With Florida State’s taut 34-31 victory over Auburn for the national title Monday night, the Bowl Championship Series went the way of the Bowl Alliance and the Bowl Coalition (remember those in the ’90s?). Now we look to a four-team playoff that starts in 2014.
The Pac-12/10 never had a cozy relationship with the BCS, although it was a card-carrying member of the thing. Rarely did the BCS look kindly upon the league — right through this season, when Oklahoma got the nod over Oregon to go to the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.
With Stanford’s Rose Bowl defeat to Michigan State, the Pac-12 finished 13-8 all-time in BCS games. USC was 6-1, although with two vacated appearances because of the Reggie Bush scandal, officially the Trojans were 5-0, easily the best record nationally.
The 21 appearances in 16 seasons tells you that more often than not, the Pac-12 landed a single team in the BCS.
At least two factors hurt the league consistently: Through the latter half of the BCS era, starting in 2006, the Pac-12 played nine conference games as opposed to eight in most other leagues, so it was a tougher road in this one. Second, mere distance plays a part in fan travel, and several programs in the Pac-12 aren’t noted for rabid fan bases willing to travel and put people in hotel rooms.
Some of the highlights (lowlights) of the BCS era and the Pac-12:
— 1998: Things went wrong the very first year. UCLA would have played in the first BCS title game, but a hurricane-postponed game against Miami went awry on the Bruins late in the season and they were upset in Florida, blowing a fourth-quarter lead. To add insult to injury, an 11-1 Arizona team (Dick Tomey’s best record of his Wildcat tenure) was consigned to the Holiday Bowl, with the Bruins to the Rose.
— 2003: USC managed to win the AP vote as national champ of that poll, while the BCS named LSU and Oklahoma to play in the BCS title game.
— 2004: While USC waltzed to the BCS title against Oklahoma, Cal, at 10-1, got jobbed out of a BCS berth as Texas’ Mack Brown lobbied for his team to get the bid instead. Cal was No. 4 in AP and the coaches poll, while Texas was No. 6 in AP and fifth by the coaches.
— 2005: USC played Texas for the BCS title (losing in a classic), while Oregon, at 10-1, went to the Holiday. The Ducks were the highest-rated one-loss team not to make it, while under the automatic-qualifier format, a four-loss Florida State team got in.
The system was much kinder to the Pac-12 from 2010-12, when Oregon and Stanford combined for six appearances. Each year that was worth about half a million dollars to coffers for each conference school.
While the BCS had a ton of warts, at least it managed usually to pair the two most deserving programs for the national title. After that, it was mostly a crapshoot, one that often saw the Pac-12 come up short.