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BCS 101


BCS Explained

from BCS Releases, with editorial contributions from our staff
Updated 5/9/13

Also See: BCS Automatic Qualification, At-Large Eligibility and Selection Procedures

Also See: BCS Releases Standards To Determine Which Conferences Receive Automatic Qualification For the BCS Bowls

Past BCS Championship Games
1998
Tennessee 23, Florida State 16
1999 Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29
2000 Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2
2001 Miami (Fla.) 37, Nebraska 14
2002 Ohio State 31, Miami (Fla.) 24 (2 OT)
2003 LSU 21, Oklahoma 14 (USC was voted #1 by the AP after a 28-14 win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl)
#-2004 USC 55, Oklahoma 19
2005 Texas 41, USC 38
2006 Florida 41, Ohio State 14
2007 LSU 38, Ohio State 24
2008 Florida 24, Oklahoma 14
2009 Alabama 37, Texas 21
2010 Auburn 22, Oregon 19
2011 Alabama 21, LSU 0
2012 Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14
#-USC's 2004 title was vacated by the BCS on June 6, 2011 in response to NCAA sanctions against UCS for the use of an ineligible player (Reggie Bush).

Pre-BCS Split "Mythical" Titles
1954 Ohio State (AP), UCLA (UPI Coaches Poll)
1957 Auburn (AP), Ohio State (UPI Coaches Poll)
1965 Alabama (AP), Michigan State (UPI Coaches Poll)
1970 Nebraska (AP), Texas (UPI Coaches Poll)
1973 Notre Dame (AP), Alabama (UPI Coaches Poll)
1974 Oklahoma (AP), Southern California (UPI Coaches Poll)
1978 Alabama (AP), Southern California (UPI Coaches Poll)
1990 Colorado (AP), Georgia Tech (UPI Coaches Poll)
1991 Miami, Fla. (AP), Washington (USA Today/CNN Coaches Poll)
1994 Nebraska (AP, USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll)
1997 Michigan (AP), Nebraska (USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll)
NOTE: In 1994, the AP and Coaches Poll each voted Nebraska as the National Champion but the Congrove Computer Rankings awarded the title to a similarly undefeated Penn State team.

Compilation of Standings
The BCS Standings are used for:

1. Determining the two teams that qualify to play in the BCS National Championship Game;

2. Determining any other automatic qualifiers; and

3. Establishing the pool of eligible teams for at-large selection.

The BCS Standings are released for eight consecutive weeks each season, including the final Standings on selection Sunday. The National Football Foundation compiles and releases the Standings each week.

This year, the BCS Standings will once again include three components: USA Today Coaches Poll, Harris Interactive College Football Poll and an average of six computer rankings. Each component will count one-third of a team's overall BCS score in the BCS Standings.

The statistical rating system used to determine the teams that will participate in the championship game of the Bowl Championship Series consists of three components and each will count as 1/3rd of the final BCS formula - subjective polls of Harris Interactive (replaces AP) and coaches (USA Today) and six computer rankings.

Ineligible For Postseason Play

On July 30, 2010, the BCS announced that teams which are ineligible for postseason play will be removed from computer ratings for the purposes of determining the BCS Standings.

Each of the six computer rankings providers have notified the BCS group that ineligible teams will still be included in the individual computer rankings during the regular season to ensure the integrity of the data and in fairness to opponents. But, for the purpose of determining the BCS Standings, ineligible teams will be removed from each computer ranking and all others below it moved up one position.

"Basically, we will take each computer ranking, remove the ineligible teams, and move all the teams below the open position up one spot. It's fair, it's consistent, it's simple, and it's transparent," said Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the BCS.

For example, if the ineligible team is ranked No. 10 in a computer ranking, the No. 11 team would move up one slot, as would all teams ranked below it, preserving the integrity of the rankings. The process would be followed for all six computer rankings. The rest of the formula would stay the same-the highest and lowest ranking for each team will be discarded and the remaining numbers averaged to create the team's computer ranking.

The average of the six computer rankings is one-third of the components of the BCS Standings. The three components are averaged to create the Standings, which include only teams that are eligible to participate in post-season play.

The USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris Interactive College Football Poll do not include teams that are prohibited by the NCAA from participating in post-season play.

The first BCS Rankings for 2013 will be released October 20, then weekly through December7.

A breakdown of the ranking components:

I. Harris Interactive Poll (1/3rd)
The first poll will be released October 13, then weekly through December 7. A team's score in the Harris poll will be divided by 2,625, which is the maximum number of points any team can receive if all 105 voting members rank the same team as Number 1. Example: 2,625 / 2,625 = 1.0. If a team receives a total of 105 voting points, an average of 25th place, their BCS quotient of this component would be .04. (1.0 / 25 = 0.04).

