Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bring Back the BCS!

One of the few things the general public seems to agree on is that the NCAA Football BCS computer rankings system was a disaster. As is often the case when computers are making decisions, a few final rankings over the years had some teams and fan bases very angry. Unfortunately, the current system is heavily favored for the big school conferences, which means small schools are scrambling for solutions.

I disagree, sort of, that the BCS was a disaster. I think the BCS was ahead of its time. While I'm not sure if the stats the system used were the best options to choose from, the thought process behind it was good. Humans are susceptible to extreme bias without even realizing it, while the computers simply input the data and spit out an answer* for us. However, with advanced stats in every sport proving to be a far better predictor of future performance than previously thought possible, the BCS deserves more credit than it received.

*Of course, it's usually a human being programming these computers, so human error still exists

To be clear, I love the current playoff system. Four teams is definitely better than two, and assuming it expands in the near future eight or sixteen teams will be even better. What I don't love is the committee that determines those four teams. They are influenced by what the media says, because they're human beings and they'd have to live under a rock to avoid all the television shows and web articles. They have natural biases toward certain teams or conferences, some without even realizing it.

If the NCAA were smart, it would put together a team of people capable of building a far better version of the BCS. With a four team field instead of two, there would be less of an argument for teams to make that they were left out. If you're the #5 team, that's a tough pill to swallow, but three years ago you weren't even in the discussion. Progress is good.

When TCU got screwed out of a playoff bid two years ago despite being the #4 seed prior to the week's final season and WINNING their final game 55-3, nobody outside of TCU seemed to care. Most unbiased fans felt TCU was indeed the fifth best team, so the committee got it right at the end of the day.

My issue is, if that's true, then why was TCU ranked #4 in the first place? It's not like the teams that jumped them were more impressive in the week's final season; TCU won by 52 points! With a computer system we would have a more fair outcome, as a team ranked where TCU was heading into the final week would basically know what they needed to do to maintain their ranking. When we use human beings and let them make subjective decisions, they do dumb shit. Plain and simple.

A new BCS wouldn't be without issues, obviously. But transparency is important when the National Championship is on the line, and a computer is far more transparent because we would know the exact formula that went into creating the rankings. I know the committee goes on TV and tries to explain their picks, but nobody knows if what they're saying is the truth. I would remove the coaches and AP polls from having any influence on the final BCS, also. Obviously, I don't think a lot of humans and voting systems, and that's only partially influenced by recent events. Bring back the damn BCS, but keep the playoff.