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Bowl Championship Series
Bowl Championship Series logo.svg
BCS Logo 2006-2010
In operation 1998–Present
Preceded by Bowl Alliance (199598)
Bowl Coalition (199295)
Number of BCS games currently 5
(4 from 1998–2006)
Championship trophy awarded to winner AFCA National Championship Trophy
Television Partner(s) ESPN (2011-2014)[1]
FOX (2007-2010)
ABC (1999-2010)
Most BCS bowl appearances Ohio State (8)
Most BCS bowl wins USC (6)
Most BCS championships Florida & LSU (2 each)
Conference with most BCS bowl appearances Big Ten (21)
Conference with most BCS bowl game wins SEC (14)
Conference with most championships SEC (6)
Last championship game 2010 BCS National Championship Game
Current BCS champion Alabama Crimson Tide
Executive Director Bill Hancock
Official website

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is a selection system designed to create five bowl matchups involving ten of the top ranked teams in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), including an opportunity for the top two to compete in a "national championship game". This championship is intended as a surrogate for a playoff system since the NCAA does not formally determine a champion in this category.

The BCS relies on a combination of polls and computer selection methods to determine relative team rankings, and to narrow the field to two teams to play in the BCS National Championship Game held after the other college bowl games. The winner of this game is crowned the BCS national champion and is guaranteed at least a share of the national championship.

The system also selects matchups for the other prestigious BCS bowl games. The ten teams selected include the conference champion from each of the six BCS conferences plus four others. The BCS was created by formal agreement among six conferences, and has evolved to allow other conferences to participate to a lesser degree. It is not formally recognized by the NCAA as a collegiate championship.

It has been in place since the 1998 season, but a number of controversial selections have spurred changes in the system that continue into the present. Prior to the 2006 season eight teams competed in four BCS Bowls. The BCS replaced the Bowl Alliance, in place from 1995–1997, which followed the Bowl Coalition, in place from 1992–1994.


History leading to creation of the BCS

Other NCAA sports determine their national champion through a post-season playoff tournament. However, these tournaments did not start until the 1930s and 1940, when travel was too time-consuming and expensive to support a post-season playoff. The current bowl system began in 1902 with the East-West game in Pasadena, California. Held on New Year's Day in conjunction with the Tournament of Roses, this was an exhibition game between a highly rated team from the west coast and a team east of the Mississippi River.

In this first game, representing the East, the University of Michigan Wolverines, #1 and undefeated, having not been so much as scored upon all season, defeated the West's Stanford University Indians (later renamed Cardinal) by a score of 49 - 0. The lopsided score led to Stanford calling for an end to the game during the third quarter, and also led to the post-season football game not being played again until 1916.

This was an ideal time for a post-season game, as fans could take off work or school during this holiday period to travel to the game. The game was renamed the Rose Bowl in the late 1920s due to the shape of the new stadium built in Pasadena. By the 1930s, the Cotton Bowl Classic, Orange Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl were also held on January 1 to showcase teams from other regions of the country.

By the 1940s, college football conferences began signing contracts that tied their championship team to a particular bowl. In 1947, the Big Ten Conference and the Pacific Coast Conference, a forerunner of today's Pacific-10 Conference, agreed to commit their champions to play in the Rose Bowl every year, an agreement that continued under the BCS. This system raised the possibility that the two top-ranked teams in the final poll would not play each other in a bowl game. Indeed, the two top-ranked teams in the final regular-season AP Poll had only played each other in a bowl six times since the AP began releasing its final poll after the bowl games in 1968. Under the circumstances, it was also possible to have a split national championship.

For example, in 1991, the University of Miami Hurricanes and the University of Washington Huskies were the most dominant teams in the nation. Since the Huskies were locked into the Rose Bowl as the Pacific 10 Conference champion against Big Ten champion Michigan, they could not play Miami, who played in the Orange Bowl. Both teams dominated their bowl games and shared the national championship, Miami winning the Associated Press poll and Washington earning the top spot in the Coaches Poll. A split national championship has happened on many occasions. (See: NCAA Division I FBS National Football Championship for a compilation of past "national champions" since 1869.)

Another possibility was that a team would win the national championship despite playing a questionable schedule. For instance, when the BYU Cougars ended the 1984 season as the only undefeated and untied team in the nation, a number of commentators thought the Cougars hadn't played a legitimate schedule and therefore should not be recognized as national champion. The Cougars, who played in the Western Athletic Conference at the time, were generally recognized as a major football power in a mid-major conference. They had also regularly beaten teams from the power conferences. However, critics pointed out that no one in the WAC was even close to being the Cougars' equal, and also noted that they were due to play in the Holiday Bowl against a 6-5 Michigan team. Nonetheless, BYU was a near-unanimous choice as national champion in most final polls.

To address these problems, five conferences, six bowl games and leading independent Notre Dame joined forces to create the Bowl Coalition, which was intended to force a de facto "national championship game" between the top two teams. By entirely excluding all the other conferences, the Bowl Coalition also made it impossible for a non-Bowl Coalition team to win a national championship. This system was in place from the 1992 season through the 1994 season. While traditional tie-ins between conferences and bowls remained, a team would be released to play in another bowl if it was necessary to force a championship game. However, this system did not include the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions, as both were obligated to play in the Rose Bowl. The Coalition made several unsuccessful attempts to get the Tournament of Roses Association, which operates the Rose Bowl, to release the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions if necessary to force a championship game. In 1994, undefeated Penn State, from the Big Ten, played Oregon in the Rose Bowl while undefeated Nebraska played Miami in the Orange Bowl. In a system that paired top-ranked teams, Penn State would have played Nebraska for the national championship.

The Bowl Coalition was restructured into the Bowl Alliance for the 1995 season, involving five conferences (reduced to four for the 1996 season) and three bowls (Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange). The championship game rotated among these three bowls. It still did not, however, include the Pac-10 or Big Ten champions, the Rose Bowl, or any non-Bowl Alliance teams.

