College football learned nothing from the 2003 mess that cost USC
The more things change, the more they stay the same. College football is struggling today in its (in) ability to deal with conference champions for playoff purposes. He struggled with this problem in 2003, and USC had the short end of the stick.
TCU was not a conference champion in 2014 and was ruled out of the playoffs, apparently because Ohio State WAS a conference champion. Yet two years later, the Big Ten champion Penn State was ruled out in favor of Ohio State, which did not win its division in the Big Ten. In 2017, Ohio State won the Big Ten but was ignored by an Alabama team that didn’t even win the SEC West Division.
These playoff inconsistencies have their roots in the 2003 Bowl Championship Series controversy that left USC outside the candy store and left Oklahoma inside.
USC and LSU were conference champions in 2003. Oklahoma was not.
Reflecting on the BCS era, two events moved college football into the playoffs. In 2011, when LSU and Alabama had a title rematch (in January 2012), it created an uproar – not just because it was the SEC that benefited in the end (though obviously it was an underlying sore point for the people of the Big Ten, Big 12 and the Pac-12). It was more about the fact that a rematch of a regular season game had taken place.
It was a particularly acute point that drove the conversation into the playoffs.
The 2003 season was the other central source, as it was so clear that two teams had won conference championships. One hadn’t.
If Oklahoma had lost a game midway through the 2003 season and then finished their Big 12 title game, there wouldn’t have been ALMOST the same outcry. There would always have been a national controversy – there were three teams under consideration and only two spots available in the BCS – but Oklahoma would have had a conference championship. The firestorm measurement would have been reduced significantly. And yet, we still wage these battles years later.
The conference championship debate, which dates back to 2003 when USC got a job, shows how difficult it has been for college football to get a cohesive way to deal with this problem. What was broken then has not been reconstructed today.