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There Is No 'A' In BCS

by on December 17, 2009 7:00 AM

Now that the BCS National Championship Game is set, we are forced to endure another month or two of BCS-bashing by proponents of a college football playoff.

This year once again features more controversy with five undefeated teams clumped near the top of the standings, each deserving of a chance to play for the national title.

I am proposing a solution, a new way to determine who plays for the national title. It is an idea that would alter the BCS ranking formula and also allow the reformers at the NCAA to take a big step forward.

With the selection of a new NCAA president on the horizon, the new leadership could take up a new cause.

The new BCS ratings would include a third component to rank the teams. While computer polls and human polls make up the current rankings, my new BCS poll would utilize those rankings as 2/3 of the equation while adding the graduation rates of the top 25 BCS schools into the formula to come up with a complete ranking.

A perfect BCS rating is 1.000, and a perfect graduation rate of 100 percent would be given a value of 1.000 and then halved to make a perfect score worth .500. This weighting of the graduation rate would then be 1/3 of the equation.

As you can see, the addition of the academic data would give us a new National Championship Game — one matching up Alabama and TCU. TCU earns the spot by virtue of a graduation rate that is substantially higher than the two teams ahead of them. (The graduation rates are taken from the 2009 NCAA Federal Graduation Rates Report.

BCS Rank|BCS Rating|Graduation Rate|Academic Points|New BCS Rank

1. Alabama .9978 75% .375 1. Alabama 1.3728

2. Texas .9433 48% .240 2.TCU 1.1986

3. Cincinnati .8878 56% .280 3. Texas 1.1833

4. TCU .8836 63% .315 4. Cincinnati 1.1678

5. Florida .8637 57% .285 5. Florida 1.1487

6. Boise State .8106 41% .205 6. Ohio State 1.0218

7. Oregon .7568 47% .235 7. Boise State 1.0156

8. Ohio State .6568 73% .365 8. Oregon 0.9918

9. Georgia Tech .6471 27% .135 9. Penn State 0.9764

10. Iowa .6180 67% .335 10. Iowa 0.9530

11. Virginia Tech .5675 56% .280 11. Virginia Tech 0.8475

12. LSU .5375 55% .275 12. Miami 0.8169

13. Penn State .5319 89% .445 13. LSU 0.8125

14. BYU .4531 43% .215 14. Georgia Tech 0.7821

15. Miami .4419 75% .375 15. BYU 0.6681

Other teams making major jumps in the new rankings are Penn State -- which moved up four spots due to an 89 percent graduation rate -- and Miami, which moved up three spots. Georgia Tech gets penalized five spots because of a 27 percent graduation rate.

Isn’t this all a part of the academic mission of the institutions of higher learning? Aren’t we supposed to reward the schools that play the game with true student-athletes? This plan gives real weight and value to pursuing academic and athletic excellence.

Before anyone says that this plan is unrealistic, the weighting is such that it would never be so weighted as to permit an 8-4 team to get into the national title game. It provides a way to sort out the most deserving teams among the top five or six teams in the country.

I realize that graduation rates are a long-term calculation. The argument could be made that the young men on a current team could be penalized for other athletes’ failure to graduate.

My plan would take effect in four years -- giving schools ample time to ramp up for the new rankings and standards.

There are other benefits from this plan. First, the plan can begin to create more coaching stability as schools try to avoid the academic fallout that often accompanies a coaching change. Many new coaches run off the kids they didn’t recruit and replace them with their own guys. This practice hurts the team’s graduation rate and would hurt the school’s chances to compete for a national title.

Another benefit would be a heightened awareness of a school’s academic performance by student-athletes as they are getting recruited. If two top flight programs are chasing a big-time recruit -- one graduating 48 percent of its players and the other graduating 75 percent -- that recruit would be putting his national title hopes at a distinct disadvantage by going to the school that doesn’t graduate its players.

A national championship playoff may be years away, but by implementing this new plan, college football could become a model for other sports. As the NCAA begins to decide the last 10 teams to get into March Madness, a similar formula could help reward the teams doing it the right way.

Shouldn’t the leadership at our major universities take a stand when it comes to educating student-athletes by rewarding the schools who do it the right way?



State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JayPaterno
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