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Confusing, but the darned thing works

Complain all you want about the methodology, but the 2-year-old BCS has matched the nation's top two teams both times.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000


The Bowl Championship Series formula may be a bit complicated with all the number crunching, but don't lose sight of this simple piece of data: It's 2-for-2 in pairing the top teams in a national championship game.

Not too shabby.

Especially when you consider that in the five years of the Bowl Alliance and Bowl Coalition, the forerunners of the BCS, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams met twice in a bowl. In the 56 years before that period, that ballyhooed matchup occurred just eight times.

"I think the BCS has worked the last two years and has been very effective at what it's supposed to do," said Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford, whose league takes over for the Southeastern Conference in coordinating the BCS for the next two years.

So, if it ain't broke . . .

"The formula will remain exactly as it was last year," Swofford said, "and we think that's a positive thing because that should breed more familiarity with you (the media) as well as the sporting public and, hopefully, a better understanding of that formula."

Late last season, some folks weren't so much confused by but disenchanted with the formula, which incorporates four equally weighted components (an average of the AP and USA Today/ESPN poll, an average of eight computers, a team's strength of schedule and a team's won-loss record) to come up with a more objective ranking.

Much to the consternation of folks in Blacksburg, Va., once-beaten Nebraska nearly leapfrogged undefeated Virginia Tech for the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings and a shot at Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.

"It's not perfect, but I don't know if there's anything that's perfect, whether it's the NCAA basketball tournament or the BCS or whatever it might be," Swofford said. "There's always going to be some controversy. But I think we're pretty comfortable with it."

So much so that the ACC, SEC, Big East, Pac-10, Big Ten, Big 12 and Notre Dame extended their involvement with the BCS and their television partner, ABC, for four more years through the 2005 season. (The champions of those six leagues receive automatic berths and two other teams are selected at large.)

During this season, Swofford said, discussions will begin with the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Rose bowls to extend their contracts for the same four years.

"If there were some reason that an agreement could not be reached with one or more of those bowls, then it might be opened up, but I think it's very likely that agreements will be reached with the four bowls that are currently a part of the BCS," he said.

That would mean each of the bowls would host the national championship twice. This season's penultimate game is at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. The Rose Bowl completes the initial rotation in 2002.

The only change to the BCS is minor.

The College Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, not a conference, will compute and release the standings each Monday beginning Oct. 23. The matchups will be announced Dec. 3.

"I think that's something positive because it removes any perception anyone would have that a league office that had a horse in the race, so to speak, would do anything to manipulate the standings," Swofford said. "That would never happen anyway, but I think it is healthy to get it out of any one conference and have it being handled by an entity that is not directly impacted or directly involved."

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