[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/31/bcs.trophy.getty.art.jpg caption="Congress is now debating how college football teams will compete to become national champions."]
March Madness and who will rule college basketball is topic number one right now in the sports world. So why exactly are the Senate, the House, and even the President also talking up another game?
Three big letters: BCS. That’s why.
BCS stands for the college football “Bowl Championship Series”. There may be nothing more controversial in the intercollegiate athletics than the way the football champion is crowned every year.
Unlike all other major college sports, football does not have a series of playoff games that result in the last man standing. Instead they use a complicated formula based on polls to determine team rankings. At the end of the season, the 2 teams with the highest rankings play each other in one of the major bowls games to determine who actually is number one. The other teams ranked below them play in other bowls, but the winner of the top bowl game has always been crowned national champion. The past season it was Florida, which was ranked #1, beating Oklahoma, which was ranked #2, by the score 24-14. Read the story.
Ever wonder what formula a mathematician would use to combine the poll data to come up with number one? Well, here it is:
BCSAvg = ( HP/2825 + UP/1550 + (C1+C2+C3+C4)/100 ) / 3
To figure it out, you need to know what everything stands for: BCSAvg is the overall BCS average for a given team, following the procedure (algorithm.) HP is the total points the given team is awarded in the Harris Interactive Poll. UP is the total points the given team is awarded in the USA Today Coaches Poll. C1, C2, C3, and C4 are the four point totals assigned by the four computer-ranking polls.
Got it now? Don’t feel badly. Virtually no one else does either. And there are people in Congress who share your pain.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) saw his undefeated University of Utah team barred from the championship game this year because the formula placed them 6th, and therefore ineligible to compete for number one. See the standings. Senator Hatch calls the BCS system un-American, and he’s got it on the agenda of his Senate Antitrust Subcommittee this term. Read the story.
Over in the House of Representatives, several congressmen have gotten into the act. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) even has a bill that would force the BCS to scrap the name “National Champion” from the national title game unless they have a playoff series.
What does the NCAA think of all of this? Here’s their statement when CNN contacted them on Monday:
“We understand people in DC need to respond to their hearts and constituents….we think leaders of higher education are the better group to manage post season football.” (Bill Hancock—BCS Administrator)
What will come of all of this? Congress has broached the subject before, but never passed legislation. Will this time be different? Having the President of the United States on your side doesn’t hurt. When asked in January by reporters about the matter, President Obama replied simply: “We need a playoff.”