Is the BCS supposed to be fair?

Let me say up front that I have my own issues with the BCS. I believe it is in the best interests of college football to do away with the current format after the four-year contract between the BCS and ESPN expires after the games of January 2014.

I would like to see a seeded four-team playoff.  We would put the magic back into New Year’s Day by playing the semifinals in two of the big bowls on Jan. 1. A week later the two winners would play for the national championship. I believe this is the best way to move the sport forward without disrupting the current college football calendar and while keeping the bowl system intact.

And believe me folks, the university presidents are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the bowl system and the current college football calendar. Any changes in the post-season will have to fall within those presidential parameters. The presidents run the show. Not the media. Not the fans. Not the coaches or the players. The presidents who make up the BCS oversight committee will ultimately make this call.

Therefore, any proposed change to the system has to be rational and fact based, not emotion based. The presidents are not going to vote for an eight-team playoff because the majority of the fans and the media want it. They are not going to vote for a playoff because politicians know that bashing the BCS is like bashing the IRS: It’s easy and it plays well to the folks back home.

Now all of that is a preface to our question of the day:

Is the BCS supposed to be fair?

I’m serious.

What prompted the question was an email I received from Mr. Alan Fishel, whose law firm represents the fine people at the Mountain West Conference. In his email Mr. Fishel included a “BCS Revenue Discrimination Chart.”

I did not make that up.

Mr. Fishel’s point was that over the past four years the Mountain West and the WAC, who do not have automatic qualifier status,  have outperformed the ACC and the Big East (who do get automatic bids) when it comes to BCS TV ratings, rankings, and attendance. Here is his chart:

Counselor, I will stipulate that your figures are correct and those conferences have performed better over the past four years than the Big East and ACC.

Mr. Fishel also points out that that the six equity conferences that formed the BCS back in 1998 (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10) have benefitted  substantially more from the BCS than the other five Division I-A conferences. Again, Mr. Fishel is right. In fact, I went back to 2004 when Urban Meyer’s Utah team earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.  Here are the total dollars paid out by the BCS, per conference, since 2004.

Big Ten——————$128.2 million

SEC———————–$123.6 million

Big 12——————–$119.1 million

Pac 10——————-$105.6 million

ACC———————-$105.6 million

Big East——————$105.6 million

Mountain West———-$42.4 million

WAC————————$31.3 million

C-USA———————-$12.6 million

MAC————————$9.7 million

Sun Belt——————–$8.2 million

Note: Notre Dame earned about $23 million in this same time period.

If you are keeping score at home, that’s about $687 million that has gone to the six equity or “privileged” conferences (as Senator Orrin Hatch likes to lovingly call them) and about $104 million to the other five “non-privileged” conferences. That’s a gap of about $583 million over six years.

Mr. Fishel goes on to say that “The revenue discrimination chart attached is meant to begin the process of shining light on what is occurring and will continue to occur, under the  BCS unless there are significant changes.”

Just out of curiosity I did a Google search on the words “BCS” and “fair” and there were tons of items, including Boise State president Robert Kustra who, not surprisingly, had looked at Mr. Fishel’s numbers and decided that the BCS was not “fair.”

I get nervous when politicians, media, and college presidents start throwing around words like “fair.” It is a moving definition. Some people think that if their neighbor drives a nicer car than them that it’s not fair. The term is too vague.

But however it is defined I must ask again: Where is it written that the BCS is SUPPOSED to be fair?

Here is the problem that I have with Mr. Fishel’s sometimes breathless argument:

No. 1: All of these numbers he cites are a matter of public record. Nobody has to shine a light on anything. It’s all out there. The six BCS equity conferences that put this deal together in 1998 and marketed it and grew it make a lot more money from this deal than the other five conferences. It was designed that way in 1998 by the television networks who were putting up the money. No news there.

No. 2: I want the five non-equity conferences to get as much money as they can out of the BCS pool. Keep pushing. Keep negotiating. Keep reminding the other conferences of your value. The Mountain West has a chance to play its way in to an automatic bid in 2012 and 2013.