After a protracted round of negotiations, the Bowl Alliance was reformed into the Bowl Championship Series for the 1998 season; former Southeastern Conference commissioner Roy Kramer is considered to be the "father" of the BCS.[2] The Tournament of Roses Association agreed to release the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions if it was necessary to force a national championship game. In return, the Rose Bowl was added to the yearly national championship rotation, and the game was able to keep its coveted exclusive TV time slot on the afternoon of New Year's Day. However, beginning with the 2006 season, the BCS National Championship Game became a separate event played at the same site as a host bowl a week following New Year's Day. The new Bowl Championship Series not only included the Big Ten and the Pac-10 conferences but also teams from mid-major conferences, based on performance.

Bowl games

For a complete list of bowl games for the 2009–10 season, see 2009–10 NCAA football bowl games.

In the current BCS format, four bowl games and the National Championship Game are considered "BCS bowl games." The four bowl games are the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, California, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona and the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Florida. In the first eight seasons of the BCS contract, the championship game was rotated among the four bowls, with each bowl game hosting the national championship once every four years.

Starting with the 2007 BCS, the site of the game that served as the last game on January 1 (or if January 1 fell on a Sunday, January 2) in the BCS then served as the host facility of the new stand-alone BCS National Championship game played on January 8 of that year, one week following the playing of the traditional bowl game which would follow the Rose Bowl with the exception of the games to be played in 2010. There are also twenty-seven non-BCS bowls.

Initial plans were for the additional BCS bowl game to be held at the site of that year's championship game, such that the additional, non-championship bowl be named after the original bowl (e.g. the Sugar Bowl when the championship is in New Orleans), and have the extra game just be called "The National Championship Game". Later, the BCS considered having cities bid to be the permanent site of the new BCS game, and to place the new game in the title rotation. In the end, the BCS opted for its original plan.


Initially, ABC held the rights to all four original BCS games, picking up the Fiesta and Orange Bowls from their former homes at CBS, and continuing their lengthy relationships with the Rose and Sugar Bowls. This relationship continued through the bowl games of January, 2006.

Beginning with the 2006–07 season through the 2009–10 season, any BCS game (including the National Championship Game) hosted by the Fiesta, Orange or Sugar Bowls aired on the Fox Network while games hosted by the Rose Bowl were shown on ABC. Starting with the 2010-2011 season, ESPN will air all BCS games, including the Rose Bowl. The TV deal expires with the January 2014 games. [1]

Selection of teams

A set of rules is used to determine which teams compete in the BCS bowl games.[3]

Certain teams are given automatic berths depending on their BCS ranking and conference, as follows:

  • The top two teams are given automatic berths in the BCS National Championship Game.
  • The champion of a BCS conference (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, and SEC) is guaranteed an automatic BCS bowl bid.
  • The highest ranked champion of a non-BCS conference will receive an automatic berth if:
    • It is ranked in the top twelve, or
    • Ranked in the top sixteen and higher than at least one BCS Conference champion.
  • No more than one such team from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference shall earn an automatic berth in any year.
  • A special case is made for independent Notre Dame, which receives an automatic berth if it finishes in the top eight.
  • No more than two teams from any one conference may receive berths in BCS games unless two non-champions from a BCS conference finish as the top two teams in the final BCS standings in which case they will meet in the National Title Game while their conference champion will play in their conference's BCS bowl game.
  • The third-ranked team will receive an automatic berth if it has not already received one, and if it is a member of a BCS Conference (and provided that its conference has not already earned two automatic berths), if there's room.
  • If the third-ranked team did not require a berth using the previous provision, then the fourth-ranked team will receive an automatic berth if it has not already received one, and if it is a member of a BCS Conference (and provided that its conference has not already earned two automatic berths), if there's room.

Note that in this article, "BCS conference" is used in its popular sense, referring strictly to the six conferences that earn automatic berths in BCS bowl games. The BCS itself officially considers all FBS conferences to be "BCS conferences", using the terms "AQ" and "non-AQ" (automatic qualifier) to distinguish between conferences that automatically earn BCS bowl berths and those that do not.

After the automatic berths have been granted, the remaining berths, known as "at-large" berths, are filled from a pool of teams who are ranked in the top fourteen and have at least nine wins. The actual teams that are chosen for the at-large berths are determined by the individual bowl committees.

If fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection, then an at-large team will be any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible, has won at least nine regular-season games and is among the top 18 teams in the final BCS Standings, though any at-large team ranked in top 14 will be guaranteed a bid over at-large teams ranked lower than 14th. If fewer than 10 teams are eligible after expanding the at-large pool to 18 teams, then the at-large pool will continue to be expanded by four additional positions in the BCS Standings until 10 or more teams are eligible. No team ranked lower than 14 has used this rule to earn an at-large bid (though, several teams ranked lower than 14 have received a bid for winning their conference), as the rule was not in place in the early years of the BCS.

Unless their champion is involved in the BCS National Championship game, the conference tie-ins are as follows:

  • Rose Bowl - Big Ten champ vs. Pac-10 champ
  • Fiesta Bowl - Big 12 champ
  • Orange Bowl - ACC champ
  • Sugar Bowl - SEC champ

The Big East champion takes one of the remaining spots.


For the portions of the ranking that are determined by polls and computer-generated rankings, the BCS uses a series of Borda counts to arrive at its overall rankings. This is an example of using a voting system to generate a complete ordered list of winners from both human and computer-constructed votes. Obtaining a fair ranking system is a difficult mathematical problem and numerous algorithms have been proposed for ranking college football teams in particular. One example is the "random-walker rankings" studied by applied mathematicians Thomas Callaghan, Peter Mucha, and Mason Porter that employs the science of complex networks.


