Earlier this week as Auburn and Florida State prepared to play for the national title, a familiar face was back in the spotlight once again. In a special pre-game ceremony, former Southeastern Conference Commissioner Roy Kramer was recognized by Executive Director of the Bowl Championship Series Bill Hancock just before the Tigers and Seminoles kicked off the 16th and final BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl.
Generally regarded as the "Father of the BCS," Kramer was the driving force that helped build a consensus among conferences, institutions and bowl games for a post-season structure that would help match the best two teams in the country in one championship game. Kramer expertly navigated the political minefield of traditional.bowl games and conference affiliations and created the first college football playoff structure the sport had ever seen in time for the 1997 season.
Almost from the beginning, the BCS faced its fair share of critics. Much like the chairman of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee on Selection Sunday, Kramer was barraged by questions and mostly hypothetical scenarios in which some team in some part of the country was getting the short end of the stick.
To listen to some media pundits and talking heads, you would think that the BCS rarely worked and was a disaster. Some even bolstered their own career reputations by criticizing the system persistently in articles and best-selling books. The BCS was picked apart by someone seemingly every time college football was discussed on television.
In every week of its 16-year existence, people debated what would happen if multiple teams finished the season with the same record and there was a logjam for the top two spots. But on almost every occasion, by the time the smoke had cleared, the BCS delivered what it was supposed to do – the two best teams in the country.
During the BCS era, college football saw extraordinary growth and the game’s popularity exploded. Even as some national networks espoused the shortfalls of the system, their revenues flourished from the excitement generated by the discussion among college football fans and viewers. College football is stronger than ever.
That is not to suggest the BCS was perfect. No system is. But even as Auburn and Florida State played yet another classic game in the BCS’ final chapter, some couldn’t resist taking a few parting shots.
To me, however, such conjecture carried as much credence as someone who might have dared to mock legendary inventor Thomas Edison back in 1880 because his newly invented incandescent light bulb didn’t give off enough light. Much like our world was dark before Edison, college football fans had no playoff structure before Kramer helped flip the switch
The BCS has run its course and the time has come to take the next step to insure the continued long-term success of college football. Beginning in 2014, the College Football Playoff Selection committee, under the direction of Chairman Jeff Long, will form the framework for the future of college football. It is a difficult task, but one that Hancock, Long and the distinguished members of the committee are more than capable of accomplishing.
Predictably some have already started to question whether a four team playoff is enough to determine a champion. Soon we will hear the passionate pleas of programs left on the outside of the playoff in a public debate previously reserved for the 69th best team in college basketball after being excluded from March Madness.
Will the four-team College Football Playoff solve all the arguments and be the perfect national championship formula? That is to be determined and will largely be determined in the eye of the beholder. But one thing should be universally accepted, even if by some in hindsight.
All of college football owes a debt of gratitude to Roy Kramer. As we all prepare for a new chapter in the college football post-season, we are well served to remember his efforts to cultivate the sustained success of a game we all love. After all, Kramer’s vision was the first glimmer in the ever-increasing glow that will help illuminate the future of college football.
Razorback Road is a weekly column published on Thursdays by Associate Athletic Director for Public Relations Kevin Trainor. Trainor is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and has worked for Razorback Athletics for more than 20 years.