BCS vs. Playoff System

Daniel Hartwig/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
NCAA Division 1-A football is unique from all other sports in that it does not cap its season with a playoff system designed to determine a champion. Instead, college football provides a system of polls combined with various computer formulas to determine the top-two teams in the country, who then face off in a major bowl game to decide the eventual champion.

Detractors of the current system say major college football is missing the boat by not capitalizing on the excitement generated by similar post-season tournaments in college sports while others claim the system simply isn't fair because a true champion can only be determined on the field.

Pro-BCS factions rest their arguments on the college football tradition the bowl games represent, along with the increased emphasis the lack of a playoff system puts on the regular season.

Latest Developments

Before the 2004 season, the BCS formula was modified to eliminate team record, strength of schedule and quality wins from the equation, while human opinion was given more weight. In the new system, the Associated Press writers' poll, the coaches' poll, and a combination of computer rankings each count for one-third of a team's overall BCS ranking. The human polls now count for two-thirds of the formula, compared with one-quarter previously.

The BCS formula for 2005-06 season remained the same as during the 04-05 season, except that the Harris Interactive College Football Poll replaced the AP poll.


The BCS was established in 1998 to help determine the national champion for college football while maintaining a bowl system that's nearly 100 years old.

Six conferences, including the Big Ten, Pac-10, ACC, Big East, Big 12 and SEC committed their champions to play under the this system.

Before the 2004 season, Conference USA, along with the Sun Belt, Mid-American, Mountain West and Western Athletic conferences joined the BCS.


• Creates a playoff atmosphere throughout the season.
• Uses the traditional college bowl games

• Decides the better team in head-to-head competition.
• Would be easy to implement using the current system of Bowl games.
• Would create a lot of interest and excitement in post-season play.
• Would eliminate, or at least limit, doubt or controversy.
• The majority of fans seem to want it.
• A playoff system seems to work just fine in I-AA, II and III.

• It's the only fair way to decide who the best team is.
• Adding another Bowl game to hold a true national championship game would generate millions of dollars.


• Allows the National Champions to be crowned based on statistics and personal opinion.
• Produces a controversial champion as often as it produces an undisputed winner.
• One off game can eliminate a team from contention.
• Smaller non-BCS conferences are at a disadvantage.

• Would diminish the value of the regular season.
• An already-long season would have to be extended.
Would take more time away from acedemics.

Where It Stands

The current BCS contract runs through the 2010 bowl season, so we may not see a playoff system in major college football for quite some time.

Starting in January, 2007, the site of the game that served as the final BCS game on January 1 will now serve as the host facility of the new BCS National Championship game, which will be played on January 8.