The BCS formula calculated the top 25 teams in poll format. After combining a number of factors, a final point total was created and the teams that received the 25 lowest scores were ranked in descending order. The factors were:

  • Poll average: Both the AP and ESPN-USA Today coaches polls were averaged to make a number which is the poll average.
  • Computer average: An average of the rankings of a team in three different computer polls were gathered (Jeff Sagarin/USA Today, Anderson-Hester/Seattle Times, and New York Times), with a 50% adjusted maximum deviation factor. (For instance, if the computers had ranked a team third, fifth, and twelfth, the poll which ranked the team twelfth would be adjusted to rank the team sixth.)
  • Strength of Schedule: This was the team's NCAA rank in strength of schedule divided by 25. A team's strength of schedule was calculated by win/loss record of opponents (66.6%) and cumulative win/loss record of team's opponents' opponents (33.3%). The team who played the toughest schedule was given .04 points, second toughest .08 points, and so on.
  • Losses: One point was added for every loss the team has suffered during the season. All games are counted, including Kickoff Classics and conference title games.[4]

Before the 1999-2000 season, five more computer rankings were added to the system: Richard Billingsley, Richard Dunkel, Kenneth Massey, Herman Matthews/Scripps Howard, and David Rothman. The lowest ranking was dropped and the remainder averaged.

Beginning in 2001, The Peter Wolfe and Wes Colley/Atlanta Journal-Constitution computer rankings were used in place of the NYT and Dunkel rankings. The change was made because the BCS wanted computer rankings that did not depend heavily on margin of victory.[5] The highest and lowest rankings were discarded, and the remainder averaged. A team's poll average, computer average, strength of schedule points, and losses were added to create a subtotal.

Also in 2001, a quality win component was added. If a team beat a team which was in the top 15 in the BCS standings, a range of 1.5 to .1 points was subtracted from their total. Beating the #1 ranked team resulted in a subtraction of 1.5 point, beating the #2 team resulted in a deduction of 1.4 points, and so on. Beating the #15 ranked team would have resulted in a deduction of .1 points. A team would only be awarded for a quality win once if it beat a Top 10 team more than once (such as in the regular season and a conference championship game), and quality wins were determined using a team's current subtotal, not the ranking when the game was played. The subtotal ranks were used to determine quality win deductions to create a team's final score.

The BCS continued to purge ranking systems which included margin of victory, causing the removal of the Matthews and Rothman ratings before the 2002 season. Sagarin provided a BCS-specific formula that did not include margin of victory, and the New York Times index returned in a form without margin of victory considerations. In addition, a new computer ranking, the Wesley Colley Matrix, was added.[6] The lowest ranking was dropped and the remaining six averaged. Also in 2002, the quality win component was modified such that the deduction for beating the #1 team in the BCS would be 1.0, declining by 0.1 increments until beating the 10th ranked team at 0.1. Teams on probation were not included in the BCS standings, but quality win points were given to teams who beat teams on probation as if they were ranked accordingly in the BCS.


In response to the controversy created by the voters in the AP poll naming USC as the No. 1 ranked team at the end of the year,[7] the formula was completely rewritten. Supporters of USC and the media in general criticized the fact that human polls were not weighted more heavily than computer rankings and this criticism led to the new algorithm.

  • AP Poll: A team's AP Poll number is the percentage of the possible points it could receive in the poll. As an example, in the final regular-season poll of 2003, LSU received a total of 1,580 out of a possible 1,625 points from the voters, giving them an AP Poll percentage of 97.2.
  • Coaches' Poll: This is calculated in the same manner as the AP Poll number. For LSU, their final regular-season number in this poll would have been 99.4 (1,516 out of 1,525 possible points).
  • Computer Average: The BCS used six ranking systems: Jeff Sagarin, Anderson/Hester, Richard Billingsley, Wes Colley, Kenneth Massey, and Peter Wolfe. In the calculation, the highest and lowest ranking for each team are dropped. Then, it will give a team 25 points for a Number 1 ranking in an individual system, 24 points for Number 2, and so on down to 1 point. Each team's set of numbers is then added, conveniently making the number compatible with the percentages from the two polls. To address concerns about loss of the schedule strength factor, the description of the computer rankings explicitly included schedule strength as a consideration.

For USC, dropping their highest and lowest computer rankings would have left them with four third-place finishes, worth 23 points each for a total of 92, while LSU would have had four second-place finishes for a total of 96. The BCS averaged the three numbers obtained above, divided the result by 100, and converted it to a decimal fraction. This system placed twice as much emphasis on human polls than computer rankings (since there were two human polls and an average of six computer polls), and made it highly unlikely that the top team in both human polls would be denied a place in the title game, as it happened in 2003–04. The BCS formula for the 2005-06 season was the same as 2004-05, except that the Harris Interactive College Football Poll replaced the AP poll. [1] [2] The Harris Interactive College Football Poll's maximum point value was 2,825[8] and for the Coaches' Poll, it was 1,550. The Harris Interactive College Football Poll was created expressly to replace the AP Poll after the Associated Press refused the use of its poll as a component of the BCS formula. Before the 2006-07 season, the maximum point value of the Harris Poll was increased to 2,850 and the USA Today/Coaches' Poll was increased to 1,575.

In the week of April 20, 2009, Bowl Championship Series commissioners were meeting for its annual spring meetings in Pasadena, California in conjunction with the Rose Bowl's staging the 2010 BCS title game. The commissioners considered a proposal from the Mountain West Conference, which would establish an eight-team playoff and provide better accesses to the four BCS bowl games for the five conferences that do not have automatic bids. The proposal also included a motion to replace the BCS rankings with a selection and a motion to change the automatic qualifier criteria to better reflect inter-conference performance. The BCS rejected the proposal in June of 2009, citing a "lack of overall support" among the member conferences.[9][10][11] Additionally, the proposal was scrutinized by the U.S. Congress, which determined that the BCS was not in violation of any laws or constitutional amendments.[12]

History and schedule

Rankings reflect the final BCS standings. Win-Loss data is prior to BCS Bowl.

