A New Bowl Seeding Process
by Wayne Crump, 6/1/01

Sometime in the near future, many of us feel that Division 1-A needs to take the next step towards a playoff. Personally, I am not sure that a true playoff would profit the division.

If we were to use the current bowls, the fixed locations for playoff games would create tremendous hurdles to overcome. Think of the logistics when you schedule Tulane/Boston College in Pasadena California, and only give the fans one week to prepare. On the other hand, if you are going to play the games at the participating schools, the existing bowl structure dissolves and the magic that goes with it is gone.

I also see virtually no reason to make significant alterations to the current bowl system that has served college so faithfully for the last century.

The BCS however, does have several flaws. The six BCS conference champions already have most of the bowl slots taken through conference tie-ins. The BCS formula needs to be more inclusive of non-BCS conferences. It also needs to create a little more competition for those two slots in the championship game.

A Proposed Bowl Selection System

The method I'm proposing is designed to take the BCS one step closer to a playoff, while keeping the BCS and the bowls in their present perspective. Here's how it works:

  1. Move four prominent non-BCS bowls (Copper, Gator, Cotton, and Liberty) to mid-December. In response to this move, several of the minor bowls would replace their slots around the New Year’s Day time frame. For sake of argument, let us select the following bowls. These four bowl games will become the BCS Preliminary Round. There is no reason or rhyme for the selection of those four bowls other than geographic variety.
  2. All conference ties to all BCS Bowl Games will be dissolved. (this is not as drastic as it would first appear if you think through the following steps).
  3. The selection will begin as follows: Round 1: First we would select the top 2 teams in the BCS ranking and the 6 BCS conference champions. While the top two teams are usually also champions of a BCS conference, this does not necessarily need to be the case, so this group could include anywhere from 6-8 teams.
  4. The top four teams within the above group (according to their BCS rankings) will now be given BCS byes into New Years Day. The lower-ranked teams would go into the preliminary round.
  5. The next selection block, Round 2, will be any team in the top 5 of the BCS rankings that has not already been picked. At this point we could have as many as 11 selections, or as few as 6. We now need anywhere from one to six additional teams to round the number out to 12 teams.
  6. We have already selected the top five teams in the country, and any BCS conference champion that is not in the top five. We then look at BCS rankings 5-10 for selection Round 3. First we would select any undefeated team in the top ten not already selected. Then we would select any conference champion in the top ten not already selected. Then we would select any conference runner-ups that have not already been selected.
  7. Should there still be any slots left, for Round 4, the BCS would then select undefeated teams ranked 11th to 15th, 3rd place conference teams from the top 10, and conference champions ranked from 11-15, in that order. If any slot were to remain open, the highest ranked teams that are not already selected would receive those slots.
  8. With those selections in place we would now have 12 schools. The seeding for the preliminary round begins, (note we gave 4 teams byes in step 4). A choice would be available for the top seed. They may elect to play the 2nd seed or the 8th seed. There is a major reason for this choice. The top seed could easily be ranked 3rd or 4th. They should have a right to play the best competition so that they have a chance to move up to 2nd and the MNC game. Of course, this decision could reduce their chance of playing on the New Year’s so it is a decision that would not be taken lightly. Based off that school’s decision, the other three games would be seeded best to worst (3-8, 4-7, 5-6 or 2-7, 3-6, 4-5) All rankings and seeds would be BCS ranking based. At this point the 4 preliminary games are finalized. We do not yet know where they will be played.
  9. The four locations, Arizona (Copper), Florida (Gator), Texas (Cotton) and Tennessee (Liberty), will now pick the GAMES and NOT the schools. This is done in a rotation just like the BCS is done now. This would give the Gator the choice of passing on a #3-#9 Texas-UCLA match up in favor of a #5-#8 Penn State-Florida State match up. This allows them to maximize profits and fan participation. There is nothing in this selection method that would prohibit the bowls from cutting deals and moving the games and selections around as they feel that it is needed to maximize profits.
  10. The winners of the preliminary round then join a pool with the 4 bye teams. They are seeded as follows: Game seeds would be as follows: #1 vs #2, #3 vs #4, #5-#8, #6-#7. This seeding method allows the third ranked team the best chance to be in a position to grab the national runner up, and thus keeps suspense at a maximum.

A Fictional Example

To see an example of how this would work, let us look at a fictional season.

Final Regular Season BCS Rankings:

1 - Nebraska 12-0 (having beaten Kansas State in the B12 playoff game)
2 - Notre Dame 10-1
3 - Alabama 11-1 (8-1 SEC) (Was #1, lost to Tennessee in SEC playoff game, SEC runner up)
4 - Florida State 11-1 (8-0 SEC)
5 - Kansas State 11-1 (lost to Nebraska in B12 playoff game, B12 runner up)
6 - Ohio State 11-1 (8-1 Big Ten) (lost to Michigan, Big Ten runner-up)
7 - Virginia Tech 10-1 (7-0 Big East, BE champions)
8 - Michigan 10-2 (8-1 Big Ten, but beat Ohio State, so they get the Big Ten berth)
9 - Marshall 11-0 (8-0 MAC champions)
10 - Tennessee 9-2 (7-2 SEC, but beat Alabama in SEC playoff game, so they get the SEC berth)
11 - Penn State 8-3 (7-2 Big Ten, 3rd)
12 - Tulane (10-1) (7-0 C-USA champions)
13 - Georgia 8-3 (6-2 SEC, 3rd)
14 - Miami (Florida) 8-3 (6-1, Big East, BE runner-up)
15 - Indiana 8-3 (6-3 Big Ten, 4th)
18 - UCLA 8-4 (8-1 PAC 10 champion)

