Bowl Championship Series FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the BCS:

• What is the BCS, anyway?

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is a five-game showcase of college football designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game, while creating exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other games.

• Why do some conferences have automatic qualification (AQ) while others do not?

All 10 conferences compete fairly for AQ status. Three criteria were used in an analysis of play on the field: rank of the highest-ranked team, rank of all conference teams and number of teams in the top 25. The Atlantic Coast, American Athletic, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern met that standard. Five of those conferences -- all except the American Athletic-- have contracts for their champions to participate in BCS bowl games.

• What is a BCS conference?

All 10 conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision are BCS conferences. The media and others often misuse this term, using the term "BCS conference" to describe a conference that has earned annual automatic qualification for its champion (see above). For more information on BCS conferences, click here.

• When was the Bowl Championship Series formed?

The BCS was formed in 1998, when the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pacific-10 and Southeastern conferences and the University of Notre Dame contracted with the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar bowls. In 2004, the BCS was expanded to increase access for all FBS conferences. At that time, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Western Athletic conferences joined in administering the BCS.

• What is the BCS' current contract arrangement?

The BCS operates with several contracts in play: 1. The BCS agreement with 10 conferences, Notre Dame and three bowl games, 2. A contract between the Big Ten, Pac-12 and the Rose Bowl; 3. A Rose Bowl-ABC contract; 4. Contracts between all 10 conferences and Notre Dame and ESPN.

• How does the BCS standings formula work?

A team's on-field performance during the regular season is the principal factor in determining its position in the BCS standings. The formula consists of three components, each weighted equally: the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and an average of six computer rankings (Jeff Anderson and Chris Hester, Richard Billingsley, Wes Colley, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin and Peter Wolfe). Because the conference commissioners believe that teams should be judged on performance, there are no preseason BCS standings. Instead, the first list is released in mid-October, about halfway through the regular season.

• How does the Harris Interactive National College Football Poll work?

The Harris Interactive College Football Poll ranks the Top 25 teams each week from late September through the end of the regular season. The Harris panel is comprised of former coaches, student-athletes, administrators and media representatives with a goal of 115 participants. The Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and independent institutions nominate prospective panelists and Harris Interactive randomly selects the actual panel. Each conference nominates 10 panelists; the independent institutions nominate five. The panel is a statistically reliable representation of all FBS conferences and independent institutions. Harris Interactive posts the poll results to its website each Sunday. For the final poll in December, individual votes are made public.

• How has access been improved for schools from conferences that do not have automatic berths?

From the very beginning, the BCS bowls have been open to all FBS conferences and institutions. Members of those conferences whose champions don't have annual automatic bids to the BCS bowls now have an even greater chance of qualifying for one because:

  • When the BCS began, a team from a non-AQ conference earned automatic qualification if it ranked in the top six. Now, it is eligible if ranked in the top 12 -- or top 16 if higher than the champion of an AQ conference.

  • When the BCS began, any team was eligible for at-large selection by a bowl if it ranked in the top 12. Now, it is eligible if ranked in the top 14.

Seven teams from non-AQ conferences have competed in BCS games since 2004. In the 54 years before the BCS and its predecessors, five teams that are currently members of those conferences played in top-tier bowl games. Seven times in seven years vs. five times in 54 years; the increase has been dramatic.

• What does the TV deal entail?

ESPN has exclusive agreements covering all broadcasting and sponsorship rights for all 20 BCS games. In addition to television rights, the contracts also cover national radio rights; Internet rights; and all sponsorship rights, including naming rights, signage opportunities and ancillary programming.