10 interesting facts about the Bowl Championship Series

What I learned from reading "Death to the BCS."

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    Groundskeepers ready the field for the 2011 Bowl Championship Series, to be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
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Along the way to their argument that the Bowl Championship Series is a disaster, the authors of "Death to the BCS" – sportswriters Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan – also make these 10 points:

1 - About 60 percent of bowl teams spend more to play in these games than they receive in payouts for their participation.

2 - A big reason that accepting a bowl invitation can be financially burdensome is because the bowls often require schools to buy large allotments of full-price tickets that they’re unable to sell. For the 2009 Fiesta Bowl in Arizona, for example, even a rabid football school like Ohio State was only able to sell little more than half its 17,500 tickets. The result: a $1 million loss.

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3 - Although extending the length of the season is often cited as a drawback to a playoff because of the strain it places on unpaid college players, only two teams would wind up playing 17 games with a 16-team format. (It’s not uncommon for high school championship teams, by the way, to play 15 games.)

4 - Penn State Coach Joe Paterno may be old school in many ways (he claims to have never even used e-mail), but he favors a playoff, and with good reason. He’s led Penn State to five perfect seasons during his 45 years with the Nittany Lions, but they’ve been voted national champions just twice.

5 - Despite the appearance of being charitable organizations, the bowls aren’t especially generous. The 23 tax-exempt bowls in 2003 gave just 1.7 percent of their $186 million in revenue to charities. By far, the most liberal givers to charities were the Orange Bowl in Miami and the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

6 - Bowls are increasingly inclined to invite schools with local fans, or at least ones within driving distance. That way, they can “anchor ticket sales and stabilize bowl revenue,” and thus cut down on the empty seats, which never look good on television.

7 - Although college presidents have expressed concern about class time missed due to football playoffs, they don’t seem to raise objections to the many class disruptions basketball requires with far more numerous road games. Nor do they halt the creation of evermore far-flung athletic conferences. (The Big Ten, for example, will soon stretch from Pennsylvania to Nebraska, and the Big East has recently extended membership to Texas Christian University.)

8 - Although making it to a bowl game has almost become a necessity for coaches, bowl invitations also often trigger five- and six-figure bonuses for coaches and athletic directors.

9 - The Associated Press quit letting the BCS use its weekly coaches’ poll as part of the BCS standings formula in 2005. The AP reportedly didn’t think a subjective ranking should be the basis for a major athletic competition.

10 - Concern about a playoff adding extra games that jeopardize player safety is misplaced, the authors contend. The real concern should be with the number of plays, not the number of games. Because the clock stops after each first down, college games contain 8 to 10 percent more plays than NFL contests, a problem easily fixed with a rule change.

Ross Atkin is an editor at the Monitor.

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