Selection Round 1
(teams ranked 1 & 2 and BCS champions)

1 - Nebraska (B12 champ)
2 - Notre Dame
4 - Florida State (ACC champ)
7 - Virginia Tech (BE champ)
8 - Michigan (Big Ten champ)
10 - Tennessee (SEC champ)
18 - UCLA (PAC 10 champ)

(7 teams -- 5 open slots are left)

Bye selection
(BCS #1, #2 and highest ranking BCS conference champions)

1 - Nebraska
2 - Notre Dame
4 - Florida State
7 - Virginia Tech

Selection Round 2
(select all teams from the BCS top 5 that have not been selected yet)

3 - Alabama
5 - Kansas State

(now have 9 teams -- 3 open slots are left)

Selection Round 3
(BCS rankings 6-10, in order of selection)

9 - Marshall (undefeated and conference champ)
6 - Ohio State (runner up)

(now have 11 teams -- 1 slot is left)

Selection Round 4
12 - Tulane (conference champion)

The Preliminary Round of Bowl Games

To recap, we have the following teams participating:

1 - Nebraska (B12 champ) - Bye
2 - Notre Dame - Bye
3 - Alabama (SEC runner-up
4 - Florida State (ACC champ) - Bye
5 - Kansas State (Big 12 runner-up)
6 - Ohio State (Big Ten runner-up)
7 - Virginia Tech (Big East champ) - Bye
8 - Michigan (Big Ten champ)
9 - Marshall (MAC champion)
10 - Tennessee (SEC champion)
12 - Tulane (CUSA champion)
18 - UCLA (PAC 10 champion)

#3 Alabama can pick between #5 Kansas State, and #18 UCLA. Let us assume they pick the challenge and go with Kansas State.

The Games are:

  • #3 Alabama - # 5 Kansas State
  • #6 Ohio State - #18 UCLA
  • #8 Michigan - #12 Tulane
  • #9 Marshall - #10 Tennessee

The minor bowls pick this year in a Cotton - Copper - Liberty - Gator sequence.

  • Cotton: would probably go with Alabama-Kansas State (let’s say Alabama wins)
  • Copper: would take Ohio State – UCLA (Ohio State wins)
  • Liberty: would pass on the Michigan – Tulane game and take Marshall – Tennessee (Marshall upsets UT)
  • Gator: Michigan – Tulane where Michigan edges out Tulane

On the basis of their win, let us say that Alabama leap frogs Notre Dame and is now #2.

  • The BCS championship game now becomes #1 Nebraska – #2 Alabama
  • The 2nd BCS game is #3 Notre Dame vs #4 Florida State
  • The 3rd BCS game is #6 Ohio State vs #9 Marshall
  • The 4th BCS game is #7 Virginia Tech vs #8 Michigan

Again, I would let the BCS bowls actually select not the teams, but the GAMES. This is the step where the Rose can keep their Big Ten and/or PAC Ten schools. Let us say that the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar will select in that order:

  • The Fiesta would obviously get the MNC game of Nebraska - Alabama
  • The Orange would probably select Notre Dame - Florida State
  • The Rose would probably select Michigan - VT
  • That would leave the Ohio State – Marshall for the Sugar

A big downside would be the cold hard fact that there would sometimes not be a PAC 10 team for the Rose to select. However, this method opens the window for both the WAC and Mountain West to field teams perfectly capable of challenging for the National Championship. This would, thus, increase local west coast options in the long run. Please remember, this play off would contain 12 teams. Rarely will more than one of the BCS conference teams be ranked below 15th. That being the case, a conference champion ranked 10-15 has a very good chance of being included. The Marshall’s and Brigham Youngs’s of America could be looking at options clearly larger than a Motor City Bowl.

In terms of money, I do have several suggestions. I would suggest an even split on the monies. All twelve schools would get the same amount. Please remember, the monies will now be much larger. Now there will be 12 schools splitting 8 major game pots, instead of 8 schools splitting 4.I would suggest that the winners of the preliminary games get around $1 million extra for travel expense of having to go to 2 games instead of just one.

Several advantages that I can see would include:

  • A pseudo play off format.
  • A much more inclusive BCS.
  • A team with a weaker schedule has a change to prove itself.
  • The major conferences get to keep their prestige and monies.
  • The BCS bowls get to keep their prestige and monies.
  • The Cotton bowl can be elevated.
  • The money gets spread around a bit more.
  • The fame gets spread around a bit more.
  • The pot gets bigger for everyone.
  • The existing bowl structure remains in place with several minor bowls actually getting to move into the more important New Year’s slots.


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