Must-See: BCS National Championship Game

As the 2009-10 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) season comes to an end, the good news for college football is that fan interest is at an all-time high and television ratings are up across the board. If you look closely at television ratings, the SEC -- featuring Alabama's and Florida's run-up to the conference title game -- led the way as CBS averaged its highest rating since college football came back to the network in 1996, up 29% from last season. And while ratings on ABC took a slight downward turn to a 3.9, ESPN had its highest ratings in 10 years, up 10% from a year ago (according to the AP).

So, what could be better than a great season and the culmination on Thursday night? This year's title game indisputably features the two best teams in college football, No. 2 BCS-ranked Texas Longhorns vs. No. 1 BCS-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. It's also the Rose Bowl's turn to host the rotating national championship, which struck gold in 2006 when Vince Young led Texas to a championship over USC. On primetime, on a Thursday night, can Texas strike gold again in this year's marquee matchup?

The fact is the game is two days away, but where's the buzz? Why is it that with its increasing popularity, television ratings, great storylines and the championship matchup everybody wanted, why does it still seem like something is missing?

Why does the BCS not have the same prestige as the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship game? Or even yet, its professional football counterpart, the Super Bowl?

Well, for starters, in late November it was announced that the BCS has hired PR guru Ari Fleischer, president of Ari Fleischer Sports Communications, to put an end to all the talk of a college playoff system. And just about two months ago, Bill Hancock, the former director of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, was named as the first executive director of the BCS -- all clearly signs that the BCS knows it needs to do something to improve the reputation of its system.

Yes, it may lack the palpable excitement of other sports championships because many of us consider this year another anti-climactic conclusion to an otherwise frustrating system, one that often feels like it requires a degree in advanced mathematics to even understand. Or perhaps we don't like mixing sports with our government (especially during a recession), and this year Congress, and even the president, have weighed in on why college football should consider a playoff system.

Unnecessary drama aside, the reality is that last November, the BCS announced it would be moving to ESPN starting in January 2011 (following the 2010 regular season). According to ESPN, the details of the deal include exclusive television, radio, digital, international and marketing rights for the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls from 2011 to 2014 and the BCS title game from 2011 to 2013. Translation: The BCS system, like most major sporting events, is driven by the media companies, and therefore, the current system is here to stay.

So what's my point to all of this? My advice is simple: Enjoy it. If you are a football fan at any level, this year's title game is must-see TV. And it is definitely something to get excited about, if you're a sponsor, media company, politician, etc. (It's the other games in the BCS system that I'm just not so sure of.)

2 comments about "Must-See: BCS National Championship Game ".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, January 5, 2010 at 4:56 p.m.

    You can't be serious. Hopefully Boise State people don't read this. The matchup of Boise State and TCU was another sham move to avoid the whole idea that two large BCS conference schools could be embarrassed the way Oklahoma was. Why would the BCS need to hire a PR guru to promote the system if it works so well?

    It lacks the palpable excitement of other championships because the system is designed to keep the money status quo. The vested parties are too short sighted to see the potential that a playoff system could generate in excitement, and therefore, revenue.

  2. Bill West from Comcast Spotlight, January 5, 2010 at 5:58 p.m.

    A nod to Jonathan's point. The "two best teams..."? Maybe just the best two available in the current design. But the system is as we know it. Personally I'm a bit exhausted. Driven by the need to have every BCS game in prime, having to wait practically since Thanksgiving for THE game, no amount of hype can extend interest that long. (see Super Bowl) Maybe CFA/ESPN will look at trimming back a few bowls and then getting them all underway early enought that the champion can indeed again be crowned by the first or second of January.

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