clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The BCS, despite all its faults, was good to Utah

Still, it leaves you wondering where the program would be today if a four-team playoff existed in 2004 and 2008.


The BCS is no more.

Monday night, after a thrilling national championship game, the most hated and despised playoff system in all of sports came to an end. Its reign was marked by controversy, upsets and busters - but no one could ever claim it wasn't exciting.

For Utah, the program was made in the big lights of the BCS. It afforded them the chance to play in the Fiesta and Sugar bowls and establish a mantra that helped guide the school to its current spot in the Pac-12.

In 2004, after an undefeated 11-0 season, the Utes made history - becoming the first non-BCS team to ever play in a BCS bowl game. It was a historic moment for a program that spent most of the 1990s struggling to find consistency, and the remaining era of the modern college football era toiling in mediocrity. It was Utah's first glimpse of big-time football, and even though Urban Meyer rode that success to a prime job at Florida, it was a moment crucial to the growth we've experienced since. In fact, four years later, the Utes would again bust the BCS, and this time won the biggest game in school history.

The 2009 Sugar Bowl, played against Alabama, who would become one of the biggest dynasties of the BCS era, remains the wonder of Utah fans even five years after the fact. It was, come to find out, the pinnacle of our greatness and a big reason today we're playing in the Pac-12.

It's hard to imagine near the level of success under the old system. A system, most certainly, that would have relegated both undefeated squads to the Liberty and Las Vegas bowls.

And yet, for all the BCS did for Utah, it also left us wanting more. In both instances, the Utes were left out of the national title picture and couldn't even muster much of a look - even though, in 2008, they were the lone undefeated team in the nation. While most Utah fans would concede they didn't necessarily deserve to be in over either Florida or Oklahoma, they did deserve a shot. Just as the team that went 12-0 in 2004 and won every game by two scores or more.

But that shot never came. The BCS made sure of it. No matter how many games the Utes won, or how impressively they looked, when the season ended, they were on the outside looking in - given a consolation prize that was nice, but far from the greatness of a championship.

Who knows whether Utah would have won a title in 2004 or 2008 with a playoff (or if they would have even gained a bid), but the opportunity to have that chance should, and would, trump anything done by the 2004 and 2008 teams. That, ultimately, is the albatross of the BCS - it was not fair. As great as it could be, often it was fraught with controversy.

It wasn't just Utah, either. Boise State, and even more impressively, TCU, all had claims. So did Auburn in 2004, USC in 2003, Oregon in 2001 and Washington in 2000. At the end of the year, we didn't always know who the best team was and instead only crowned the champion of one game.

Now we enter a new era. Hopefully it's less contentious, and just as thrilling, as the BCS era that we left Monday night. More importantly, hopefully Utah can rival its success in the new playoff era as it did in the BCS one.

Then maybe they'll get that shot at winning it all.