Since its 1998 inception, the college football Bowl Championship Series (BCS) has become the most hated postseason event in the country – even drawing a 2011 Department of Justice investigation for possible violation of antitrust laws. Relying on a mix of human polls and stat-crunching computers to determine the annual title-game matchup, the series also uses a sequence of convoluted contingencies that decide which top teams get to compete in high-stakes bowl games, an opaque process that inevitably outrages fans and even caused President Obama, in 2008, to argue for a change to the system. Now, change we can believe in has arrived. In 2014, college football is taking a page from the NCAA March Madness playbook and debuting its first-ever postseason bracket: the College Football Playoff.
The playoff will feature the four highest-ranked teams in the country, as selected and seeded by a 13-person selection committee (which includes Condoleezza Rice), in New Year's Day semifinal matches and a title game to follow. Ahead of the transition, we caught up with Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, who will be in charge of the new playoffs. "Time's change," Hancock told us. "The fans want a bracket."
We asked Hancock to explain why the playoffs were the right decision and what college football fans can expect next season. Here are his responses.
Will this give the little guys a better chance?
Everybody has an equal chance. A significant element of creating this playoff was doing away with automatic qualification into anything, allowing every conference to make its own bowl arrangement for its champion, when it wasn't a part of the playoff, and ensuring that every team had the same chance to qualify for the playoff. And we've achieved that. Obviously, with two more slots, there are two more opportunities. The fact is every year is different. Some years there might be a big difference between the No. 1 ranking and No. 2. Some years there might be more difference between No. 3 and No. 4 and some years, yeah, there might be more difference between No. 4 and No. 5. Some years there might not be much difference.
As we evaluated this and studied the last 10 or 12 years of the BCS, that all became apparent that every season is different. In some years, in every year, the committee's job is going to be difficult. But some years, the break between No. 4 and No. 5 is going to be miniscule – I mean you're not going to be able to slide a piece of paper between those two teams.
Credit: Eric Paul Zamora / Fresno Bee / Getty Images