Randy Smith: How The BCS Changed College Football

Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

Now that we won’t have the BCS to kick around anymore, I believe it’s time to look at what the Bowl Championship Series actually did for college football; and realistically it did a lot. First, it made coaches a lot richer. When the BCS began in 1998, there were only five coaches making a million dollars a year or more. By 2006, there were forty-two, and at the end of 2013, there were seventy football coaches making a million bucks or more. In 1998 while at Michigan State, Nick Saban made $700,000 a year while in 2014 at Alabama he will make close to seven million dollars a year coaching the Crimson Tide.

The BCS also helped to make ESPN the dominant sports entity it is today. ABC/ESPN, owned by the Walt Disney Company, televised thirty-three of the thirty-five bowl games following the 2013 season. (Would it be appropriate to refer to ABC/ESPN as Mickey Mouse operations?) ESPN has already entrenched itself further with college football as it reached an agreement to televise all playoff games in the new format, for twelve years at $472 million.

While most of us sharply criticized the BCS for allowing computers to pick the two teams to play in the championship game, it actually served its purpose well. It took sixteen years of criticism to finally bring college football to its senses and create a four team playoff. By the way, the four teams participating will be chosen by a committee with computers being used only to assist. There will still be some criticism, but with four teams playing for a national crown, it does make things a bit more equitable.

As for the teams that have won titles during the BCS era, Alabama leads the way with three championships in three appearances, adding to the total of at least seventy other titles that Tide fans always refer to. Florida State played in the first three BCS Championship Games, and the last, winning two. LSU and Florida are the only other schools to win two BCS titles. Oklahoma is tied with FSU for the most appearances with four, but the Sooners have just one title to show for it.    

Twenty years from now when we look back at the state of college football in America, we will likely talk about the BCS period being a bridge from the days when sportswriters and sportscasters voted on the national champion, to the day when a champion is handed a trophy after that champion actually wins it on the field of play; winning at least two games in a playoff format. I’m not sure if that was the intent of then SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, who was the man responsible for ushering in the BCS era. Kramer was always known as an innovator and a forward thinker, but I truly believe he knew deep down, the format he helped to create was not a truly consistent way to determine a national champion. But, he also knew the BCS format could bridge the huge gap between the “old way” of doing things and an actual playoff system.

I’m really anxious to see how this new four team playoff format will work. Based upon the final poll for the 2013 season, Florida State would face South Carolina in one semi-final game, while Auburn would take on Michigan State in the other. We are still 235 days away from the beginning of the 2014 season, and for true college football fans that seems like an eternity…...and with major changes ahead, it will be.


Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.

His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.

He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.

In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson, TN. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.

To contact Randy: randy_smith@whitfield.k12.ga.us

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