The BCS National Championship Game is the final bowl game of the annual Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and is intended by the organizers of the BCS to determine the U.S. national champion of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as NCAA Division I-A). The participants are the two highest-ranked teams in the BCS standings at the end of the regular college football season, currently determined by averaging the results of the final weekly USA Today Coaches' Poll, Harris Interactive Poll of media, former players and coaches, and the average of six participating Computer rankings.
The game was first played at the conclusion of the 1998 college football season in accordance with an agreement reached by the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences and the Rose Bowl Game to join the members of the former "Bowl Alliance" to create the Bowl Championship Series. The Bowl Alliance and its predecessor, the Bowl Coalition, featured championship games from 1992 through 1997. However, these did not ensure a matchup between the top two ranked teams because of the lack of participation by the Big Ten and Pac-10.
The game was initially rotated among the four participating bowl games, the (Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Sugar Bowl). However, beginning with the 2006 season, the BCS National Championship Game became a separate event played at the same site as a host bowl a week following New Year's Day.
The American Football Coaches Association has contractually agreed to select the winner of the game as the national champion in its final USA Today Coaches' Poll of the season. Thus, the winner of the game is awarded the AFCA National Championship Trophy in a postgame ceremony. The winner is also automatically awarded the National Football Foundation's MacArthur Trophy. However, the Associated Press and the Football Writers Association of America do not participate in the BCS and may award their national championship trophies to schools other than the BCS National Championship Game winner.
Since the formation of the Bowl Championship Series, there have been several controversies regarding the schools selected to participate in the BCS National Championship Game. Most notably, following the 2003 season, the BCS ranking system selected the #3 ranked school in the Associated Press writers' poll, the University of Oklahoma, over the #1 ranked school in that poll, the University of Southern California, to participate in the National Championship Game (the Nokia Sugar Bowl) despite Oklahoma's decisive loss to Kansas State in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game. 2003 is the only season, to date, since the inception of the BCS in which the national championship has been split, with Louisiana State University winning the BCS national championship and the University of Southern California winning the AP national championship and the FWAA national championship.
The National Championship Game for the 2009 season at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California was held on on January 7, 2010, sponsored by Citi, and broadcast by the ABC television network. The game featured the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide and the #2 Texas Longhorns, and was won by Alabama 37-21.
The game's location rotates among the sites of the BCS bowls. Future scheduled sites are as follows (note the years shown are for the game, which occurs in the calendar year following the corresponding NCAA football season):
- University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona in 2011 (Tostitos BCS National Championship Game)
- Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2012 (Allstate BCS National Championship Game)
- Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida in 2013 (Discover BCS National Championship Game)
- Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in 2014 (Vizio BCS National Championship Game)
The title sponsor of the BCS National Championship Game each year is the same as that of the bowl game in that year's host location. Thus, the 2007 game was the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, after the title sponsor of the Fiesta Bowl. The following year saw it become the Allstate BCS National Championship, and the 2009 game bears the FedEx brand. The 2010 game had Citi as its title sponsor.
Based upon television contracts between the BCS and the Pasadena Tournament of Roses with ESPN, the BCS will retain its current format through at least the 2014 season, when the game will be sponsored by Vizio.
Criticisms and controversyEdit
Critics of the current BCS championship argue against the internal validity of the current BCS National Championship, which is awarded to the winner of a single postseason game, the BCS National Championship game. Critics lament that the participants in this game are decided based upon polls and computers; not by previous on-field competition as is this the case in other major sports and other levels of college football which employ playoff format championships. Often, the BCS system leads to controversies in which multiple teams finish seasons with equal records, and voters must distinguish the worthiness of their participation in the BCS National Championship game. Without providing any objective criteria for evaluation of these teams, the BCS also forces voters to impose their own standards and tiebreakers. Critics note that the system inherently fosters selection bias, and therefore, lacks external validity.
Controversies concerning inclusion in the BCS National Championship Game are numerous. In 2003, for example, USC was not included in the BCS Championship Game, but beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl and ended up #1 in the Associated Press final poll. The following season, in 2004, undefeated Auburn University, Boise State University and University of Utah teams were left out of the National Championship Game (the FedEx Orange Bowl), although those teams were undefeated as well. In 2001, Oregon, second ranked in the AP poll, was bypassed in favor of Nebraska despite Nebraska's loss in its final regular season game to the University of Colorado. In 2008, the University of Utah was excluded from the BCS championship for a second time despite being the only undefeated Division I-A team at the end of the season and finished second behind 13-1 Florida. In 2009, five schools finished the regular season undefeated: Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Texas Christian University, and Boise State, however the BCS selected traditional powers Alabama and Texas to participate in the BCS National Championship Game as they were the top two teams in the BCS rankings. However, only Alabama and Boise State emerged from the postseason undefeated.
Many critics of the Bowl Championship Series favor a larger championship tournament with eight to sixteen teams, similar to that administered by the NCAA for its Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Division II, and Division III football championships. Others favor adopting the incremental step of adding a single post-bowl championship game between the winners of two BCS games among the top four ranked teams in the BCS standings, the so-called "plus one" option. The SEC and ACC conferences have recently pushed for some form of playoff system. On June 24, 2009, the BCS presidential oversight committee rejected the Mountain West Conference's proposed eight-team playoff plan
- For Bowl Coalition championship game results from 1992–1994, see: Bowl Coalition
- For Bowl Alliance championship game results from 1995–1997, see: Bowl Alliance
^1 †Double overtime
^2 ‡Pursuant to NCAA sanctions, running back Reggie Bush was declared retroactively ineligible for the 2005 Orange Bowl. The BCS has formally vacated the Trojans' victory, but USC remains the 2004 BCS national champion pending a decision by the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee.