The Last Days of the BCS?

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s recent advocacy of “cost-of-attendance” scholarships for athletes that would include additional funds to cover things like travel expenses and clothing was seen by many critics as a response to the current memorabilia scandal at Ohio State.  However, the idea is not exclusive to Delany and he’s not even the first major player to talk about it this year.  Current NCAA president Mark Emmert is all for it, as is SEC commissioner Mike Slive.  The Big 12 is meeting this week, and sure enough, the topic is very much a part of the discussion there.  It’s hard to imagine that the ACC and especially the newly-loaded Pac-12 would be against it.  Heck, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier wants to pay the kids directly out of his World’s Greatest Golf Courses novelty checkbook.  In all likelihood, more than 75% of the current BCS automatic-qualifiers would quickly get behind this idea.

The not-so-hidden truth at the bottom of all this is that some schools and conferences can clearly afford such a move, while others clearly cannot.  Once again, we find ourselves up against the age-old battle between the Haves and the Have-Nots.  With the BCS facing its highest degree of opposition since inception, perhaps the time has come for Division IA (or FBS, if you’re a communist) to finally have that operation.

With last off-season’s thrilling Big Ten/Pac-10 expansion-fest coming to fruition this fall (and the Big East’s next fall and perhaps beyond), most of the best “mid-major” teams will be in AQ conferences or competing as BCS-friendly independents.  The only noticeable out-lier at this point is Boise State, who I guarantee would be welcomed into the Big East in a heartbeat if everyone could get over the travel issue (TCU isn’t exactly nearby anyway).  If the Big 12 decides they miss their championship game, that would be a more viable potential landing spot for the Broncos.  And, of course, we should never rule out independence; after all, nothing says iconoclast quite like a blue football field.

Even with just the current four 12-team conferences, the 10-team Big 12, a 10-team Big East (which appears to be the minimum goal) and four independents, that’s 72 teams that could compete as a new upper level of college football, with any type of post-season they want.  (Conveniently, there were 35 bowl games last year, and a couple more in the works.)  It’s worth mentioning that a BCS-style concept would probably be a lot more palatable under this set-up than it is in the current format, and a small playoff would be much easier to keep from ballooning out of control with a significantly smaller pool of teams to draw from.  Regardless of which direction is ultimately settled on, the BCS name is tainted and should be abandoned immediately.

What about those mid-major schools that get left out?  Conventional wisdom is that they would merge with at least a portion of IAA (FCS, komrade) and participate in an NCAA-sanctioned post-season playoff, which is exactly what they wanted anyway, right?  At the grown-ups table, we could finally put an end to the embarrassing cupcake-fest that pollutes the beginning of every season and get more interesting and competitive games on the schedule.  Everybody wins.