1998–99 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 1998 regular season:

1999–2000 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 1999 regular season:

2000–01 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 2000 regular season:

2001–02 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 2001 regular season:

2002–03 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 2002 regular season:

2003–04 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 2003 regular season:

2004–05 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 2004 regular season:

2005–06 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 2005 regular season in chronological order:

2006–07 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 2006 regular season in chronological order:

2007–08 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 2007 regular season in chronological order:

2008–09 season

These BCS bowl games were played following the 2008 regular season in chronological order:

2009–10 season

These BCS games were played following the 2009 regular season in chronological order:

BCS bowl wins and appearances by team

Appearances School W L Pct Games
8 Ohio State 5 3 .625 Won 1999 Sugar Bowl
Won 2003 Fiesta Bowl*
Won 2004 Fiesta Bowl
Won 2006 Fiesta Bowl
Lost 2007 BCS National Championship Game
Lost 2008 BCS National Championship Game
Lost 2009 Fiesta Bowl
Won 2010 Rose Bowl
7 Oklahoma 2 5 .286 Won 2001 Orange Bowl*
Won 2003 Rose Bowl
Lost 2004 Sugar Bowl*
Lost 2005 Orange Bowl*
Lost 2007 Fiesta Bowl
Lost 2008 Fiesta Bowl
Lost 2009 BCS National Championship Game
7 USC 6 1 .857 Won 2003 Orange Bowl
Won 2004 Rose Bowl
Won 2005 Orange Bowl*
Lost 2006 Rose Bowl*
Won 2007 Rose Bowl
Won 2008 Rose Bowl
Won 2009 Rose Bowl
6 Florida 5 1 .833 Won 1999 Orange Bowl
Lost 2001 Sugar Bowl
Won 2002 Orange Bowl
Won 2007 BCS National Championship Game
Won 2009 BCS National Championship Game
Won 2010 Sugar Bowl
6 Florida State 1 5 .167 Lost 1999 Fiesta Bowl*
Won 2000 Sugar Bowl*
Lost 2001 Orange Bowl*
Lost 2003 Sugar Bowl
Lost 2004 Orange Bowl
Lost 2006 Orange Bowl
4 LSU 4 0 1.000 Won 2002 Sugar Bowl
Won 2004 Sugar Bowl*
Won 2007 Sugar Bowl
Won 2008 BCS National Championship Game
4 Miami (FL) 3 1 .750 Won 2001 Sugar Bowl
Won 2002 Rose Bowl*
Lost 2003 Fiesta Bowl*
Won 2004 Orange Bowl
4 Michigan 1 3 .250 Won 2000 Orange Bowl
Lost 2004 Rose Bowl
Lost 2005 Rose Bowl
Lost 2007 Rose Bowl
4 Virginia Tech 1 3 .250 Lost 2000 Sugar Bowl*
Lost 2005 Sugar Bowl
Lost 2008 Orange Bowl
Won 2009 Orange Bowl
4 Texas 3 1 .750 Won 2005 Rose Bowl
Won 2006 Rose Bowl*
Won 2009 Fiesta Bowl
Lost 2010 BCS National Championship Game
3 Alabama 1 2 .333 Lost 2000 Orange Bowl
Lost 2009 Sugar Bowl
Won 2010 BCS National Championship Game
3 Georgia 2 1 .667 Won 2003 Sugar Bowl
Lost 2006 Sugar Bowl
Won 2008 Sugar Bowl
3 Notre Dame 0 3 .000 Lost 2001 Fiesta Bowl
Lost 2006 Fiesta Bowl
Lost 2007 Sugar Bowl
2 Boise State 2 0 1.000 Won 2007 Fiesta Bowl
Won 2010 Fiesta Bowl
2 Cincinnati 0 2 .000 Lost 2009 Orange Bowl
Lost 2010 Sugar Bowl
2 Illinois 0 2 .000 Lost 2002 Sugar Bowl
Lost 2008 Rose Bowl
2 Iowa 1 1 .500 Lost 2003 Orange Bowl
Won 2010 Orange Bowl
2 Nebraska 1 1 .500 Won 2000 Fiesta Bowl
Lost 2002 Rose Bowl*
2 Oregon 1 1 .500 Won 2002 Fiesta Bowl
Lost 2010 Rose Bowl
2 Penn State 1 1 .500 Won 2006 Orange Bowl
Lost 2009 Rose Bowl
2 Tennessee 1 1 .500 Won 1999 Fiesta Bowl*
Lost 2000 Fiesta Bowl
2 Utah 2 0 1.000 Won 2005 Fiesta Bowl
Won 2009 Sugar Bowl
2 West Virginia 2 0 1.000 Won 2006 Sugar Bowl
Won 2008 Fiesta Bowl
2 Wisconsin 2 0 1.000 Won 1999 Rose Bowl
Won 2000 Rose Bowl
1 Auburn 1 0 1.000 Won 2005 Sugar Bowl
1 Colorado 0 1 .000 Lost 2002 Fiesta Bowl
1 Georgia Tech 0 1 .000 Lost 2010 Orange Bowl
1 Hawaii 0 1 .000 Lost 2008 Sugar Bowl
1 Kansas 1 0 1.000 Won 2008 Orange Bowl
1 Kansas State 0 1 .000 Lost 2004 Fiesta Bowl
1 Louisville 1 0 1.000 Won 2007 Orange Bowl
1 Maryland 0 1 .000 Lost 2002 Orange Bowl
1 Oregon State 1 0 1.000 Won 2001 Fiesta Bowl
1 Pittsburgh 0 1 .000 Lost 2005 Fiesta Bowl
1 Purdue 0 1 .000 Lost 2001 Rose Bowl
1 Stanford 0 1 .000 Lost 2000 Rose Bowl
1 Syracuse 0 1 .000 Lost 1999 Orange Bowl
1 TCU 0 1 .000 Lost 2010 Fiesta Bowl
1 Texas A&M 0 1 .000 Lost 1999 Sugar Bowl
1 UCLA 0 1 .000 Lost 1999 Rose Bowl
1 Wake Forest 0 1 .000 Lost 2007 Orange Bowl
1 Washington 1 0 1.000 Won 2001 Rose Bowl
1 Washington State 0 1 .000 Lost 2003 Rose Bowl
*Denotes BCS National Championship Game