II. Coaches Poll (1/3rd)
A team's score in the USA Today poll will be divided by 1,550, which is the maximum number of points any team can receive if all 62 voting members rank the same team as Number 1. Example: 1,550 / 1,550 = 1.0. If a team receives a total of 62 voting points, an average of 25th place, their BCS quotient of this component would be .04. (1.0 / 25 = 0.04).

(Better understanding the polls: In both human polls, voting members fill out their own top 25 rankings ballot. Each team receives 1-25 points in reverse order of the way they are ranked. The 25th place team on each ballot receives 1 point, 24th place gets 2 points, 23rd receives 3 points... first place receives 25 points. This inverse point order is also applied to the computer rankings.

In the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll, a team will be evaluated on the number of voting points it receives in each poll. The number of actual voters, which can vary, is figured into the computation on a weekly basis in stating each team's percentage of a possible perfect score.

III. Computer rankings (1/3rd)
The computer rankings percentage is calculated by dropping the highest and lowest ranking for each team and then dividing the remaining total by 100, the maximum possible points. (Example: the 6 rankers have Team A ranked 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, and 4. Take away the 2 and 4 which leaves an average of 3rd place. The BCS quotient of this component would be 0.92. (23 / 25 = 0.92).

Peter Wolfe
Wes Colley
Sagarin
Seattle Times
Richard Billingsley
Kenneth Massey

Simplifying the formula
The percentage totals of the Harris Interactive Poll, USA Today Poll, and the computer rankings are then averaged. The teams’ averages are ranked to produce the BCS Standings.
A = Team is No. 1 in Harris Poll with all voters = 1.000
B = Same team is No. 1 in Coaches Poll with all voters = 1.000
C = Same team is No. 3 in Computer Rankings = 0.920
Result: (A+B+C)/3 = Total Score of 0.9733

BCS News Release On "Future Structure"
The Bowl Championship moved to ESPN beginning with the 2011 games. Under a new four-year contract between ESPN and the BCS, the cable network will broadcast the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls from 2011-2014, in addition to the BCS national championship game. The BCS's previous contract with FOX Sports, which began in 2007, included the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls, as well as the BCS Championship game when it wasn't hosted by the Rose Bowl which was under contract to ABC.

The BCS began using a "double hosting" format with the games played after the 2006 regular season. Under this model there are five (5) BCS games annually, including the National Championship game. The four BCS bowl games (Orange, Fiesta, Sugar, Rose) will be held annually, in addition to a National Championship game that will rotate among those four bowl sites each year. Once every four years, one of the aforementioned bowls will host two BCS games: its traditional bowl game and the National Championship game.

Automatic Qualification
1. The top two teams in the final BCS Standings shall play in the National Championship Game.

2. The champions of the Atlantic Coast, American Athletic (formerly Big East), Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and Southeastern conferences will have automatic berths in one of the participating bowls through the 2013 regular season.

3. The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, or the Western Athletic Conference will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:

  • A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or,
  • B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.

No more than one such team from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference shall earn an automatic berth in any year. (Note: a second team may be eligible for at-large eligibility as noted below.) If two or more teams from those conferences satisfy the provisions for an automatic berth, then the team with the highest finish in the final BCS Standings will receive the automatic berth, and the remaining team or teams will be considered for at-large selection if it meets the criteria.

4. Notre Dame will have an automatic berth if it is in the top eight of the final BCS Standings.

5. If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 4, and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 3 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier, provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game.

6. If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 5, and if no team qualifies under paragraph No. 5 and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 4 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game.

At-large Eligibility
If there are fewer than 10 automatic qualifiers, then the bowls will select at-large participants to fill the remaining berths. An at-large team is any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible and meets the following requirements:

  • A. Has won at least nine regular-season games, and
  • B. Is among the top 14 teams in the final BCS Standings.

No more than two teams from a conference may be selected, regardless of whether they are automatic qualifiers or at-large selections, unless two non-champions from the same conference are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings.

If fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection, then the Bowls can select as an at-large team any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible, has won at least nine regular-season games and is among the top 18 teams in the final BCS Standings subject to the two-team limit noted above and also subject to the following:

  • 1) if any conference has two or more teams in the top 14, then two of those teams must be selected and
  • (2) from the teams ranked 15-18, a bowl can select only a team from a conference that has fewer than two teams in the top 14.

If expansion of the pool to 18 teams does not result in 10 teams eligible for selection, then the pool shall be expanded by blocks of 4 teams until 10 eligible teams are available subject to the two-team limit noted above and also subject to the following: (1) if any conference has two or more teams in the top 14, then two of those teams must be selected and (2) from the teams ranked 15 or lower, a bowl can select only a team from a conference that has fewer than two teams in the top 14.