But to say these conferences are the victims of “revenue discrimination” (I’ve got to write that one down for future use) is to presume they had a pre-existing claim to the BCS money pool that is somehow being denied.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany mentioned this last week and it bears repeating: Colleges and universities have institutional advantages based on geography, tradition, enrollment, endowments, etc. Institutions trade on those advantages, in some cases built over 100 years, in order to field the best athletics teams, the best law schools or to hire the best faculty. The lawyers produced at East Idaho State Teachers College may be every bit as good as those who from Harvard. But the lawyer with a sheepskin from Harvard has an advantage and that, gentle readers, ain’t gonna change.

So let’s tone down the rhetoric about “revenue discrimination” and come up with a plan that works. If the Mountain West keeps doing what it’s doing, it will become the seventh conference with an automatic bid in 2012. Then that league will get a full share of the BCS pie. The five non-automatic qualifier conferences were given a path to become an AQ.  The MWC, I believe, is going to succeed.

Last season, for the first time ever, two teams from non-AQ conferences (Boise State, TCU) went to a BCS Bowl. As a result the five conferences shared a record $24 million. Should they get more?

Yes, and they will. This year the BCS contract improves from $80 million per year (under Fox) to $125 million per year (under ESPN). So if the MWC and WAC get back to the BCS there will be more money available.

Maybe I’m wrong about all of this. Maybe the BCS should just throw all the money into one pot so that the Sun Belt and the Mid-American conferences, which have sent no teams to BCS bowls, will get the exact same share as the SEC, which has won four straight national championships and sent 10 teams to the BCS in six years. Maybe that would be the “fair” thing to do.

You tell me.

Please follow me on Twitter:

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I will be subbing for Brandon Adams today on the “Brandon and Woolvey Show” at 11 a.m. on 790 The Zone. We’ll be taking a detailed look at the SEC, ACC, and Top 25 heading into the summer.

255 comments Add your comment

Auburn 04

May 27th, 2010
5:19 pm

Tide Rising

There have been many teams who’ve won the national title with a tie. GT comes to mind in 1990.

Tide Rising

May 27th, 2010
5:25 pm

Auburn 04,

That’s true. I’m just making the point that in a couple of those years such as 1932 that there was probably someone with a completely unbeaten, untied record. For example, In 1958 LSU won it and I believe they were 10-0 and AU was 9-0-1 so naturally it went to LSU.

The AU team in 1932 that had a tie was the only other time in modern history that you might possibly have a beef but even then I’m sure there was probably at least 1 or 2 other teams that had completely unblemished records. I dunno. I could be wrong and as you have told me I may just have the intelligence of a carrot.

Auburn 04

May 27th, 2010
5:28 pm

“I could be wrong and as you have told me I may just have the intelligence of a carrot.”

Glad to know that you have a sense of humor. :)

Delbert D.

May 27th, 2010
5:37 pm

Auburn is listed as National Poll Champions in these years:

1913 Billingsley
1957 AP, Billingsley, Football Research, Helms, National Championship Foundation, Poling, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), Williamson
1983 Billingsley, FACT, NY Times, Football Research
1993 National Championship Foundation*

* The organization selected multiple winners in some years (other organization did also, in some years)

Delbert D.

May 27th, 2010
5:41 pm

Beast from the East

May 27th, 2010
5:48 pm

We’ve heard plenty about 2004. What do folks expect this year out of your team? I think they could be the darkhorse in the West. Nobody really talking about them. It’s all Bama, LSU and Arkansas.

Forrest Gump is the most famous Bama grad

May 27th, 2010
5:51 pm

“We’ve heard plenty about 2004. What do folks expect this year out of your team? I think they could be the darkhorse in the West. Nobody really talking about them. It’s all Bama, LSU and Arkansas.”

Well, I am hearing and reading about how the offense is gonna be explosive. Also hearing that their defense should be a lot better than last year. If Auburn gets a good defense then watch out. The problem with Arkansas is if Mallet. If he goes down then the whole season is lost. As for LSU I have no idea. I keep reading how they’re in big decline.

Forrest Gump is the most famous Bama grad

May 27th, 2010
5:53 pm

Delbert D.

Unfortunately the school doesn’t recognize any of them. But, the actual Auburn alumni flyer does. It also recognizes 2004.

