College football kicked off Thursday night, and it was the beginning of the end for the BCS.
This is the last year for the BCS, replaced next season by a four-team playoff. After 16 years, the controversial system will go the way of leather helmets and two-way players, and for that, we can be thankful.
Thankful that the BCS will soon be dead.
But thankful, too, that we had the BCS in the first place.
Yes, we have come to hate it. Yes, its end is long overdue. But without a system like the BCS, we would have never gotten to a playoff.
The BCS was a conduit to a playoff.
“The BCS has been remarkably successful,” BCS executive director Bill Hancock said the other day. “Yeah, it has been controversial, but as we get ready to bid it goodbye, we know there's a lot that it did right.”
Granted, he is the frontman for the BCS, paid to say nice things about the institution that sports fans hate like none other. But that doesn't mean he's wrong.
The BCS wasn't completely evil, and its most redeeming quality is that it provided a bridge to a playoff.
Before the BCS and its first-cousin, short-lived predecessors, the Bowl Coalition and the Bowl Alliance, pollsters determined college football's national champion. The media and the coaches had the final say in what team stood atop the sport at season's end. And since there was no guarantee that the top teams would play each other, it was a system fraught with peril and controversy.
Sure, there were plenty of seasons where the best team was obvious. But there were a bunch of seasons that weren't so clear cut, and in the 56 seasons before the Bowl Coalition, the Bowl Alliance and the BCS, the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the media poll met in bowl games only eight times.
“I think about how unhappy fans would be if that was still continuing today,” Hancock said.
No doubt about that.
“But the BCS fixed that problem,” he said.
But why did we need the BCS at all? Why didn't we just go straight to a playoff?
Because big changes are rare in college football.
This is a sport steeped in tradition and ritual. Even slight tweaks cause ripples. There was a near revolt in the Sooner Nation earlier this month, for example, when fans found out the marching band was changing the pregame fanfare.