Thursday, December 18, 2008

BCS' Fairness Doctrine

Is the BCS unfair to the non-BCS conferences?

That question is a popular refrain ever since the advent of the BCS itself. While it quieted a bit after the BCS expanded in 2006 to give non-BCS teams more opportunities to qualify for a big payday, in 2008 the dissenters grew a bit louder once again.

The success of the Mountain West Conference was the primary reason for it. The MWC this season will be sending No. 6 Utah to the Sugar Bowl, the first encore performance by a non-BCS guest, as Texas Christian (No. 11) and Brigham Young (No. 16) also finished in the top 25. Only the SEC and the Big 12 could say that they had a better year than the Mountain West, when it comes to each conference's top teams.

Naturally, shouldn't the Mountain West deserve an automatic bid in the BCS, ahead of say, the ACC and the Big East?

Ben Prather, our friend at, has broken down the performances by team and by conference over each of the past four seasons. And here are his findings:

By Ben Prather (

The champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern Conferences will have annual automatic qualification for a BCS game after the regular seasons of 2008 through 2013, based on mathematical standards of performance during the 2004-2007 regular seasons.

The 2008-2011 regular seasons will be evaluated under the same standards to determine if other conferences will have annual automatic qualification for the games after the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons. The champions of no more than seven conferences will have annual automatic berths.

If the BCS continues under the same or similar format, conferences will be evaluated on their performances during the 2010-2013 regular seasons to determine which conferences will have automatic qualification for the bowls that will conclude the 2014-2017 regular seasons.

The evaluation data includes the following for each conference (1) the ranking of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings each year, (2) the final regular-season rankings of all conference teams in the computer rankings used by the BCS each year and (3) the number of teams in the top 25 of the final BCS standings each year.

Conference agreements with bowls will continue. The Pac-10 and Big Ten champions will host the Rose Bowl if their teams are not in the BCS national championship game. Likewise, the Southeastern Conference champion will host the Sugar Bowl, ACC champion will host the Orange Bowl and Big 12 champion will host the Fiesta Bowl.



Estimates of the BCS Conference Criteria

Criterion 1: The ranking of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings each year.

For each year the BCS points of the highest team is used, rather than the 1-25 ranking value, to increase resolution and produce more consistent results.

Criterion 2: The final regular-season rankings of all conference teams in the computer rankings used by the BCS each year.

For each year and each team the average of the 6 BCS computers is found, removing the highest and lowest value. This value is scaled so that #1 is 1 and the lowest team is #0. These values are then averaged to generate a conference average.

A conference of average teams should not have any BCS value, so the values where translated to let 0.5 represent a BCS value of 0. To produce values commensurate with the other two components this average was divided by 0.2. This value is truncated below 0.

Criterion 3: The number of teams in the top 25 of the final BCS standings each year.

No conference has ended the season with over 5 teams in the BCS top 25 since the current formula paradigm was established in 2004, but 6 teams have appeared at various times during the seasons. Dividing the number of top 25 teams each year by 5 produces a value that is in good agreement with the other two components.

Each conference has values for all three criteria over a four year period. The current BCS value of a conference can be estimated by taking the average of all 12 values. The average for each year can be used to examine trends and the average for each component shows where a conference's strengths and weaknesses are.

A BCS value of 1 corresponds to the BCS ideal. A BCS value of 0.5 represents a marginal BCS value. A BCS value of 0 represents an unacceptable value.

The BCS Ideal conference would typically the #1 team, have a BCS computer conference average that would place in the top 35 and places teams in the BCS top 25 each year.

A marginal BCS conference would average a top team with 0.5000 BCS points, roughly #14, have a BCS computer conference average that would place near #48 and places 2.5 teams in the BCS top 25 each year.

An unacceptable BCS conference would have top teams that do not earn any BCS points, hava a BCS computer conference average that would place in the bottom 60 and place no teams in the BCS top 25 any year.

A BCS value of 0.5 by this method is seen to be a reasonable borderline for determining BCS automatic qualifications.

Estimates of BCS Values for Individual Teams

Which teams contribute the most to a conferences BCS value? Which teams would increase the BCS value of a conference the most?

Since a conference considering BCS eligibility will need to have a positive computer average a negative value by a team will hurt the conference, thus the 0 limit on criterion 2 needs to be removed. Other than this, the values can be used to measure each team's BCS value according to the same formulas used to measure the conferences.

A value over 0.5 indicates the team consistently performs at a BCS level. A value between 0 and 0.5 indicates that a team contributes to a conference's BCS value but is short of the BCS standard. A value under 0 indicates that a team is not performing at an acceptable level for BCS consideration.


BCS Automatic Qualifications

The data would indicate that the current BCS automatic qualifications are distributed properly. The Big East, at 0.6058, is the closest conference to the 0.5000 standard. Adding Boise State would close almost half the gap between the MWC and the standard, bringing them from 0.2627 to 0.3722. Notre Dame, viewed as a conference of one, barely meets the standard.

BCS Value: Annual and Component Breakdown

In almost all cases the conferences aligned themselves above or below the 0.5000 standard each year consistent with their status in the BCS.
The MWC in 2008 is the only conference from 2005 through 2008 to cross above the threshold without an automatic qualification. The Big East in 2005, PAC 10 in 2008 and ACC in 2006 are the only conferences with an automatic qualification to fall below the threshold, in order of the lack in the given year.

The WAC is the sole exception to the agreement between current automatic qualifications and performance in the components, consistently placing its top team in the BCS radar.

BCS Value: BCS Caliber Outsiders and BCS Deadweights

Boise State and TCU are the only teams from outside BCS conferences to have a BCS value over 0.5000. BYU, Utah, Hawaii, Navy, Tulsa and Central Michigan contribute some BCS value to their conferences, listed in order of BCS value.

Duke, Syracuse, Washington, Iowa State, Mississippi State, Baylor, Washington State, Mississippi, Stanford, Illinois, Vanderbilt and Kansas State are BCS deadweights, hindering their respective conference's BCS value, listed in order of the deficiency.


Taking the average from 2006 through 2008 shows where a team stands going into next year, when the 2005 values will be dropped. This is a good estimate for the direction a team is going.

While some shuffling of the conferences is expected, none are expected to cross the 0.5000 threshold. The Big East should move away from the threshold, possibly jumping the PAC 10 and ACC who are expected to reduce in value. The WAC could jump ahead of the MWC as the lead outsider.

BYU is expected to move into BCS a caliber value, while TCU is expected to drop down to an asset short of the BCS standards. Air Force, East Carolina, Ball State and Houston are positioned to move into having BCS value.

Mississippi and Illinois are in a good position to lose their deadweight status. Colorado, Minnesota, NC State and North Carolina are at risk of earning deadweight status.

Merits of This Estimate of BCS Value

These results are consistent with the BCS's current alignments and popular attitudes towards conferences. Additionally, the exceptions resonate with popular opinions for the instances involved.

This would indicate that this methodology is a sufficient model of the BCS's actual methodology using the criteria they have specified.

1 comment:

Jams said...

That was awesome! Thanks for posting, I've been wondering about that stuff for a while now.