Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Short History of the American College Bowl System

In the beginning...

In the early days, there were 6-8 big conferences in college football. The Pac-10
(Stanford, UCLA, USC, etc.), Big 10 (Michigan, Iowa, etc.), SEC
(Florida, Tennessee, etc.). They were all regional since travel was
expensive and difficult. Each conference would play all the other
teams in the conference and crown a champion. Makes sense. At the end
of the season, champs of the different conferences would meet in the
bowl games:

Pac-10 vs Big-10 in the Rose Bowl
ACC vs. Big East in the Orange Bowl.

I have no idea why they are called bowls, but the actual stadiums were named after
the bowls. The Orange Bowl is a stadium in the ghetto of Miami near
the airport. The Rose Bowl is a sweet stadium in Los Angeles. The
game was not just a game. There would be a parade, pageant, carnival,
the whole deal. Remember, people didn't travel much back in the day,
so a guy from Michigan going to Los Angeles was a big deal. The
winner of the game would be the Rose Bowl champ or the Fiesta Bowl
champ. There was no national championship game. The coaches and
reporters would have a vote and declare who was champion. Remember,
there may be two undefeated teams in the country, but they would only
meet if it happened in the standard bowl match-up.

Later on...

Cities noticed how great the bowls are. Tourists would come to town, spend lots of
money, and party it up. Some more bowl games were created since there
were plenty of good teams not playing in bowls. For example, the
Cotton Bowl (in Dallas) may showcase the #2 Big 12 team against the
#2 Pac-10 team. The fans would still come and spend some money and
everybody was happy. These new bowls were generally created in
tourist freindly places such as Orlando (Citrus Bowl) or Jacksonville
(Gator Bowl). There is still no national championship game. People
just voted on it.

Some more time passes...

LOTS of dubious bowls have been created because the money is good. Teams get paid to play. The bigger the bowl, the bigger the paycheck. The #7 team in
the SEC might play the #5 team in the Pac-10 in the Meineke Car Care
Bowl. There is also the papajohns.com
bowl, the Pulian Weedeater Bowl, and even the Gaylord Hotels Bowl.
None of these are made up. The galleryfurniture.com
Bowl is a favourite. Still, I am not making this up. New bowls were
also needed as the country expanded and new athletic conferences were
created. We now have the WAC (Boise State, Fresno State, etc.),
Conference USA (Memphis, South Florida, etc.) and a whole bunch more.
But the big bowl games and the power conferences (Pac-10, SEC, etc.)
remained the same.

Now, because there are now 40 bowls, the lesser ones would have dubious match-ups
of 6-6 or 7-5 teams. They would also be in less glamourous locales
such as Detroit, Boise, or Nashville. Still, there is no game for the
national championship.

10 years ago...

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is created. The power conferences (Pac-10,
Big East, SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12) and Notre Dame (they are not in a
conference because they make more money not being in one. Don't ask
about this) decide that there is beaucoup $$$$$$$$ if they can
somehow have a national championship game. Basically, a Super Bowl.
Here is what they did. They took the four biggest bowls (Orange,
Fiesta, Rose, and Sugar) and designated one as the national
championship game. They took the winners of the 6 power conferences,
Notre Dame (if they were deemed good enough that year), and 1 or 2
at-large bids. They then set up the Bowl games to feature the "best"
match-ups. They would try to keep it traditional (Big 10 vs Pac-10 in
the Rose Bowl), but it did not always happen. Now, the game that was
deemed the national championship game that year would feature the #1
and #2 BCS teams. How were they chosen? By a mix of voters and
complex computer algorithms that rated the wins/losses/strength of
schedule/margin of victory of all the teams. I am not making this up.
Not surprisingly, the computer has made some dubious choices in some
years. It is easy when a power conference team is undefeated, but how
about when there are 5 teams with one loss?

5 years ago...

The members of the non-power conferences threatened to sue since they were getting
shut out of the big money BCS games. The BCS agreeed to invite
non-BCS conference teams if they finished high enough in the BCS
computer ranking. I am still not making any of this up. This is how
Boise State managed to play in last night's Fiesta Bowl against a
traditional powerhouse team (Oklahoma). You will also notice that
they won. A non-BCS school will never make it to the national
championship game unless they play a tough out of conference
schedule. Boise Sate went undefeated during the regular season
against crap schools.

This year...

Because they might have to let 1 or 2 non-BCS schools in, the BCS has added a
national championship game. It is not called Bowl or anything. So, we
now have the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, and Rose Bowl. One week later, we
have a national championship game. The teams in this game do not play
in the Orage, Sugar, Fiesta, or Rose. It is a completely new "bowl".

So, here are this year's BCS bowl match-ups:

Fiesta: Oklahoma(Big 12 champ) vs Boise State (at large due to going
Sugar: Notre Dame (always overrated enough to get in
because they attract big TV $$$) vs. LSU (at large)
Louisville (Big East champ) vs. Wake Forest (ACC champ)
Michigan (at large) vs USC (Pac-10 champ)
National Champiosnip game: Florida (SEC champ) vs. Ohio State (Big 10 champ)

There was controversy about Florida being chosen (by the computers) over
Michigan to play in the national championship game. Michigan got
smoked by UCS last night in the Rose Bowl, so there is not more
discussions about this.


material #1

This is just for the 100 or so division 1 schools. There is also division 1-AA,
division 2, and division 3. All other divisions have playoffs like
normal leagues. There is no money to be made in lower divisions.

Additional material #2

EVERY team also has a big rivalry game each year, usually in November. These rivalry games are sometimes bigger than the bowl games that the teams get to.
Most of these games have funky names. Washington vs Washington State
is for the Apple Cup. These trophies have been around forever. Oregon
vs. Oregon State is called the Civil War. Some teams play for the Big
Axe. Some for the Big Brown Jug. I can't make this sh*t up.


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