Forrest Gump is the most famous Bama grad

May 27th, 2010
5:54 pm

“Nobody really talking about them. ”

That’s the best thing that could happen to any team. When you’re number one, every team is gunning to knock you out.

Beast from the East

May 27th, 2010
6:03 pm

I think the West is going to be much more competitive than the East this year. Could be wrong, but w/ UT down and UGA still unkown it looks like a one horse race in the East. Hope so anyway!

Of course it's the contract

May 27th, 2010
6:04 pm

Money…that is why PHew is still at Tech. Surely not love.

Delbert D.

May 27th, 2010
6:28 pm

“Unfortunately the school doesn’t recognize any of them. But, the actual Auburn alumni flyer does. It also recognizes 2004.”

That’s got to be an odd one, considering how may polls are listed in the book that I posted the link for. It shows Southern Cal getting the nod in 2004 with 19 poll/rating services, zero for any other school. In 1983 Auburn was selected by 5 polls, but Miami was picked by 9 and Nebraska by 8.

Forrest Gump is the most famous Bama grad

May 27th, 2010
6:31 pm

“It shows Southern Cal getting the nod in 2004 with 19 poll/rating services, zero for any other school. ”

Darryl W. Perry, EFI, FansPoll, GBE, Golf Digest, Hank Trexler, M Cubed all gave Auburn the nod in 2004.

Forrest Gump is the most famous Bama grad

May 27th, 2010
6:33 pm

8 Auburn teams have been awarded some form of “National Champions” title, though Auburn officially claims only the 1957 AP one. The NCAA’s website states that “the NCAA does not conduct a national championship in Division I-A football and is not involved in the selection process”, but goes on to state that “a number of polling organizations provide a final ranking of Division I-A football teams at the end of each season”. The NCAA website lists four Auburn squads that have been named National Champions by at least one organization

Greensboro News & Record

May 27th, 2010
7:35 pm


SC Rules!!!

May 27th, 2010
8:02 pm

breaking news;

you sound more like a broken record. “USC is afraid of a playoff” (?????????) WHO the hell was ALWYAS advocating a playoff? Pete that’s who! NOT Loser Les, NOT phat Phil, NOT Urban Cryer, NOT even the ole ball coach.

Pete Carroll said MANY a time on national TV “we’ll play ANYONE, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE”; what part of that do you thickheaded knuckledragging, crack smoking, hunching your sister while your momma is complaining she can’t hear the Jerry Springer show selves NOT GET???

We came into yer cribs and punked yer sorry @sses too prove that point! Nuff said!!!

Fight On!!!

BWH Dawg

May 27th, 2010
8:25 pm

As this article points out, the ACC and Big East are a joke. It will get worse once the mega conferences form. What is left of the ACC will join with the Big East teams no other conference wants. The Big East will dissolve in football, and the ACC will be an even bigger joke. Nice league you have there Jackets. LOL!!! THWGT forever.

Little Petey Carol

May 27th, 2010
8:47 pm

Hi SC Rules!!!

You seem to have an anger problem. I never said anything about a playoff system. You must be high on meth or maybe mushrooms. Whatever you crazy kids are doing these days.

Anyhoo, I’m doing fine in Seattle. I hear Kiffin is quite the runner!

Oh by the way, I left cause USC is gonna go on probation real soon. Reggie was on the take as well as other players. Whoops, guess I wasn’t sposed to say that now was I.

On another note, Auburn was the better team that year. Little Leinnart is can attest that that now that he’s third string sitting behind a guy that could be his dad.

“Fight On!!!”

Yeah, about that slogan. You might want to change that to “Please don’t” when USC gets slapped with 5+ years of probation.


Grammar Police

May 27th, 2010
8:48 pm

“complaining she can’t hear the Jerry Springer show selves NOT GET???”

SC Drools, I sure hope you didn’t graduate from USC. If you did you sure do give that school a bad name.

Grammar Police

May 27th, 2010
8:50 pm

“WHO the hell was ALWYAS advocating a playoff? ”

It’s “always” and not “alwyas.”

