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New (improved?) BCS formula unveiled

7/20/2004

There will be fewer numbers to crunch in the revamped version of
the Bowl Championship Series formula.

The big question remains whether those numbers will produce
better results for one of the few major sports that determines its
champion without a postseason tournament.

The ESPN/USA Today coaches' and The Associated Press writers' polls will each count for one-third of each
team's ranking under the new formula BCS officials unveiled
Thursday in their latest attempt to find a simpler, more equitable
way to come up with a 1 vs. 2 matchup in the college football title
game.

Of course, in describing the new formula, BCS chairman Kevin
Weiberg issued the same caveat that has existed throughout the six
seasons of this system.

"There is not a perfect tool out there in this system that will
eliminate all controversy," said Weiberg, the Big 12 commissioner
who took over as BCS chairman this year.

Under the new formula, which goes into effect this season, the coaches' poll, the AP writers' poll and a combination of computer
rankings will each count for one-third of a team's overall BCS
ranking.

Strength of schedule, team record and quality wins, three
components used under the old system, have all been eliminated, the
thought being that all are already factored into the computer
rankings. In the past, results from the coaches' and AP polls were
averaged, then factored in with the other components -- a formula
that lessened the significance of the polls.

In three of the last four seasons, there have been at least
three teams with legitimate claims for the two spots in the BCS
title game.

Last year resulted in a split national championship, with LSU
winning the BCS title game over Oklahoma and Southern California
protecting its top ranking in the AP poll by defeating Michigan in
the Rose Bowl. USC was left out of the BCS title game despite being
ranked first in both polls going into bowl season.

Coaches who vote in the ESPN/USA Today poll are obligated to
name the winner of the BCS title game the national champion.
Writers in the AP poll are under no such obligation.

"The system needed to be tweaked," USC coach Pete Carroll
said. "We saw that last year firsthand here at USC. But whether
this is the answer, we'll just have to wait and see."

BCS officials hired mathematicians from The Art and Science
Group, based in Baltimore, to help come up with a new formula that
would give them a better chance at ensuring there would be no
repeat of last season. Weiberg portrayed this as a total makeover
of a system that had been tweaked slightly several times since it
went into effect in 1998.

"While adjustments appear to correct previous inconsistencies,
these corrections became cumbersome and confusing," said athletic
director Paul Dee of Miami, which has been in the middle of BCS
controversies. "I hope the new system will work as predicted."

But without a postseason tournament, which most school
presidents and chancellors still oppose, Weiberg acknowledged there
are no guarantees.

"We want to get this right," he said. "We want to have as
much consensus as we possibly can. Certainly, the BCS has created
interest. That's a positive feature of the overall system. But our
attempt here was not to produce a formula that would continue to
have controversial outcomes."

The new formula will no longer average the weekly rank of each
team. Instead, teams will be evaluated on the number of voting
points they receive in each poll. A team's score in the AP poll
will be divided by 1,625, which is the maximum any team can
receive. A team's score in the coaches' poll will be divided by
1,525.

The final component will come from six computer rankings. A
team's highest and lowest computer ranking will be thrown out and
the other four will be used to determine a figure to add to those
from the two polls. The New York Times computer rankings will not
be used this year due to the newspaper's decision not to
participate.

Had the new system been in place last year, it would have pitted
USC and LSU in the title game, according to BCS calculations.

In 2001, Miami would have played Oregon instead of Nebraska,
which made it over the Ducks despite a late-season 62-36 loss to
Colorado that knocked the Cornhuskers out of the Big 12 title
picture.

In 2000, the game would have pitted Oklahoma and Florida State --
the two teams that made it -- with Miami being left out despite
having one defeat and giving the Seminoles their only loss of the
season.

"It would be nice to think that this solves past problems, but
due to past history you have to wait and see," said Oregon sports
information director Dave Williford, whose boss, athletic director
Bill Moos, has been an outspoken critic of the BCS.

"Other alterations were supposed to solve the problems as well
and did not do the trick," Williford said.

Weiberg said the hope is that this system won't need to be
changed again. The BCS contract expires after the 2005 season.
Beginning in 2006, a fifth game will be added to the BCS, with the
championship game played a week later at the site of one of the BCS
bowls.