BCS National Championship Game wins and appearances by team

Appearances School W L Pct Games
4 Oklahoma 1 3 .250 Won 2001 Orange Bowl
Lost 2004 Sugar Bowl
Lost 2005 Orange Bowl
Lost 2009 BCS National Championship Game
3 Ohio State 1 2 .333 Won 2003 Fiesta Bowl
Lost 2007 BCS National Championship Game
Lost 2008 BCS National Championship Game
3 Florida State 1 2 .333 Lost 1999 Fiesta Bowl
Won 2000 Sugar Bowl
Lost 2001 Orange Bowl
2 Florida 2 0 1.000 Won 2007 BCS National Championship Game
Won 2009 BCS National Championship Game
2 LSU 2 0 1.000 Won 2004 Sugar Bowl
Won 2008 BCS National Championship Game
2 USC 1 1 .500 Won 2005 Orange Bowl
Lost 2006 Rose Bowl
2 Miami (FL) 1 1 .500 Won 2002 Rose Bowl
Lost 2003 Fiesta Bowl
2 Texas 1 1 .500 Won 2006 Rose Bowl
Lost 2010 BCS National Championship Game
1 Alabama 1 0 1.000 Won 2010 BCS National Championship Game
1 Tennessee 1 0 1.000 Won 1999 Fiesta Bowl
1 Nebraska 0 1 .000 Lost 2002 Rose Bowl
1 Virginia Tech 0 1 .000 Lost 2000 Sugar Bowl

BCS Bowl wins and appearances by conference

Conference Appearances At-large bids W L Pct # Schools School(s)
Big Ten 21 9 10 11 .476 7 Ohio State (5-3)
Michigan (1-3)
Wisconsin (2-0)
Penn State (1-1)
Illinois (0-2)
Iowa (1-1)
Purdue (0-1)
SEC 19 7 14 5 .737 6 Florida (5-1)
LSU (4-0)
Georgia (2-1)
Alabama (1-2)
Tennessee (1-1)
Auburn (1-0)
Big 12 17 5 7 10 .438 7 Oklahoma (2-5)
Texas (3-1)
Nebraska (1-1)
Kansas (1-0)
Colorado (0-1)
Kansas State (0-1)
Texas A&M (0-1)
Pac-10 14 2 9 5 .643 7 USC (6-1)
Oregon (1-1)
Oregon State (1-0)
Washington (1-0)
Stanford (0-1)
UCLA (0-1)
Washington State (0-1)
Big East 12 0 6 6 .500 7 Miami (FL) (3-1)
West Virginia (2-0)
Louisville (1-0)
Cincinnati (0-2)
Pittsburgh (0-1)
Syracuse (0-1)
Virginia Tech* (0-1)
ACC 12 0 2 10 .167 5 Florida State (1-5)
Virginia Tech* (1-2)
Maryland (0-1)
Wake Forest (0-1)
Georgia Tech (0-1)
MWC 3 0** 2 1 .667 2 Utah (2-0)
TCU (0-1)
WAC 3 1** 2 1 .667 2 Boise State (2-0)
Hawaii (0-1)
Independent 3 3 0 3 .000 1 Notre Dame (0-3)
C-USA 0 0 0 0 .000 0
MAC 0 0 0 0 .000 0
Sun Belt 0 0 0 0 .000 0

*Virginia Tech played for both the ACC and Big East, and played in BCS bowl games for both conferences. Note that while Miami has been a member of both the Big East and ACC, it has only been to a BCS Bowl as a member of the Big East.

**Although the Mountain West and WAC do not automatically qualify for BCS bowls, some of their appearances are not considered at-large bids because of the rule allowing the highest ranked team from a non-automatic-qualifying conference to receive an automatic bid if they are in the top 12. Boise State's bid in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl is the only time a team from a non-automatic-qualifying conference has received an at-large bid as TCU received the automatic bid in 2010.

BCS National Championship Game appearances by conference

Conference Appearances W L Pct # Schools School(s)
Big 12 7 2 5 .286 3 Oklahoma (1-3)
Texas (1-1)
Nebraska (0-1)
SEC 6 6 0 1.000 4 Florida (2-0)
LSU (2-0)
Alabama (1-0)
Tennessee (1-0)
ACC 3 1 2 .333 1 Florida State (1-2)
Big East 3 1 2 .333 2 Miami, FL (1-1)
Virginia Tech (0-1)
Big Ten 3 1 2 .333 1 Ohio State (1-2)
Pac-10 2 1 1 .500 1 USC (1-1)



The primary criticism of the BCS centers around the validity of the annual BCS national championship pairings and its designated National Champions. Many critics focus on the BCS methodology itself, which employs subjective voting assessments, while others note the ability for undefeated teams to finish seasons without an opportunity to play the national championship game. In fact, in the last 6 seasons of Division I FBS football, there have been more undefeated non-BCS champions than undefeated BCS champions. Other criticisms involve discrepancies in the allocation of monetary resources from BCS games, as well as the determination of non-championship BCS game participants, which need not comply with the BCS rankings themselves.[20]