Tommy Tubberville was advocating a playoff while Reggie Bush was getting paid. As was Mark Richt, Nick Saban etc….

Now please take a Valium, a basic English class and sip some hot tea.


May 27th, 2010
9:03 pm

RECORD: 13-0
9-11-04 at Mississippi State WON 43-14
9-25-04 THE CITADEL WON 33-3
10-2-04 at Tennessee WON 34-10
10-16-04 ARKANSAS WON 38-20
10-23-04 KENTUCKY WON 42-10
10-30-04 at Mississippi WON 35-14
11-13-04 GEORGIA WON 24-6
11-20-04 at Alabama WON 21-13
vs. Tennessee @Atlanta, GA WON 38-28
SUGAR BOWL @New Orleans, LA
1-3-05 vs. Virginia Tech WON 16-13

I like Auburn but the system picked OU and USC in 2004 and at the end of the season most people felt they were the 2 best teams. I said then and still do to this day that Auburn’s weak OOC schedule cost them a shot at the national title.

Geaux Tigers

SC Rules!!!

May 27th, 2010
9:05 pm


you clearly didn’t read the entire comment or as I surmise chose to clip only part of the comment.

So sorry that my spell check was mistakenly clicked/ticked off. Must be tough being perperperfect.

SC Rules!!!

May 27th, 2010
9:07 pm

petey “loser les” is more like it!

Quit cowering under urban sprawls desk, those chapped knees are getting tough for the home folk to ignore.

SC Rules!!!

May 27th, 2010
9:18 pm

SEC fans;

Funny how y’all can dish it out but sure as hell can’t take it! (Just like your teams vs. SC & the rest of the PAC-10) UCLA rolls into Tennessee’s crib and puts a beat down on ‘em. Tennessee goes to Cali to play UCLA & CAL over two seasons only to get punked! Arkansas rolls into SoCal and gets thumped, we take a little jaunt on over to hillbilly land and run up the score like we was playing against a pee wee squad. The kittens invite us (SC) too their place and we skunk ‘em, then make the beating even worse the following year at our place. I’m startin’ to see a pattern here; PAC 10 vs. SEC is a no brainer (just like y’alls schools) we win, YOU LOSE!!!!

Fight On!!!

[...] Is the BCS supposed to be fair? [...]

SC Cheated

May 27th, 2010
10:20 pm

“Auburn’s weak OOC schedule”

Auburn played more ranked teams than USC and OU.

War Eagle!

Tide Rising

May 27th, 2010
10:20 pm

SC Rules!!!,

Hold your horses there. Looks like someone gotcha all fired up today. We still have braggin rights on you having won 5 of the 7 played including the last one in 1985 24-3. But recently I don’t think anybody will dispute USC’s obvious dominance over the SEC with the blowout wins over AU and and Ark. Those weren’t just wins. They were more like beatdowns.

But it hasn’t been totally lopsided. We’ve won a few of the other games. UT beat Cal at UT just as bad as Cal beat UT at CAL. LSU beat Washington although I will admit Washngton aint quite what it used to be. And Georgia beat up on ASU twice.

I think fair minded people will admit that Pac 10 ball is better than what we sec fans give it credit for. A few of us don’t yet realize that they play football in other parts of the country. But for the most part reasonable sec fans know that offense is to the pac 10 what defense is to us sec fans. You guys have a more wide open style with more scoring that makes us think you guys are all finesse teams and we play more defensive ball which we like to think is a tougher way of playing football. The truth is somewhere in the middle. In any event I don’t think anybody really question’s USC as a powerhouse in the 2000s. At least I don’t anyway.

Vince Young

May 27th, 2010
10:21 pm

“Funny how y’all can dish it out but sure as hell can’t take it!”

I kicked USC’s a$$ single handedly. I also sent Matt Leinart home in a cab.

Texas rules USC.

Vince Young

May 27th, 2010
10:23 pm

“we win, YOU LOSE!!!!”

Good luck watching from the bowl sidelines this year, moron. You gals are gonna be crying without Pete Carol paying off players.

Go Horns!


May 27th, 2010
10:25 pm

“In any event I don’t think anybody really question’s USC as a powerhouse in the 2000s.”

