Split title brings more changes for formula


NEW YORK -- The folks who run the Bowl Championship Series
are still trying to get it right: Pick the most deserving teams to
play in its title game and stop infuriating so many college
football fans.

Last year, the BCS' six-year-old computer-biased formula left
Southern California out of a national title game even though the
Trojans were No. 1 in both the AP media and coaches' polls.

That created the BCS' worst nightmare -- split national
champions. USC clinched the AP title by beating Michigan in the
Rose Bowl, and LSU won the coaches' crown by defeating the BCS' No.
1 team, Oklahoma, in the Sugar Bowl.

And just like the last time there were co-champions, when the
1997 crown was shared by Michigan (AP) and Nebraska (coaches) and
the Bowl Alliance was ditched -- the conference honchos sacked their
system and went for another overhaul.

This year, it's up with people and down with the utterly
confusing mix of calculations that included strength of schedule,
won-loss records and quality wins.

The AP media poll and the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll will each
count for one-third of a team's BCS ranking; computers will count
for the other third. Before, the human polls combined made up just
one-quarter of the ranking.

"This will be easier to understand, much more accurate and will
serve us better," Pacific-10 Conference commissioner Tom Hansen
said. "Will we get into trouble again? Probably."

Hansen has seen his league left on the outside looking in for
two of the last three BCS title games. The Trojans finished third
in the final BCS rankings last year, and Pac-10 champion Oregon was
edged out of the 2001 title game by Nebraska, which was trounced by
Colorado in its final regular season game.

"It's a better formula, it's simpler and I think it's got all
the components," Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive
said. "There's nothing perfect about it, just as there's nothing
perfect about the human polls."

What the BCS has done is simply shift the weight of
responsibility from computers to people. Now, the polls count for
two-thirds. Before the BCS, college football relied almost
exclusively on the media and coaches polls to determine bowl

All 11 Division I-A conference commissioners and Notre Dame were
involved in the process that changed the formula.

Longtime AP poll voter Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution says the changes are good -- and bad.

"It simplifies things for the fans, and if something goes wrong
they'll know who to blame," he said. "And that's the bad part,
they'll know exactly who to blame."

Ballots of AP voters are made available; the coaches' ballots
are not released.

Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches
Association, says 88 of the 117 Division I-A coaches are against
having their ballots made public. Teaff said opponents might gain
an edge if they knew what a coach thought about them before a game.

Teaff is more concerned with avoiding last year's embarrassment,
when USC -- the coaches' No. 1 pick -- didn't make the title game.
Coaches who vote 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 important thing for us is we never want what happened last
year to happen again," he said.

The new system lessens the chance of a repeat, but it doesn't
eliminate it. But what happens if three teams finish the regular
season undefeated, or one team is unbeaten and there are two or
three once-beatens, or there are three once-beaten teams?

"We generated some interest in tweaking the system and trying
to find a better way," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "Whether it
is a better way or not, we'll just have to wait and see how it
works. Without a playoff system, there's always going to be some
kind of a formula, so there's going to be scrutiny about the
selection process."

Had the new system been in place last year, USC and LSU would
have played in the title game, and in 2001 Miami would have played
Oregon instead of Nebraska. In 2000, Miami still would have been
left out of the game that matched Oklahoma against Florida State
despite handing the Seminoles their only loss of the season.

In the other three years of the BCS format, there were true
title games: Tennessee beat Florida State for the 1998
championship, Florida State beat Virginia Tech in 1999, and Ohio
State beat Miami for the 2002 title.

Under the new system, a team will have a percentage score for
each of three components. These percentages will be averaged to
determine a team's BCS ranking. For both the AP and coaches' polls,
the total points received in the balloting divided by the maximum
points possible will yield the percentage.

Six computer rankings are in the mix: Jeff Sagarin, Anderson &
Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey and Dr.
Peter Wolfe. The highest and lowest ranking will be tossed out each
week. The poll average will be figured based on 25 points for
first, 24 for second, and so forth. The scores will be averaged and
the total calculated as a percentage of 100.

The percentages will be added and divided by three to come up
with the team's BCS ranking.

For example, if Team X receives 1,760 of 1,800 points from the
AP poll, its percentage would be .978; with 1,440 out of 1,500 in
the coaches poll, its percentage would be .960; and with 94 of a
possible 100 points from the computers, its percentage would be
.940 for a BCS average of .959.

"It was apparent to us that just using the average rankings of
the polls was not an adequate comparison of the level of voting
support for each team," BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner
Kevin Weiberg said. "A top-ranked team could be one point ahead of
the second-ranked team, or it could be 200 points ahead. Using the
actual voting points in the formula allows for a more accurate
ranking in the BCS poll. This is especially important when there is
marginal separation between a No. 2 and No. 3 team."

Of course, things could change after the 2005 season, when the
BCS contract expires. 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.

Stay tuned. The first BCS rankings are tentatively scheduled for
Oct. 18.