A long time ago, there were only six college football teams: Penn State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Plainfield Teachers, and Sewanee, which was a part of the Confederate army that never surrendered.
Back then, teams didn’t play 12 games a season. They played 10, or 8, or whatever they darn well pleased. This was before ESPN was in charge of everything. What’s more, you could win a national championship without even playing in a bowl. This could have been because there were never enough players left alive at the end of the year to play an extra game. (Back in the old days, Nike made all the helmets out of leather. It was not a good time to be a football player.)
Football changed dramatically in the twentieth century. Bear Bryant saw J.C. Watts play for Oklahoma and decided to let black people, and Republicans, play for Alabama. Then Ronald Reagan, who was Notre Dame’s star player, left to become president. (Notre Dame has never recovered.) Meanwhile, guys at other universities were seeing how many chicks that the football players were scoring and were all like, not fair, brah, we want to play too. All the schools added football teams, even Clemson.
All of the extra teams made it harder to tell which one was the best. For a while everyone used the bowl system, which was like having a hungover scrimmage at the end of the year. This solved almost nothing. Sometimes the #1 team would be playing in Pasadena, while the #2 team played in Miami.
In 1994, the sport experienced a boon in popularity because Bill Walsh College Football came out for Sega Genesis. Nerds suddenly became interested in college football because they could play as Kordell Stewart, who ran 60 miles an hour in the game and could throw the ball 80 yards while scrambling backwards.
With so many people paying attention to college athletics, TV revenues started to climb.
Since 1992, the conferences had been toying with bowl alliances, trying to figure out how to get the top teams matched together. Unable to get it right, in 1998 the conference commissioners met to devise a system where the best team in all the land would be crowned national champion, all official-like.
Ha ha, just kidding. They got together and figured out how to make each other hella rich.
The commissioners created a playoff, except it was for two teams. To make it sound regal and to confuse slower people, they used initials, calling it the BCS. The university presidents didn’t seem to care that only two teams could be in the playoff. This was because every single one of them assumed that their school would get in, easy. Also: money.
After several years of questionable selections that left deserving teams out of the title game, the conference commissioners and BCS officials had to do something to deal with angry fans. Faced with a system that sometimes excluded undefeated teams, and confronted with a skeptical public and a moral imperative to create an open system, the conference commissioners took a long, hard look at themselves.
Dude, we are so rich, they said.
In 2004, an undefeated Auburn team was shut out of the title game. The King of the SEC, Mike Slive, was all like, fellas, peep my Plus One, IMMA BOUT TO RELEASE THE KRAKEN. (He meant Tebow.) None of the other commissioners wanted to hear about a Plus One, because they thought he was talking about the Christian boy band. Heathens.
So the SEC unleashed the Tebow-Kraken, and the heathen teams were smote in the championship game.
The rest of the country became very angry that the SEC was winning so many national championships. In response to this, the BCS turned to the very people who long ago helped start the process: nerds. The teenagers who played Bill Walsh College Football in 1994 instead of dating girls were now grown up and living on the East Coast working as engineers or bloggers. These nerds created complicated computer formulas for the BCS to use to help select its championship teams.
Things reached a head in 2011. The voters and computer formulas selected two teams from the SEC to play for the title. LSU and Alabama were picked solely on the basis of being the two best teams in the country, and a great many people took profound exception to this.
Once more the future of the BCS is being called into question. Even President Obama has declared his support for a playoff. To even the most impartial observer, it would seem clear that broad, sweeping chang—
To recap, the BCS is a proud contributor to the vibrant, radiant spectrum of college football, and is essential to the future of the sport.