The NCAA does.

The South

May 27th, 2010
10:26 pm

“we take a little jaunt on over to hillbilly land and run up the score like we was playing against a pee wee squad.”

If you don’t hillbilly land please do us all a favor and head over to bankrupt California. And no, the south will not be bailing your crappy state out.

SC Rules!!!

May 27th, 2010
11:06 pm

Tide Rising,

You are correct, then again our two programs have had some real good ‘ole fashioned barn burners. Coach Bryant bringing a young Bama team to the colesium and rollin us but good, though we did return the favor in B-ham (Sam Bam Cunningham). Yes the PAC -10 does most surely favor the passing game to 3 yards and cloud of astro turf fibers. But we know how to play D too; SC is predicted to have the #1 D line in the country this fall. I would love nothing more than too see SC somehow move to the SEC or some combined”super conf.” like they are talking about making out of the PAC 10 & Big 12 after the Big 10/11 expands for the 2011 season.

SC Rules!!!

May 27th, 2010
11:08 pm

Vine Young;

Win somwhere besides at Texas then come running yer gums.

SC Rules!!!

May 27th, 2010
11:15 pm

the South;

Ever heard of a little place called Silicon Valley??? Even with a messed up economy (thanks too unions & Dumascraps in the bill mill) Silicon Valley raked in more Venture Capital (VC) $$$$$ than the rest of the country combined!!! #2 on that list: L.A./O.C. Cali will be doin just fine thanks. Oh, and since y’all don’t know what VC $$$$ is or where it comes from; it is to support the development of new companies that are creating the next great thing in technology and it comes from all over the country, but mostly from within Cali itself. So, sorry to deflate that last gasp effort at runnin your suck about Cali.

Giving You Thursday Night Links

May 27th, 2010
11:18 pm

[...] Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says it would be best for college football to do away with the BCS after the new contract with ESPN [...]

SC Rules!!!

May 27th, 2010
11:57 pm


SC Rules!!!

May 28th, 2010
12:31 am

well my “namesake” (AHEM!)

Turn off the caps lock when talking/typing; it is rude. I “troll” the AJC because I’m a long time fan of Mr. Barnharts writing, if that’s OK with you. Secondly if you’ve been actually paying any attention and reading this blog for more than 5 mins. you’d also know that I HAVE over the past couple seasons given props too the SEC as the best conference in the country top to bottom. But yes, SC is the Best TEAM 2 me! My good friend shane #1 and I have exchanged many a good natured barb with each other while also giving each others team the respect they are due. I have no issue with Tide or UGA fans and have even had several of them say how much they thought that SC was one of the best teams in the country each season. I think that SC, Bama & UGA along with Texas & VaTech are some of the best programs year in and year out across the land.

I also used to live in the South (Huntsville, AL) so I know about the South; I enjoyed my time there, but Cali is home.

So when I see/read some of the idiotic things being said about SC I am gonna stand up for her just as y’all step up for your teams.

Fight On!

p.s. Remeber to say “Thanks” to a Vet this weekend.

Semper Fi!
USMC (Ret.)

unbiased opinion

May 28th, 2010
2:41 am

I’m tired of hearing the argument over a playoff that there will still be argument over the last teams in. Who deserves the fourth spot in a four team playoff, or the 8th spot in an 8 team playoff. I think we can all agree that it is better to argue over the third and fouth spot than the first and second. Football will never be as fair as basketball. Each team plays once a week and it is impossible to get as many games and matchups in football as in basketball. It is also more unlikely for an upset in football. Each team plays about 30 guys a game as opposed to 7 or 8 in basketball. This makes it easier to spread around talent in bball. Football is top heavy. 9 out of every 10 years the top 2 or 3 teams are the only ones that deserve a shot at the championship


May 28th, 2010
4:28 am

“Victims of “revenue discrimination” is to presume they had a pre-existing claim to the BCS money pool that is somehow being denied”

That is what it is all about Tony Blowhart.

How is that you ALWAYS miss it ?

No matter what you write about, you miss the point EVERY time Tony.

EVERY sport, EVERY time sir.

ACC has not had a relevant football team in so long, that no one can remember when they did.

