The mid-majors make their case

by Todd Helmick

August 1, 2006 - Five BCS games for the 2006 season! In short, the NCAA has added another BCS game...and it's called the BCS National Championship Game, which is to be played on January 8th in Arizona. First and foremost, the NCAA wants to remain very clear…this is not a playoff. A team can only play in the post-season one time. The title for the new system is now termed the Double Hosting Model, which is not to be confused with other nominated versions - the Piggyback Model, the Plus One Model or the Gaylord Hotels - VISA Championship Model. This current model was not necessarily put in place to guarantee that the two best teams make it to the title game – supposedly, we have already had that working since the advent of the BCS in 1998. This new system was put in place to give the mid-major conferences a chance to have their champions play for the huge payoff coming from one of these classics. The revenue earned (and shared amongst its conference) would be a huge leg up for these leagues looking to gain parity with the six conferences already guaranteed at least one spot in the big-money games.

With that said, what does one of these mid-major teams have to do to get an invite into one of the BCS battles? Here is how the NCAA explains it:

If a champion of Conference USA (C-USA), the Mid-American Conference (MAC), the Mountain West Conference (MWC), the Sun Belt Conference, or the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) finishes the regular season either (a) ranked in the top 12 or (b) ranked in the top 16 and ranked higher than the champion of a conference with an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls, then that school will be guaranteed a slot in one of the BCS bowl games.

The latter part of the equation would best be explained by the example from last season when Florida State received an automatic bid by winning the ACC Championship Game but finished ranked #22 in the final BCS poll. By virtue of the new rules, TCU would have made a BCS game by finishing ranked #14.

If this system had been put in place last season, Oregon (10-1) as well would have been included as part of the BCS equation, a situation that could have put to rest the argument that the Ducks belonged over a two-loss Notre Dame. The bowl scenario would probably have looked more like this:


ROSE BOWL – Ohio State vs. Oregon
SUGAR BOWL – Georgia vs. West Virginia
ORANGE BOWL – Florida State vs. Penn State
FIESTA BOWL – Notre Dame vs. TCU

So who are the mid-major contenders for a BCS birth in 2006? Given the current slate of games on each team's schedule, we have narrowed it down to two possibilities. The Horned Frogs of TCU and…hold on to your hats...the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. You know, that school that has 2,600 undergrads; the team that won Conference USA last season while going on to beat Fresno State in the Liberty Bowl; the team that has the state of Oklahoma's high school career passing record holder in QB Paul Smith (9,574 career yards/Owasso High School and Edmond Deer Creek, 2000-02); that team with 16 starters back...of course, you knew all that, huh.

Even most important, Tulsa’s schedule is void of any BCS-conference affiliated opponents. Their toughest games (in-conference) are at home, versus Southern Miss and UTEP. And if you have never heard of young Coach Steve Kragthorpe, you soon will. In his first season at Tulsa (2003) he led the team to the school's first bowl game in 12 years and was named a finalist for the Paul "Bear" Bryant and Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Awards. Kragthorpe was presented with the "Key to the City" by Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune on December 18, 2003, at the regular City Council meeting. Be careful Bill - this winter, if Kragthorpe keeps it up, they may just offer him your job. If you like a wide-open spread offense with an aggressive personality, tune in when you can as the Golden Hurricane take the field. But, unfortunately, don’t expect the 2,600 undergrad students to put enough bodies in the big stadium seats on New Years Day to attract much vaunted national television status. If they earn it, Tulsa will go to the BCS on pure merit, the way it should be.

Welcome to the new BCS system.