A recent survey conducted at the Quinnipiac University found that 63% of individuals interested in college football preferred a playoff system to the BCS, while only 26% favored the status quo.[21] President Barack Obama has been vocal about his opposition to the BCS. During an appearance on Monday Night Football during the 2008 presidential campaign season, ESPN's Chris Berman asked Barack Obama to name one thing about sports he would like to change.[22] Obama responded that he did not like using computer rankings to determine bowl games, and he supported having a college football playoff for the top eight teams.[22] When Steve Kroft asked then-President-elect Obama about the subject during an interview on 60 Minutes, Obama reiterated his support of eight-team playoff; although he has said it is not a legislative priority.[23][24]

Longtime college football announcer Brent Musburger also voiced his support for a playoff in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. "My dream scenario -- and it's not going to happen -- would be to take eight conference champions, and only conference champions, and play the quarterfinals of a tournament on campuses in mid-December," Musburger said. "The four losers would remain bowl-eligible. The four winners would advance to semifinals on New Year's Day with exclusive TV windows. Then, like now, one week later, there would be the national championship game."[25]

The BCS first proved controversial during the 1998 season when Tulane University's Green Wave football team went undefeated, finishing the regular season with 11 wins and zero losses and claiming the Conference USA (C-USA) championship. But the team was systematically denied consideration for any of the lucrative BCS postseason bowl games and instead represented C-USA in the Liberty Bowl, which Tulane won. Tulane President Scott Cowen, a former football player at the University of Connecticut long active in NCAA circles as a supporter of academic standards for athletes, began a campaign for reform of BCS to provide for participation by teams in non-BCS conferences.[26] Tulane's 1998 team would have qualified under the reform rules subsequently adopted for 2005. Cowen turned his efforts toward advocating exchanging the BCS for a playoff system similar to the one used by NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division 1-AA) and Division II.[27]

In 2001, one loss Nebraska made it to the championship game ahead of one loss and Pac-10 champion Oregon as the #2 ranked team, even though Nebraska lost to Colorado in the Big 12 Championship Game, failing to win its own conference. Nebraska went on to a blowout loss in the national championship game against Miami, while the Colorado team which had defeated Nebraska lost to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, 38-16. The 2003 season had three one-loss teams (LSU, Oklahoma, and USC) with a legitimate argument for playing in the championship game. Despite being ranked #1 in both polls, USC was ranked 3rd in the final BCS standings and excluded from the championship game. After USC won its bowl game, it was ranked #1 in the AP poll, and claimed a national title even though they didn't win the BCS National Title Game. In 2004, five teams finished the season undefeated: USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, Utah, and Boise State. However, USC and Oklahoma played in the Orange Bowl, which served as the BCS title game, due to their poll position throughout the season, denying Auburn, Utah, and Boise State a shot at the national title. Much of the debate centered around Auburn, a team who had a stronger schedule than either USC or Oklahoma, a value diminished in the BCS changes after the 2003 season. After bowl games, USC, Auburn, and Utah were the three undefeated teams remaining. That same year, the University of California was denied a Rose Bowl berth, mysteriously dropping from #4 to #5 in the BCS poll despite defeating Southern Miss on the final day of the season. Texas fans heavily lobbied for a BCS berth; several fans sat in the front row of the Cal - Southern Miss game dressed in Texas gear and openly cheered for Southern Miss in front of ESPN TV cameras. The lobbying of reporters who voted in the Associated Press poll was so heavy that the poll immediately ended its association with the BCS.

In 2006, undefeated Boise State was denied a spot in the National Championship game against the only other undefeated team in the country, Ohio State. Boise State did go on to a BCS bowl and defeated Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and ended up as the only undefeated team in the nation.

In 2007, the University of Missouri was denied a spot in a BCS bowl even though it defeated the (1-loss) University of Kansas and the (3-loss) University of Illinois, which were both granted BCS bowl bids. Missouri was ranked higher than both Kansas and Illinois in the BCS poll before bowl selection. Furthermore, LSU won the BCS national championship, even though it finished the season with the same number of losses (2) as several other BCS game victors: West Virginia, USC, and Georgia.

In 2008, three non-BCS teams (#6 Utah, #9 Boise State, #11 Texas Christian) were ranked in the top 11 of the final BCS standings; all three were ranked above Big East champion Cincinnati (#12) and ACC champion Virginia Tech (#19). Only Utah received a bid, which was guaranteed under BCS selection rules. Undefeated Boise State was denied a BCS bid while two-loss Ohio State (#10) was selected to play in the Fiesta bowl; Boise State was ranked above Ohio State in both human polls and in every computer model. Utah defeated Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl to end the season as the lone undefeated team in the nation (after Boise State fell to TCU in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl).

In 2009, Cincinnati, TCU, Boise State, Texas, and Alabama all completed undefeated regular seasons. Alabama and Texas were selected for the BCS national championship game, while TCU and Boise State played in the Fiesta Bowl, and Cincinnati faced Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Boise State defeated TCU 17-10 in the Fiesta Bowl, ensuring that Boise State would finish its second undefeated season in the BCS era without an opportunity at the BCS national championship.

Antitrust lawsuit

In 2008, a lawsuit was threatened due to the exclusion of teams from the non-automatic qualifying conferences in the BCS system.[28][29] Following Utah's win over Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced an inquiry into whether the BCS system violates federal anti-trust laws.[30][31] In 2009, senior Utah senator, Orrin Hatch, announced that he was exploring the possibility of a lawsuit against the BCS as an anti-competitive trust under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. On November 27, 2009 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran a story that said that Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tx), ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, announced that he would hold anti-trust hearings on the BCS, again based on the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and its provisions outlawing non-competitive trusts, beginning in May 2010.[32] Meanwhile, various organizations, including the BCS, are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby the federal government both in support and in opposition to a college football playoff system.[33]


While there is substantial criticism aimed at the BCS system from coaches, media and fans alike, there is also support for the system. Supporters, such as Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News, cite several advantages that the BCS has over a playoff system. Under the BCS, a single defeat is extremely detrimental to a team's prospects for a national championship [34], although critics point out regularly that history shows non-BCS conference teams are hurt far more than BCS teams when they lose a game. Supporters contend that this creates a substantial incentive for teams to do their best to win every game. Under a playoff system, front-running teams could be in a position of safety at the end of the regular season and could pull or greatly reduce their use of top players in order to protect them from injuries or give them recovery time (this happens frequently in the NFL) [35]. This is very unlikely to happen in the BCS system where a team in the running for a #1 or #2 ranking at the end of the year would be nearly certain to be punished in the polls enough for a loss that the team would be eliminated from contention.