Relative to the two preceding paragraphs, all teams ranked in the top 14, other than those from conferences which have already had two teams selected, must be included in the bowl selections.

Note: in order to participate in a BCS Bowl game, a team

  • (a) must be eligible for post-season play under the rules of the NCAA and, if it not an independent, under the rules of its conference and
  • (b) must not have imposed sanctions upon itself prohibiting participation in a post-season game for infractions of the rules of the NCAA or the rules of its conference.

Team Selection Procedures
The bowls will select their participants from two pools: (1) automatic qualifiers, all of which must be selected, and, (2) at-large teams, if fewer than 10 teams qualify automatically. The following sequence will be used when establishing pairings:

1. The top two teams in the final BCS Standings will be placed in the National Championship Game ("NCG").

2. Unless they qualify to play in the NCG, the champions of selected conferences are contractually committed to host selected games:

  • Atlantic Coast Conference-Orange Bowl
  • Big Ten Conference-Rose Bowl
  • Big 12 Conference-Fiesta Bowl
  • Pac-12 Conference-Rose Bowl
  • Southeastern Conference-Sugar Bowl

3. If a bowl loses a host team to the NCG, then such bowl shall select a replacement team from among the automatic-qualifying teams and the at-large teams before any other selections are made. If two bowls lose host teams to the NCG, each bowl will get a replacement pick before any other selections are made. In such case, the bowl losing the No. 1 team gets the first replacement pick, and the bowl losing the No. 2 team gets the second replacement pick. If the Rose Bowl loses both the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions to the NCG, it will receive two replacement picks.

(For the games of January 2011 through 2014, the first year the Rose Bowl loses a team to the NCG and a team from the non-AQ group is an automatic qualifier, that non-AQ team will play in the Rose Bowl.)

A bowl choosing a replacement team may not select any of the following:

  • A. A team in the NCG;
  • B. The host team for another BCS Bowl;
  • C. When two bowls lose host teams, then the bowl losing the number one team may not select a replacement team from the same conference as the number two team, unless the bowl losing the number two team consents.

4. After steps No. 1, 2 and 3 have been completed, any bowl with an unfilled slot shall select a team from the automatic qualifiers and/or at-large teams in the following order for the games played in 2007 through 2010:

  • A. The bowl played on the date nearest to the National Championship Game will pick first;
  • B. The bowl played on the date second-nearest to the National Championship Game will pick second;
  • C. The bowl hosting the game that is played in the time slot immediately after the Rose Bowl game will pick third.

The selection order noted in paragraphs A, B and C is as follows:
January 2014 games: Orange, Sugar, Fiesta

All teams earning automatic berths must be selected.

5. After completion of the selection process as described in Paragraph Nos. 1-4, the conferences and Notre Dame may, but are not required to, adjust the pairings taking into consideration the following:

  • A. whether the same team will be playing in the same bowl game for two consecutive years;
  • B. whether two teams that played against one another in the regular season will be paired against one another in a bowl game;
  • C. whether the same two teams will play against each other in a bowl game for two consecutive years; and
  • D. whether alternative pairings may have greater or lesser appeal to college football fans as measured by expected ticket sales for the bowls and by expected television interest, and the consequent financial impact on Fox and the bowls.

The pairings may not be altered by removing the Big Ten Champion or Pac-12 champion from the Rose Bowl.

Future BCS Championship Game Locations
January, 2014 (2013 season) - Pasadena

Tie-breaking Procedure
The following steps will be used to resolve any ties in the standings after the computation is carried out to full decimal points:

1. Look to head-to-head result;

2. If the tie is not resolved by paragraph No. 1, then evaluate results against the highest-ranked common opponent in the BCS standings;

3. If the tie is not resolved by paragraph Nos. 1-2, then calculate tied teams' place in BCS Standings using all six computer providers (i.e., do not throw out the high and low computer rankings) and the Harris and Coaches polls;

4. If the tie is not resolved by paragraph Nos. 1-3, then draw.

The BCS is...
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is a five-game showcase of college football. It is designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game, and to create exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games.

It has been undeniably successful in achieving those goals. Thanks to the BCS, the top two teams have played each other 12 times in 12 years by BCS measurements and 9 times in the last 12 according to the AP poll -- including the last six years in a row. Additionally, it has provided more access to the major bowls for all eleven conferences, more television exposure, and more postseason revenue than ever before.

The BCS allows for preserving the significance of the regular season, which is the most meaningful in sports. It also maintains the bowl system to the benefit of dozens of universities each year.

The bowl games participating are the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, FedEx Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi, Allstate Sugar Bowl and the BCS National Championship Game, which is played each year at one of the bowl sites.

The BCS is managed by the commissioners of the 11 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ("FBS") (formerly Division I-A) conferences, the director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame, and representatives of the bowl organizations. The conferences are Atlantic Coast, American Athletic (formerly Big East), Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Pacific-10, Southeastern and Western Athletic.

