Why BCS is biggest story of all 

November, 16, 2010

Paul Finebaum, the Alabama-based talk show host, wrote a story recently -- it was the first thing I read this morning -- discussing whether the Cameron Newton story is the biggest story in the entire history of college football.

Here's a key line:

    What if Auburn keeps winning and Newton's status remains unchanged? And what is interesting in the rush to judgment: We haven't even considered the possible ramifications and repercussions if this story proves to be true and can be confirmed. What does it mean to the reputation of the Southeastern Conference, which is a multi-billion enterprise? What does it mean to Auburn? What does it mean to the sport of college football?

Putting aside Newton for the time being, I asked my Twitter followers -- as well as many colleagues -- what they think are the biggest college football stories of the last 25 years. Here are the results of the informal survey:

1. The birth of the BCS

Put in place in 1998 to match the two top teams in college football, the BCS has triggered an incredible level of outrage with fans, media and even politicians railing against it. The venom grows by the year, yet whether it's because of the BCS or in spite of it the popularity of college football has soared, going from being a regional link to a national landscape. In the past dozen years, we've seen a connection in which Alabama and Ohio State fans now must keep an eye on what's going on in Big 12 country or even in Boise, Idaho. Supporters of the BCS say the ensuing debates are good for the sport. That the final score of a Notre Dame-Utah game is relevant or whether Boise State blew out someone by quite enough points or why it was so beneficial for Wisconsin to score over 80 on Indiana shows how fickle and flawed this system is. The formula has been tweaked several times and it only seems to have enraged its playoff-starved opponents that much more.

One of the side effects of the BCS has been that it has literally changed the way fans look at the game, as ESPN's Joe Tessitore pointed out. The emergence of the BCS changed the way many sports fans look at New Year's Day, which had been a college football institution.

"Imagine changing Thanksgiving in our country and spreading it over a couple of weekends," Tessitore said. "Imagine no longer having the Times Square Ball drop on Dec. 31. Imagine Americans no longer having picnics and fireworks on the Fourth of July. A great American tradition which threaded numerous generations was lost forever. It was bigger than just sports. The biggest football games of the year on New Years Day -- all day -- it was a Norman Rockwell painting. It was as old as time, as accepted as the norm and as American as apple pie. Mothers, grandmothers and nuns even knew it. That was bigger than football. It was a change that affected American culture and tradition."

2. The Southern Methodist Mustangs death penalty