In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on December 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm

LSU and Alabama do NOT…repeat… DO NOT belong in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game at the Superdome live on ESPN at 8:30pm on January 9th. The mere fact that this game is even a remote possibility is a clear indictment of the BCS system and absolute proof that a playoff system must be put in place. And, I mean sooner, not later.

Are LSU and Alabama the two best teams in the country? Are they worthy of their lofty perches in the BCS food chain? The answer is probably ‘yes’ on both counts.

But if you thought about it, you could make similar arguments for Oklahoma State, Stanford, Boise State, and heck, maybe even Wisconsin. And, therein lays the problem with the BCS. The BCS is a well-intentioned, but poorly executed means to an end—frequently an unsatisfying end. And, this year is no exception, regardless of what the so-called experts have told you.

You see, LSU-Alabama is a rerun. Plain and simple. A repeat. We saw this movie several weeks ago and, frankly, the plot didn’t quite live up to the hype. Sure, it was close, but it was hardly a thriller—five field goals!?! Do we really need to see if either team can actually score a touchdown against the other? What if Alabama wins by three in overtime this time around? What have we proved?

The idea of a national championship is to identify a—and this is a novel idea here—A NATIONAL CHAMPION! Not just a conference champion! We already know who won the SEC. It was LSU who beat Alabama and others en route to that title. We don’t need to keep playing SEC games over and over again to see if the result might be different each time. That would be the definition of insanity—college football style.

For the current BCS system to really work, LSU should have to test itself against the best available champion from another top conference (Oklahoma State anyone?). Yes, I know that the Tigers had a strong showing against quality non-conference opponents, but the wins over Oregon and West Virginia came in September; in weeks one and four respectively. That’s why LSU is ranked number one. They should have to face that same kind of stiff challenge with a target on their back and something like the national championship trophy on the line. The challenger must be a brand new foe, not some retread. Again, this is a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, not some intra-league scrum.

The ONLY fair way to determine a true national champion is ON THE FIELD via a PLAYOFF SYSTEM based on the BCS standings (or something similar). If a playoff had been implemented for 2011, Oklahoma State, Alabama, and others would ALL have shot at proving themselves worthy of appearing in a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME against #1 LSU.

Oh sure, some college presidents and athletics directors will claim that a playoff system will interfere with academics. Bull. The Football Championship Sub-division (formerly 1-AA), Division II, and Division III schools are all academically-driven (or so I’m led to believe) and they have playoffs lasting well into December. In fact, the 2011 FCS playoff schedule had 8 teams in action on the weekend prior to fall semester finals for most colleges, and four playing on the weekend after. I don’t hear any howls from the college presidents about that potential educational conflict.

Some coaches will claim that the added games will take too much of a physical toll on the players. Bull. This year’s BCS title game will only be number 14 for LSU and 13 for the Crimson Tide. The 2011 FCS national champion will have played 15 games by the end of its season next month. And, the University of Richmond Spiders played 16 en route to their 2008 national title, and they are a fine academic institution. With a playoff, the two BCS Championship game participants would typically only have played 3 games beyond the 12 regular season contests, and they’d be spread over six weeks.

Others, of course, would lament the potential loss of the bowl games which are a long-time part of college football history. Duly noted.

Therefore, I propose that we create a playoff system that 1) maintains all of the existing bowls, 2) incorporates the existing BCS system/standings to determine the playoff/bowl participants, 3) guarantees playoff participation to all six major conferences, and 4) makes very reasonable room for the so-called non-major conferences (WAC, Mountain West, C-USA, MAC, etc.) and, assuming they don’t join a conference, for the major independents like Notre Dame and Navy. Nothing like keeping everybody smiling.

Will it work? Sure.

Is it perfect? Seriously, what is?

Remember this! The bottom line is the current system clearly does not consistently deliver a universally-accepted champion. And possibly worst of all, the current system has led to the plundering of perceived weaker conferences by the major ones. And, it has also triggered the bizarre migration of college football programs towards the major conferences in search of the holy grail of the BCS system—the automatic BCS bowl berth. (Boise State and San Diego State do not belong in the Big East—‘nuf said).

Okay, so what’s the plan?

(Stay tuned for all that and more in Part 2)

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at:


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