Supporters also note that while the BCS routinely involves controversy about which two teams are the top teams, in rare instances there is a clear-cut top two; the BCS ensures these top two will play each other for the championship. For example, Miami (FL) and Ohio State in 2002 were the only undefeated teams; both teams had only a couple of close contests. Under the BCS system, these two teams got to play for the championship. Before the BCS, they would likely have played two other schools, and if they both won, then there would be either two champions, or else #2 Ohio State may have been denied a championship despite going 14–0 because they were not the top ranked team [36].

During the ESPN Classic program The Top Five Reasons You Can't Blame..., football analyst Lee Corso uses as an example a recent season in which Oklahoma, Auburn and USC finished undefeated. Rather than have two of these teams play each other, Oklahoma would likely have gone to the Orange Bowl, Auburn would have gone to the Sugar Bowl, and USC would have gone to the Rose Bowl due to conference committments. "And what would have been settled? Nothing," he said. "At least this way, two of those teams got to play each other."

The NCAA, the governing organization of most collegiate sports, has no official process for determining its FBS (Div. 1-A) champion. Instead, FBS champions are chosen by what the NCAA calls in its official list of champions "selecting organizations".[37]

According to its website, the BCS: " managed by the commissioners of the 11 NCAA Division I-A conferences, the director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame, and representatives of the bowl organizations. " a five-game arrangement for post-season college football that is designed to match the two top-rated teams in a national championship game and to create exciting and competitive matchups between eight other highly regarded teams in four other games".[38]

Still, some proponents of the BCS recognize the inconsistency that the system offers. An article taken from[39] titled "Playoff Smayoff! We Don't Need It" openly states " the process and we will get it right 80 percent of the time." [40] Many critics point out that "getting it right" 80% of the time is 20% of the time short, and that the BCS has to get it right every time.

BCS Buster

The term "BCS Buster" refers to any team other than Notre Dame not from a BCS conference that manages to earn a spot in a BCS bowl game.[41] These teams are often referred to as non-BCS when discussed outside of the post-season structure.

With the exception of Notre Dame, it is generally more difficult for a non-BCS team to reach a BCS bowl than for a BCS conference team (see rules above), so becoming a BCS Buster is noteworthy. Even though there have been a number of eligible teams, only six teams (from four different schools) have succeeded in becoming BCS Busters.

The University of Utah football program became the first BCS Buster in 2004 after an undefeated season, despite harder limits in place before the addition of a 5th bowl in 2006 made BCS Busters more commonplace. They also became the first team to repeat in 2008. The Utes played in the 2005 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl,[41] and beat their opponent, the Pittsburgh Panthers, 35–7. During the 2008 season, the Utes finished their regular season schedule undefeated (8–0 in the Mountain West Conference and 12–0 overall) and earned a berth in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, winning 31–17.

It is notable that in both seasons Utah participated, Boise State also finished their regular season 12–0 but did not receive a spot in a BCS bowl. In 2006, Boise State became the second BCS Buster after a 12–0 regular season and subsequent Fiesta Bowl berth against the Oklahoma Sooners. The Broncos won 43–42 in overtime.

In 2007, Hawaii also finished the regular season at 12–0, but were defeated by the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl. This remains the only loss to date by a BCS Buster.

The 2009 season was the first in which two teams from non-AQ conferences earned BCS bowl berths. TCU, which finished the regular season 12–0 as champions of the Mountain West, earned the automatic BCS berth with a #4 finish in the final BCS rankings. Two slots behind the Horned Frogs were WAC champions Boise State, which finished at 13–0 for its second consecutive unbeaten regular season and fourth in six years. The Broncos defeated the Frogs 17-10 in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, which marks the first BCS matchup between non-AQ schools, and the first time in BCS history that two unbeaten teams met in a BCS game other than the title match.

BCS Busters are currently 5–3 in BCS bowls and 3–1 in BCS bowls not against other BCS busters.

The following table shows all teams that were eligible to become BCS Busters, including the six that succeeded in doing it.

Season Team Conference Regular Season
BCS Rank BCS Bowl Result Final Ranking
AP Coaches
1998 Tulane* CUSA 11-0 #10 #7 #7
1999 Marshall* MAC 12-0 #12 #10 #10
2000 TCU* WAC 10-1 #14 #21 #18
2003 Miami (OH)* MAC 11-1 #11 #10 #12
2004 Utah MWC 11-0 #6 Fiesta Bowl Utah 35 Pittsburgh 7 #4 #5
2004 Boise State** WAC 11-0 #9 #12 #13
2004 Louisville** C-USA 10-1 #10 #6 #7
2005 TCU* MWC 11-1 #14 #11 #9
2006 Boise State WAC 12-0 #8 Fiesta Bowl Boise State 43 Oklahoma 42 #5 #6
2007 Hawai'i WAC 12-0 #10 Sugar Bowl Georgia 41 Hawai'i 10 #19 #17
2008 Utah MWC 12-0 #6 Sugar Bowl Utah 31 Alabama 17 #2 #4
2008 Boise State** WAC 12-0 #9 #11 #13
2008 TCU** MWC 10-2 #11 #7 #7
2009 Boise State WAC 13-0 #6 Fiesta Bowl Boise State 17 TCU 10 #4 #4
2009 BYU** MWC 10-2 #14
2009 TCU MWC 12-0 #4 Fiesta Bowl Boise State 17 TCU 10
* Would have qualified for an automatic selection to a BCS bowl under post-2005 criteria, and was at the time eligible for an "at-large" selection, but was not chosen.

