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Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Voters to have control in new BCS formula

By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com

The reign of the Bowl Championship Series computers is, if not over, than substantially diminished, and not a moment too soon.

The Division I-A commissioners will announce the new BCS formula Thursday, and barring a last-minute change of heart, the formula will consist of equal parts of The Associated Press media poll, the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, and an average of six computer polls, according to executives in two I-A conferences contacted by ESPN.com.

What that means, essentially, is that if the media voters and the coaching voters agree on the identity of the top two teams in the nation, only an extremely wide variation from their vote by the host of computers employed by the BCS will change the decision of the voters.

People will again be in charge of the college football postseason. It's not a playoff, but it's the simplest, most logical alternative.

The 33-33-33 plan won out over a 40-40-20 formula, in which each of the human polls would have accounted for two-fifths of the final amount, with the computer average getting the last fifth.

The formula is being reconfigured because of the controversy over the national championship last season. Southern California finished the regular season No. 1 in both polls, yet finished third in the BCS standings. In that formula, the polls were combined and averaged. In the new formula, each poll will be counted, and the computer average will make up the rest.

What the commissioners had to resolve was how much the polls should count. In recent weeks, the 40-40-20 formula received a lot of attention. However, the commissioners feared that assigning 80 percent of the formula to the polls might be overcorrecting the problem. The computer average would be rendered all but meaningless.

In addition, the commissioners had some concerns that increased emphasis on the role of the AP poll may cause some newspapers to prevent their writers from voting. That concern is what caused former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer to conjure up a BCS formula in the first place.

The simplicity of the 33-33-33 plan also appealed to the commissioners in part because the fans will easily be able to figure out the BCS standings on Sundays, once the computer average is released. No more waiting for the BCS ratings to be released on Mondays.

While the computer ratings used in 2004 may not be the same as those used in previous years, the last three BCS controversies probably would have been avoided if the new system had been used. To wit:

  • In 2000, Miami, ranked second in both polls, not No. 3 Florida State, would have played Oklahoma.

  • In 2001, No. 2 Oregon would have played No. 1 Miami, not No. 4 Nebraska.

  • And in 2003, No. 1 USC, which didn't qualify for the Sugar Bowl because the Trojans finished third in the final BCS rating, would have played No. 2 LSU. Instead, No. 3 Oklahoma played, and the sport had a split national championship for the first time since the inception of the BCS in 1998.

    Split national championships appear to be dead -- again. Perhaps now the focus will return to the games.

    Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.