One of the greatest college football championship games was played on January 6th, 2014. The undisputed number one ranked Florida State Seminoles faced off with the undisputed number two team – the Auburn Tigers. Played in front of over 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena it was watched by over 25.6 million television viewers. The game was the third highest rated show in the history of cable TV.
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) title game was one for the ages – an ‘instant classic’ – yet it marked the end of an era. It marked the death of the BCS. A brand which was specifically created to match the number 1 and number 2 college football teams in a season ending championship game did exactly that – yet it is history.
Fearless Brands will survive only so long as they remain relevant.
It’s true. In the case of the BCS, it never did achieve widespread relevance. There are any number of factors which can affect relevance. In the case of the BCS, most of those factors were questioned. There was an assumed inauthentic premise, a lack of clarity, a question of competency and a widespread belief that the BCS’s driving passion was money.
That being said, is the BCS a fearless brand? Like it or not, the BCS created a greater interest in college football than ever. The BCS system replaced an even more questionable approach which relied exclusively on polls of coaches and sportswriters.There was a clear effort to eliminate human bias.
While the focus was on the championship game there were five other bowls whose participants were determined by the BCS. The system created debate and conversation like never before.It fueled the passions of virtually all college football fans and certainly team specific fans.
For the life of the BCS, lesser known teams and conferences complained that the system was stacked against them. For them I point to the Boise St. vs Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl in ’05. There are those that say the Southeastern Conference (SEC) received special consideration. For them all I can say is look at the record of the SEC – it’s simply the best conference.
As already mentioned, there is a large contingency that says the BCS was never relevant and it certainly wasn’t perfect. Several key elements are integral to building – and maintaining – a fearless brand. The BCS struggled with each one of them.
To begin with, it is virtually impossible to make everyone happy with any subjective decision – no matter how impartially is designed into the process. To even have a chance at succeeding in this pursuit there has to be transparency. Virtually no one really understood how the system worked. Without clarity, suspicions of a skewed system ran rampant.
A fearless brand has to be authentic. The BCS was created and put into play primarily by the major college Bowl Games. Those included the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Fiesta Bow. and the Sugar Bowl. The stated purpose of the BCS was to match the two highest ranked teams to determine an overall college ‘champion’. There was never truly a unanimous buy-in that the BCS was authentic in their primary mission.
Being fully passionate about its value proposition is also a mandatory element for a fearless brand. There always was – and always would be – the claim that the driving passion of the BCS was monetary versus determining the most deserving teams.
A key question is – Did the BCS system work? Over the sixteen years of its existence it can be argued that there were only a handful of really excellent games -Texas vs. USC; Michael Vick’s Va. Tech vs. Florida State and of course last Monday’s game.
So the BCS has been ‘buried’. Beginning in 2014 there will be a four game playoff system in place. The teams will be selected by a blue ribbon panel of football enthusiasts. What I know is that the discussion and passion and controversy will continue. The money will be even greater than what the BCS generated – ESPN signed a 12 year deal worth$470 million annually or $5.64 billion (yes, billion) total payout. To its credit, the new College Football Playoff has decided to not have a title sponsor – yet.
Having never attained a fearless brand status the BCS, as we have known it, is considered dead . But in reality it is more likely that it is merely being transitioned to the College Football Playoff. The same objectives are in place. Most of the same bowl officials and money people are still involved. It will be interesting to see if the new playoff system reaches the potential that so many have for it. Will it ever be considered fair, competent and relevant? Can this iteration become a fearless brand? Time will tell.