A few weeks Penguin books sent Balloon-Juice reader J a copy of “Death to the BCS” to review as part of the new Balloon-Juice reader review program. Here is the review reader J wrote:
Death to the BCS is a hard-hitting and fact-filled expose that provides a sound argument for replacing the Bowl Championship Series with a playoff. Actually, the authors provide a series of arguments, presented one per chapter, for killing the widely unpopular BCS. In place of the BCS they propose putting the 11 conference champions plus 5 at-large teams into playoffs, with the higher seed having home-field advantage for the first three rounds and a neutral site for the championship game — which would be a real championship game, between two teams that had won the right to play in the game by winning three playoff games.
Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan don’t pull any punches in beating up on “the Cartel,” the commissioners of the six conferences that control the BCS. Page by page, chapter by chapter, they take the often absurd arguments that the Cartel uses to defend the BCS and turn them into mincemeat.
Perhaps the strongest argument for ending the misery of fans of undefeated teams that are shut out of the BCS title game and of football followers around the country who see the magic of March Madness and the use of football playoffs at other levels of the college game and wonder ‘Why can’t we have that?’ is one of simple economics: A playoff system would generate piles of dollars, far beyond the total provided by the current bowl games. The authors argue that the Cartel opposes change because the current system gives them control over a small pile of money, whereas a playoff system would divide a much larger pie more equally.
But there are many failed arguments for retaining the BCS and then authors address them one by one, devoting chapters to such topics as the disincentives that schools have today to schedule real competition for non-conference games, thus diluting the regular season that the Cartel professes to defend, and the many flaws in both the human polls and the computer rankings that together determine the BCS standings.
The authors recognize that there is no going back to the pre-BCS days, when there were fewer bowls, nor do they want to eliminate bowl games or use the current bowl system to host the playoff games that they propose. Instead, they lay out, early in the book, a sound alternative — a 16 team playoff system — that would be welcomed by fans everywhere and that would crown a true champion.
Death to the BCS is informative and carefully argued. Wetzel, Peter, and Passan peel back the curtain and reveal the truth about the BCS, which is even more ugly than most of us have imagined — which is saying something. Read this book and you’ll know why the BCS must die (if you don’t already), plus you’ll have a stack of arguments to support the change the major college football is dying to see.