The conference commissioners and the Notre Dame athletics director make decisions regarding all BCS issues, in consultation with an athletics directors advisory group and subject to the approval of a 12-person presidential oversight committee whose members represent all 125 FBS programs.

The five BCS games are part of the overall bowl structure. All bowl games provide meaningful season-ending opportunities to teams.

As one conference commissioner said, "The celebration that occurs among the student-athletes, coaching staff and fans at the end of each bowl games is an indication of the importance of all bowl games."

The BCS places great premium on the regular season of college football.

"Football weekends are an important ingredient in the overall college experience -- going well beyond simply what occurs in the athletics department," said BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock. "A significant amount of the revenue that supports all athletic programs is generated by regular-season football. And so it is important that the regular season remains strong and vibrant."

The top two teams were matched in bowl games only eight times in the 56 years before the BCS and its predecessors (the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance) were created. In those days, conferences were contractually obligated to certain games and there was no flexibility to attempt to match the top teams.

The original 11 BCS conferences (as of the 2013 season, the WAC has dropped football and the Big East has become the American Athletic Conference) contracted with ESPN to televise the games through the 2013-14 season.

  • Revenue. Each conference whose team qualifies automatically for the BCS receives approximately $18 million in net revenue. A second team qualifying brings an additional $4.5 million to its conference. Notre Dame receives approximately $1.3 million. Army and Navy also receive $100,000 each, and the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision conferences share approximately $2 million.
  • Economic impact. The total economic impact in the host cities from the five BCS games in January 2009, was estimated at more than $1.2 billion.
  • Access. Each conference had an opportunity to earn annual automatic qualification through a four-year evaluation covering the regular seasons of 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Atlantic Coast, American Athletic (formerly Big East), Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences met the threshold and earned automatic qualification through the 2013-14 season. A seventh conference could qualify for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 bowl season based on an evaluation of the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 regular seasons.
  • Additionally, institutions can qualify in any given season by meeting certain thresholds.

PLAYOFFS
2013 marks the final season of the BCS. A 4-team playoff will begin in the 2014 season.
Also See:
4/26/12 - BCS Releases Statement on College Football Playoffs
6/20/12 - BCS Claims To Be "On Threshold Of Creating New Postseason Structure
6/26/12 - 4-Team Playoff Gets Approval
11/12/12 - Agreement on Playoff Structure Announced
1/10/13 - Dates for Playoff Games Announced
4/23/13 - "College Football Playoff" Will Be Name Of New Event
4/25/13 - Cowboys Stadium Will Host First "College Football Playoff" Championship
4/29/13 - Fans Select New Logo for College Football Playoff

BCS Governance
The BCS is managed by the commissioners of the 10 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and the director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame. The conferences are Atlantic Coast, American Athletic (formerly Big East), Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Pac-12 and Southeastern.

The conference commissioners and the Notre Dame athletics director make decisions regarding all BCS issues, in consultation with an athletics directors advisory group and subject to the approval of a board of managers whose members represent all 124 Football Bowl Subdivision programs.

Board of Managers
Anthony Frank - President, Colorado State University (MWC)
Judy Genshaft - President, University of South Florida (Big East)
Rev. John Jenkins - President, University of Notre Dame (Independent)
Bernie Machen - President, University of Florida (SEC)
Max Nikias - President, University of Southern California (Pac-12)
Harvey Perlman - Chancellor, University of Nebraska (Big 10)
John G. Peters - President, Northern Illinois University (MAC)
Bill Powers - President, University of Texas (Big 12)
Gary Ransdell - President, Western Kentucky University (Sun Belt)
Charles W. Steger (chair) - President, Virginia Tech (ACC)
(Conference USA - TBD)

Conference Commissioners and Notre Dame athletics director
Mike Aresco (Big East)
Britton Banowsky (C-USA)
Karl Benson (Sun Belt)
Bob Bowlsby (Big 12)
Jim Delany (Big Ten)
Larry Scott (Pac-12)
Mike Slive (SEC)
Jon Steinbrecher (MAC)
Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame)
John Swofford (ACC)
Craig Thompson (MWC)

AD Advisory Group
Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin - Big Ten)
Tom Bowen (University of Memphis - Big East)
Joe Castiglione (Oklahoma - Big 12)
Jeremy Foley (Florida - SEC)
Rick Greenspan (Rice - C-USA )
Pat Haden (USC - Pac-12)
Jim Livengood (UNLV - MWC)
Mike O'Brien (Toledo - MAC)
Dan Radakovich (Clemson - ACC)
Bobby Staub (University of Louisiana at Monroe - Sun Belt)

BCS executive director
Bill Hancock