New BCS formula unveiled

The Bowl Championship Series’ new system puts more weight on the human polls.
Friday, July 16, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:11 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

After Thursday, people might not be able to substitute “confusion” for the C in BCS.

A “complete re-evaluation” of the Bowl Championship Series has prompted sweeping changes to the formula that selects the participants in the college football’s national championship game. The system places a greater emphasis on human voters and no longer includes the strength of schedule, quality win and loss components in the formula.

BCS Coordinator Kevin Weiberg introduced the new selection system during a teleconference.

“Over the past six months, we have thoroughly reviewed the formula, and, I am pleased to announce that this review has resulted in a new approach to the BCS standings that is both simpler and more precise,” Weiberg said.

“We believe this simpler, more precise system will be easier for fans to understand and will lead to results that are a better reflection of the national consensus about which teams should be participating in the BCS Championship Game.”

Weiberg, also the Big 12 Conference Commissioner, said the formula received unanimous approval from the 11 conferences and Notre Dame.

The standings will be based on the Associated Press’ media poll, the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and an average of six computer rankings. The components will be weighted equally. As a result, the human polls determine two-thirds of the standings.

“By putting significantly more weight on the human polls, we have taken an important step toward eliminating some of the controversy of the past few years,” Weiberg said.

Every team will receive a percentage score for each of the components, which will be averaged to determine its BCS spot. For the human polls, the formula will get the percentage from point totals in the polls, not the numerical spot, which had been used previously.

In the AP poll, a team’s total points will be divided by a possible 1,800 points, and a team’s score in the coaches’ poll will be divided by a possible 1,500 points.

Weiberg said the decision to use a percentage instead of numerical average helps make the formula more user-friendly.

“I think it’s one that fans can understand because it’s not uncommon, in the sports world, for percentage averages to be used in terms of how close to a perfect score an individual or team might be,” Weiberg said. “So in that regard, it’s very similar to a batting average, really. I think that’s the primary reason for the percentage presentation.”

To establish the computer ranking, point values will be assigned to the computer rankings before being averaged. For example, the No. 1 team in a poll will receive 25 points. The average will be derived from four polls, for the formula calls for the team’s highest and lowest ranking to be dropped.

The committee decided to eliminate the strength of schedule, quality win and team loss components after a deeper look at how the computers calculated the polls.

“As we really got into the details there, we found that those elements were represented through those computer polls in a very significant way,” Weiberg said. “We really thought adding those pieces back on were simply creating additional confusion and providing a weight to those components that probably weren’t necessary.

“I think it also is true the human voters take into account some of those factors as well. So it just seemed to us that it was putting too much weight to put a separate, additional component for those elements.”

Had this formula been in place last season, Southern Cal, not Oklahoma, would have played Louisiana State in the Sugar Bowl, and in 2001, Oregon, not Nebraska, would have faced Miami in the Rose Bowl.

Last season, Southern Cal finished No. 1 in both polls but did not receive the chance to play for the national championship. The new formula likely won’t allow this to happen without a wide deviation from the computer polls.

“I think it’s a significant step toward sort of fail-safing the possibility of the No. 1 team falling out of the championship game,” Weiberg said.

Some critics of the BCS, in response to the controversy, have requested a playoff system to determine a national championship. When asked whether a tournament could serve as an alternative to the BCS, though, Weiberg said the involved schools are opposed to it.

“We’d like to get to something that works on an on-going basis,” Weiberg said. “We hope we can get to a system that has more stability over time. Having said that, there is not a perfect tool that is out there that was going to eliminate all possibility of controversy, but we think this system clearly is an improvement.”

The BCS has two years left on its contract.

Similar to previous years, the BCS will release its first rankings on the third Monday of October, which is Oct. 18.

“The focus really has been on trying to make the system to work as best as it can,” he said.

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