Big East is a total joke and has been since the FAILED attempt by the ACC to be a better conference by raiding the Big East.

Those 2 conferences should LOSE their Automatic. Indeed neither had ANY CLAIM WHATSOEVER pre-existing to it.

The best teams in the nation, are the best teams in the nation.

It has NOTHING to do with what conference they are from.

If there are 3 teams of the best 4 from The SEC, then The SEC should NOT have themselves limited to only 2 because the ACC and the Big East have AUTOMATIC seeds even though they NEVER have had ANY pre-existing claim to it.

And, the ACC and the Big East certainly do NOT have any now-existing claim to it EITHER.

By the way, that is more than a 50 percent increase in BCS monies from ESPN.

Now, if we could just get our Georgia Bulldogs’ Football Program RELEVANT getting to beat ANY Top 10 even Final AP Poll team in ANY bowl game in the Coach Richt Era, which of course, he NEVER has done, not in 9 years – with better 9-year runs by Wally Butts and by Vince Dooley.

[...] that schools be given unfettered opportunity to compete without barriers. Tony Barnhart writes a great piece about how the BCS is “unfair” but economically needs to be “unfair”. [...]


May 28th, 2010
5:55 am

I love how people keep bringing up “socialism” and the “free market” when talking about college football. Do you realize that most of the money for your athletic programs, your gigantic stadiums, and academic opportunities are funded by your tax dollars. College football is the epitome of socialism (save private institutions). You have a gigantic alumni base whose education was subsidized through tax dollars. This is all socialism. College athletics is what it is. But before you through out concepts like “socialism” and the “free market” to bolster your point of view, you should probably know what they mean first.

The South

May 28th, 2010
9:22 am

“So, sorry to deflate that last gasp effort at runnin your suck about Cali.”

California will be bankrupt within a year. Bet the house on it.

Greensboro, Georgia

May 28th, 2010
10:01 am


Semper Paratus

May 28th, 2010
10:05 am

Southern CAL was 5-4 in the PAC 10 last year.

The Trojans don’t even rule their own conference, much less anything else.

Give Wildlife a Chance

May 28th, 2010
10:08 am

Refrain from buying BP products untill they clean up their mess.

Forrest Gump is the most famous Bama grad

May 28th, 2010
10:43 am

For Ms. SC Rules.

Bankruptcy talk spreads among Calif. muni officials

wo years after Vallejo, California, filed for bankruptcy protection, officials in nearby Antioch are also tossing around the ‘B’ word.


Antioch’s leaders earlier this month said bankruptcy could be an option for the cash-strapped city of roughly 100,000 on the eastern fringe of the San Francisco Bay area.

Antioch’s fiscal woes are standard issue for local governments in California: weak revenue from retail sales and property taxes is forcing spending cuts, layoffs and furloughs.

But cost-cutting measures may not be enough to keep Antioch’s books balanced, so its city council is openly discussing bankruptcy.

“We just want to alert people to the possibility,” Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Mary Helen Rocha said.


May 28th, 2010
12:34 pm

so what everyone is saying is that the non whites of this country should not make as much money as the whites because after all the whites built this country with the help from the non whites.

lets stay in the dark ages by not giving out what is earned. that is what life is all about.

some of these non aq teams have been playing just as long, have had long traditions of winning.

I grew up in the south but i would much rather watch a mountain west conference game than any of them in the sec or acc. too many kids thinking they can get away with anything because they play football at one of those schools. it isn’t fun to watch all the showboating going on.


May 28th, 2010
3:53 pm

Does Tony Barnhart have an email address?

Mark S.

May 28th, 2010
3:55 pm

If you’re looking at the BCS as a “Business” , then you can argue the BCS is fine… it’s rewarding teams that they think bring in the most money back into it (you can also congratulate the CBS/ESPN’s for making it that way… they pay big money, so they promote the big-name schools.)

If you’re looking at the BCS as being fair in terms of finding the best team in the nation, then no… its’ not even close. I think someone pointed it out, that Utah has been playing football as long as Alabama, but Utah has to jump through hurdles to have a shot at a (mythical) “National championship”, whereas Alabama doesn’t.