Founder Roy Kramer believes Bowl Championship Series has been great for football

Founder Roy Kramer believes Bowl Championship Series has been great for football

December 11th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Roy Kramer is pictured at the SEC headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday, June 6, 2000.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

BCS ERA HIGHS AND LOWS

THE GOOD

• 1. Following the 2005 regular season, No. 2 Texas topples No. 1 Southern Cal 41-38 in a memorable BCS title game. Had the BCS not been in place, USC would have been obligated to play the Big Ten champion in the Rose Bowl.

• 2. Boise State from the Western Athletic Conference stuns Big 12 champion Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime at the Fiesta Bowl after the 2006 season in what may be the most exciting bowl game ever staged.

• 3. Ohio State's win over Miami after the 2002 season and Auburn's win over Oregon after the 2010 season each was decided on the final play.

THE BAD

• 1. Southern Cal, Oklahoma and Auburn each go undefeated during the 2004 season. The Trojans and Sooners are ranked 1-2 all season, leaving Auburn as the odd team out.

• 2. The 2003 season ends with LSU facing Oklahoma despite Oklahoma's 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game. Southern Cal was No. 1 in both polls entering the bowls and finished atop the AP poll, with LSU winning the BCS title and the crystal ball.

• 3. The Big East champion often was the ugly duckling among the BCS bowls. An 8-4 Connecticut sold less than 2,800 tickets out of a 17,500 allotment to the Fiesta Bowl after the 2010 season, saddling the school with a hit of just under $3 million. Those who traveled saw the Huskies lose to Oklahoma, 48-20.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban celebrates with his team after the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU on Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. Alabama won 21-0.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

The Bowl Championship Series era in college football will be put to rest on the evening of Jan. 6, 2014, when No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn vie for the national title in Pasadena, Calif.

A system to pair the sport's top two teams was birthed by former Southeastern Conference commissioner Roy Kramer and implemented before the 1998 season. The 16-year run had a smooth start and a smooth finish and some controversy in between, but its founder believes the BCS created far more good than bad for programs at all levels.

"Despite all the people who want to bash it, it did what it was supposed to do, and I think it worked rather well," Kramer said Tuesday in a phone interview. "I'm probably a little prejudiced, but it did what we wanted. First and foremost, it increased the interest in college football, and it's done that far beyond our dreams. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the Auburn-Alabama game on television had Birmingham as its highest-rated city for viewership and that the third-highest was in Columbus, Ohio.

"That accentuates what we were talking about back then. It created more of a national interest in college football in a way that we probably didn't even anticipate at the time."

Florida State and Auburn were the clear-cut choices to play in this season's BCS title finale after Ohio State got upset last Saturday in the Big Ten championship game. A four-team playoff will debut next season, which would have been very difficult to determine had it arrived a year early.

Alabama, the SEC West runner-up to Auburn, is third in the polls, and a fourth team would have been selected among Big Ten champion Michigan State, Big 12 champion Baylor and Pac-12 champion Stanford.

"You talk about controversy," Kramer said. "You tell me who that fourth team is. I'm not going to have to worry about that one."

The BCS era opened when Tennessee defeated Florida State in the inaugural title game, and FSU beat Virginia Tech the next season. The debating began in 2000 and '01, when Florida State and Nebraska got the No. 2 nods over Miami and Colorado despite head-to-head losses, and '03 had controversy when Oklahoma was tabbed over Southern Cal to face LSU despite its 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game.

Never was there more controversy, however, than in 2004, when Southern Cal, Oklahoma and Auburn each went undefeated in impressive fashion. The Trojans and Sooners finished 1-2 in the BCS standings, leaving Auburn in the cold.

"We knew that was possible from day one, but it doesn't happen very often," Kramer said. "Halfway through this year, we had all the gnashing and grinding of teeth that with seven undefeated teams that this was going to be the biggest fiasco of all. When we got through, there was only one undefeated team.

Texas quarterback Vince Young dives into the end zone for a third-quarter touchdown in the Longhorns' 41-38 upset of Southern Cal in the BCS title game after the 2005 season.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

"In that year, those three teams were evaluated, and it took a strong look at strength of schedule. That played a major role, and it's supposed to play a major role moving forward, which is why I think Stanford might have been that fourth team this year."

Kramer said the BCS also elevated programs that were never considered "national name tags." He cited Boise State's thrilling 43-42 overtime upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2006 season, Utah's upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl after the 2008 season and TCU's topping of Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl after the 2010 season.

There were 22 bowl games when the BCS was implemented. Now there are 35, and Kramer believes that's a very good thing.

"Very few teams will challenge for a national championship, but just look at the excitement of the Mississippi-Mississippi State game a couple of weeks ago," Kramer said. "Mississippi State was fighting for its life to become bowl-eligible, which was a big thing for them. That was important, and we've got to maintain those kinds of moments."

Kramer was commissioner of the SEC from 1990 through 2002, overseeing the expansion of the conference from 10 to 12 members and the implementation of what quickly became a popular and lucrative league title game. When asked last year about Kramer's influence on the SEC, the BCS and college football in general, former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said, "I don't think there is anyone who has done more for all those entities."

Tennessee's Peerless Price (37) celebrates with teammates after the Vols defeated Florida State 23-16 in the Fiesta Bowl to win the National Championship in 1999 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Fulmer guided the Volunteers to the inaugural BCS championship, and four other SEC teams -- Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU -- have combined to win eight titles. Should Auburn defeat Florida State, the SEC would claim an eighth consecutive BCS crown and a 10th in 16 seasons.

"We were always going to be a strong player, because the SEC has always been an extremely strong football conference," Kramer said. "The BCS sort of made it possible for the SEC to show its strength nationally. It gave it the platform to show that it was there."

Whether football fans loved or loathed the BCS, Kramer is quick to point out that the last 16 years have made it possible for a playoff concept even to be considered.

"The BCS worked far better than most of these pundits who knocked it in the head every time you turn around just because it was the popular thing to do," Kramer said. "If you sit down and really look at it from year to year to year, there were one or two hiccups, but the world didn't come to an end. Look at the Texas-Southern Cal game we created.

"It paved the way for college football to really take a center stage in a lot of ways across the country, especially from an interest standpoint, even though very few people are giving it credit for that."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.