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Book Review: Death to the BCS

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It's book report time at OBNUG. Where are our personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut's BOOK IT! program?

This month, we'll be reviewing the recently released Death to the BCS by Yahoo writers Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan. The book cover says it best: This is the "definitive case against the Bowl Championship Series." If you didn't think the BCS was a cartel before, you certainly will.

Join me after the jump as I delve into some of my favorite parts of the book, explain the author's playoff proposal, and more. If you've read the book already or if you've added it to your reading list (or none of the above and you just hate the BCS), share your thoughts and reactions in the comments.

What's in the book

The writers do not beat around the bush in this book. Right out of the gate, they do what the BCS has challenged playoff proponents to do for awhile -- propose a viable playoff plan. I have to say that I was a big fan of the 16-team playoff that the authors laid out - all 11 conference champions plus five at-large teams. This type of playoff fulfills my only requirement for a playoff system: that a team can control its own destiny. Here's what the playoff would look like if the season ended today (and if Boise State won the WAC).

Note: Conference champions in bold. Seeding and at-large selections taken from AP poll. Assist to PSR.

Bracket #1

  • No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 16 Troy
  • No. 8 Utah vs. No. 9 Wisconsin

Bracket #2

  • No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Virginia Tech
  • No. 4 TCU vs. No. 13 Pittsburgh

Bracket #3

  • No. 2 Boise State vs. No. 15 Northern Illinois
  • No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 10 Ohio State

Bracket #4

  • No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 14 East Carolina
  • No. 6 Alabama vs. No. 11 Oklahoma

Who wouldn't love that?

Their playoff plan is not only viable from a competition standpoint, but also from a fiscal standpoint. The authors estimate that a college football playoff could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars more than the current BCS setup. 

After the opening playoff salvo, the book continues, chapter by chapter, dismantling each of the BCS talking points. It goes through the biases in the human polls. It eviscerates the computer polls and the restrictions the BCS places on them. It details how teams in automatic-qualifying conferences have adjusted their scheduling towards cupcake games and made a mockery out of the regular season (not preserving it, as some have argued). There's even a chapter devoted to Boise State and how the system has tried to exclude them, but failed.

The most eye-opening chapter for me, however, was about the "sacred" bowl system and how it works. Did you know most schools take a loss just to attend a bowl game? Bowl payouts are paid out partly in tickets that schools are forced to try and sell. There are required lengths of stays imposed on teams, racking up costly hotel stays. Meantime, the bowls operate with a profit.

Every single bowl game is registered as a non-profit entity, but don't get that confused with a charity. Most bowl directors make over $100,000 to organize their games. Low-level bowl officials jet-set around the country attending games like Alabama-Auburn when, in reality, there is no chance their bowl will land either of those teams.

After the authors are done, there is little left to defend for the current system and the way it operates. 

Why you should read it

If you are a Boise State fan, then you are most likely not a BCS fan. And this book will only make those feelings stronger. Death to the BCS is a fascinating insight into how the BCS and bowl system are run. And it backs up its arguments with sound research and solutions.

In the chapter detailing the playoff plan, it quickly becomes evident that playoffs serve a purpose beyond just crowning a legitimate national champion. The money that is left on the table could go towards schools that, for the most part, receive state funding. 

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum (and we try to do our best to avoid it here), I think most of us would agree that increased funding to our state schools that could alleviate budget issues and reduce the dependency on state funds, would be a great thing.

Pick it up at Amazon in hardback for $13.60 or $10.99 on your Kindle.

Your turn

The book has been out for a few weeks now. Have you read it? What was the most infuriating chapter for you? Let me know your take in the comments.