** Was eligible for an "at-large" selection but was not chosen.

Locations of all BCS conference teams

A map of every university in the BCS Conferences.


See also


  1. ^ a b Michael McCarthy, BCS cable connection complete as ESPN lands Rose Bowl, USA Today, June 13, 2009
  2. ^ Jack Carey (December 8, 2007). 6, 2007-bcs2-football_N.htm?csp=34 "Man behind creation of BCS pleased with results". USA Today. 6, 2007-bcs2-football_N.htm?csp=34. Retrieved February 18, 2008.  
  3. ^ "BCS Selection Policies and Procedures". February 19, 2006. Retrieved May 1, 2009.  
  4. ^ "New Formula for Football Championship Announced :: Top bowl game to be chosen by polls, computers, formulas". June 10, 1998. Retrieved May 1, 2009.  
  5. ^ "BCS formula still subject of debate". September 16, 2002. Retrieved May 1, 2009.  
  6. ^ "Big East takes charge of BCS<!- bot-generated title ->". The Daily Orange. January 3, 2003. Retrieved May 1, 2009.  
  7. ^ Patrick Klemz (January 17, 2005). "AP removes poll from BCS formula". Badger Herald. Retrieved October 8, 2007.  
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Chris Dufresne , Mountain West Conference takes a radical tack, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2009
  13. ^ a b Southern California and Washington State tied for the Pac-10 championship, but due to the Cougars' victory over the Trojans during the season, Washington St. was extended the automatic berth to the Rose Bowl as league champion.
  14. ^ a b Iowa and Ohio State did not play each other during the season, and both finished at 8-0 in Big Ten conference play. With a better overall record as the tiebreaker (13-0 vs Iowa's 11-1), Ohio State was extended the league's automatic bid to the BCS.
  15. ^ The 2004 Sugar Bowl marked the first time in the history of the BCS that the top ranked team in the country did not play in its national championship game. Going into bowl week USC, the Pac-10 Champion, was top-ranked but did not earn a high enough rating to qualify for the game.
  16. ^ Utah was an automatic selection as it was ranked #6 in the final BCS standings.
  17. ^ Due to damage to the Louisiana Superdome because of Hurricane Katrina, the Sugar Bowl was played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.
  18. ^ Boise State was an automatic selection as it was champion of the Western Athletic Conference and ranked #8 in the final BCS standings.
  19. ^ Hawaiʻi was an automatic selection as it was champion of the Western Athletic Conference and ranked #10 in the final BCS standings.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b Pucin, Diane (November 4, 2008). "McCain, Obama are ‘Monday Night Football’ halftime show". Los Angeles Times: p. D-1. "I think it is about time we had playoffs ... I'm fed up with these computer rankings and this and that and the other. Get eight teams – the top eight teams right at the end. You got a playoff."  
  23. ^ Makowsky, Wyndam (November 18, 2008). "Between the lines: Barack to BCS: time for change". The Stanford Daily (The Stanford Daily Publishing Corporation). "Kroft: As president of the United States, what can you do, or what do you plan to do, about getting a college football playoff for the national championship? Obama: Eight teams. That would be three rounds, to determine a national champion. It would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season."  
  24. ^ "President-elect Obama makes another play for college football playoff". ESPN. November 15, 2008.  
  25. ^ O'Donnell, Jim (January 7, 2010). "Musburger takes Chicago roots to highlight game". Chicago Sun-Times.,brent-mushburger-chicago-roots-010710.article.  
  26. ^ Cowen bio at Tulane.
  27. ^ Cowen wants "to get rid of the BCS and go to a playoff system." Cowen quoted by Denny O'Brien, "Bucking the BCS: Tulane CEO demands reform" on
  28. ^ Glier, Ray (July 23, 2003). "University Presidents Rally Against B.C.S.". The New York Times.  
  29. ^ "BCS should reconsider 'plus-one' game — and fast". Associated Press. International Herald Tribune. December 1, 2008.  
  30. ^ "Utah AG: BCS may violate antitrust laws". Associated Press. ESPN. January 7, 2009.  
  31. ^ Russo, Ralph D. (January 8, 2009). "ACC commissioner says Bowl Championship Series complies with federal antitrust laws". Associated Press. Star Tribune.  
  32. ^ The Fort Worth Star Telegram, November 26, 2009 "Barton Says BCS 'Is Simply A Cartel, Much Like OPEC' And Doesn't Give TCU A Fair Shake".
  33. ^ Dave Levinthal (December 17, 2009). "BCS Becomes Political Football as Lobbyists Blitz Congress". Capital Eye. Center for Responsive Politics.  
  34. ^ College Football and Feeling the Pain of a Late-Season Loss
  35. ^ Time to Shine
  37. ^ "NCAA History - Past Football Champions". Retrieved May 1, 2009.  
  38. ^ "The BCS is ...". Retrieved January 11, 2009.  
  39. ^ Buddy Martin. "BCS News". Retrieved November 10, 2008.  
  40. ^ Buddy Martin (May 1, 2008). "Playoff Smayoff! We don't need it". Retrieved November 10, 2008.  
  41. ^ a b Dirk Facer (January 10, 2005). "Utes had a Fiesta in 2004". Deseret Morning News.,1249,600103700,00.html. Retrieved October 8, 2007.  

Further reading

  • Oriard, Michael (2009). Bowled Over: Big-Time College Football from the Sixties to the BCS Era. The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0807833292.  

External links

Preceded by
Bowl Alliance
NCAA Football Bowl Series
1998 – present

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