The Bowl Championship Series: A Golden Era

Since 1998, when Tennessee beat Florida State in the first Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship game at the Fiesta Bowl, to this season's VIZIO BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl Stadium, the BCS has transformed college football into a true national treasure; with popularity, attendance, and fan viewership at record levels.

The BCS was a significant step forward. It delivered a guaranteed matchup of the top two teams in a true national championship game, replacing a system that left fans wondering who the real champion was. It also brought more access to all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs. It featured some of the finest performances from some of the game's greatest student-athletes, and preserved America's bowl tradition for fans and participants alike. As the sun sets on the BCS era, it's worth remembering all the positive developments that brought college football to where it is today.

The Top Two Teams Played in the National Championship Game – 16 times in 16 years. Since its inception in 1998, the BCS did what it was asked to do – matching college football's number one and two teams, while preserving the heritage of the bowl system, along with college football's unique regular season.

Before the formation of the BCS and its predecessors, the Bowl Coalition and the Bowl Alliance, the Associated Press's number one and two teams met in bowl games only eight times in 56 seasons.

Regular-Season Attendance Soared Due to the Best Regular Season in Sports. The BCS enhanced the regular season's significance because every game counted. Interest in college football grew dramatically during the BCS era. As a result, regular-season attendance in the FBS increased from 27.6 million in 1998 to 35.5 million in 2012 (Source: NCAA, 2013 data not yet available).

Television Viewership for the BCS Championship Games is Consistently Strong and Second Only to the Super Bowl in Many Years. The most-watched cable program in history was the BCS National Championship Game of 2011 between Auburn and Oregon, and the second most-watched was the BCS National Championship Game of 2013 between Notre Dame and Alabama. The record TV audience for a BCS National Championship Game still belongs to the 2006 matchup between Texas and USC. The BCS National Championship Game has averaged 26.6 million viewers per game during its 15 years. A look at TV audiences over the years follows (Source: Sports Media Watch, in millions of viewers):

More Television Viewers than the NCAA Basketball Finals, NBA Finals, Daytona 500, World Series, The Masters, and Stanley Cup Finals. In 2013, more fans tuned in to watch the Notre Dame-Alabama BCS National Championship Game (26.4M) than watched any of these other events: the NCAA basketball final (23.4M); the NBA finals (18.1M); the Daytona 500 (16.7M); the World Series (14.9M); the final round of the Masters (14.7M); and the Stanley Cup finals (5.8 M).

The Finest Performances in the Finest Games. The BCS National Championship Game has provided a stage for some of the best performances by student-athletes in college football. The history of the most outstanding players in the championship game follows:

Opening Access to More Programs: Eight teams from conferences without annual automatic qualification earned BCS bowl berths during the BCS era, including an historic first in 2011 when TCU played in the Rose Bowl.

Compare that to the previous 54 years, when only five teams that are currently members of those conferences got a similar chance: Wyoming in the 1976 Fiesta Bowl, Air Force in the 1971 Sugar Bowl, Wyoming in the 1968 Sugar Bowl, Rice in the 1961 Sugar Bowl, and Rice in the 1947 Orange Bowl.