Officials hope changes lead to true national champion

Friday, July 16, 2004

There will be fewer numbers to crunch in the revamped version of the Bowl Championship Series formula.

The big question remains whether those numbers will produce better results for one of the few major sports that determines its champion without a postseason tournament.

The Associated Press poll will count for one-third of each team's ranking under the new formula BCS officials unveiled Thursday in their latest attempt to find a simpler, more equitable way to come up with a 1 vs. 2 matchup in the college football title game.

Of course, in describing the new formula, BCS chairman Kevin Weiberg issued the same caveat that has existed throughout the six seasons of this system.

"There is not a perfect tool out there in this system that will eliminate all controversy," said Weiberg, the Big 12 Conference commissioner who took over as BCS chairman this year.

Under the new formula, which goes into effect this season, the AP writers' poll, the coaches' poll and a combination of computer rankings will each count for one-third of a team's overall BCS ranking.

Strength of schedule, team record and quality wins, three components used under the old system, have all been eliminated, the thought being that all are already factored into the computer rankings. In the past, results from the AP and coaches' polls were averaged, then factored in with the other components -- a formula that lessened the significance of the polls.

Last year resulted in a split national championship, with LSU winning the BCS title game over Oklahoma and Southern California protecting its top ranking in the AP poll by defeating Michigan in the Rose Bowl. USC was left out of the BCS title game despite being ranked first in both polls going into bowl season.

Coaches who vote in the USA Today-ESPN poll are obligated to name the winner of the BCS title game the national champion. Writers in the AP poll are under no such obligation.

"The system needed to be tweaked," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "We saw that last year firsthand here at USC. But whether this is the answer, we'll just have to wait and see."

BCS officials hired mathematicians from The Art and Science Group, based in Baltimore, to help come up with a new formula that would give them a better chance at ensuring there would be no repeat of last season. Weiberg portrayed this as a total makeover of a system that had been tweaked slightly several times since it went into effect in 1998.

"While adjustments appear to correct previous inconsistencies, these corrections became cumbersome and confusing," said athletic director Paul Dee of Miami, which has been in the middle of BCS controversies. "I hope the new system will work as predicted."

But without a postseason tournament, which most school presidents and chancellors still oppose, Weiberg acknowledged there are no guarantees.

"We want to get this right," he said. "We want to have as much consensus as we possibly can. Certainly, the BCS has created interest. That's a positive feature of the overall system. But our attempt here was not to produce a formula that would continue to have controversial outcomes."

Had the new system been in place last year, it would have pitted USC and LSU in the title game, according to BCS calculations.

In 2001, Miami would have played Oregon instead of Nebraska, which made it over the Ducks despite a late-season 62-36 loss to Colorado that knocked the Cornhuskers out of the Big 12 title picture.

In 2000, the game would have pitted Oklahoma and Florida State -- the two teams that made it -- with Miami being left out despite having one defeat and giving the Seminoles their only loss of the season.