecticut’s automatic berth, and the Big East’s almost annual inability to sell tickets — and while that is rearing its head once again, that’s a topic for another time. There is demonstrable evidence BSU draws to BCS games, and a quick search of Priceline.com suggests the increase of airfare from Boise-to-Phoenix vs. Boise-to-New Orleans is hardly unreasonable.
The BCS has long played the role of the Four Horsemen to the non-AQ programs’ Sting or Barry Windham. The BCS is the old guard, insistent on staying on top, thus using its power and influence to ensure the up-and-comers are denied main event opportunities. TCU opted for the Windham route: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. BSU is seemingly headed in the same direction, should the Big East retain AQ status, if AQ status even exists in the coming years.
But this tenuous relationship between The System and The Upstart has been evident from the onset. How did K-State fall victim to it?
The Wildcats emerged as a top 12 team, out of the conference boasting the most Top 25 finishers. KSU went 10-2 and has a BCS lineage to reference. In other words, the Four Horsemen turned on one of their own.
The Big 12 is in a weakened state, having stood on the brink of elimination this year. But the conference remains in tact with some of the most prominent football programs still members. Twice this bowl season, the league has taking it on the chin. The BCS has relied on being six strong units working collectively, but should it lose even one, the structure’s foundation begins to crumble.