On the rim of college bowl season and within hours of the BCS National Championship, I find myself imagining NCAA lacrosse if it were to be ruled by the BCS format, that so many of us have grown to either love or hate.
As many in the lacrosse world search for answers to increase the popularity of college lacrosse and its professional counterparts, would a BCS format help build college lacrosse on a mainstream level? Would the controversy help draw in more interest from the national audience or would the controversy tear down the very essence of college lacrosse and its close community, grass roots existence?
Spectators everywhere would be able to see matchups they dream about, because we all know that the bowl committees would push and pull to make sure they grabbed the top teams to include in their matchup. Or, the committees would be so filled with greed and lust, that they would choose teams who could rake in the most cash, and leave out teams such as Denver, Bucknell, or Delaware.
With this format we might see Denver become lacrosse’s version of Boise State or BYU. We would most likely see Hopkins become lacrosse’s version of Notre Dame, a team that would grab a big-time bowl game every year, lucrative television deal, and attract more media coverage than any team inside the top five; even if they themselves weren’t in the top five.
With further speculation ado, we start with conferences. I analyzed this imaginative scenario with conferences as they were in 2011. The ACC will become even more so the strongest conference in the near future with the addition of Syracuse due to conference realignment.
The ACC though takes over the lacrosse “BCS” world as the top conference. The Big East, Ivy, and Colonial take over the spots of the Big 12, Big 10, and Pac-12, with the Patriot and ECAC teams grabbing at-large status as well.
The BCS would then be replaced by Laxpower.com, an index compiling RPI, strength of schedule, quality win factor, and record to determine national rankings.
The BCS national championship then becomes the Laxpower.com national championship, and engages an event between the two teams who sit atop the rankings. In the 2011 season, the Laxpower.com national championship would have aligned top ranked Syracuse with number two Cornell. Prediction: Syracuse for the most part in 2011 looked unstoppable, but was knocked off in a matchup between two of the year’s best defensive units, when Maryland beat them 6-5 in the quarterfinals. Cornell wins 12-8 in a bloody, injury-intense bout.
The BCS championship series is determined by the final BCS standings. Winners from six conferences are guaranteed automatic berths in one of the BCS bowls. For the Laxpower.com series those conferences include the ACC, Big East, Ivy League, Colonial, Patriot, and ECAC, with the ACC and Big East being the strongest conferences, therefore being represented the most.
The BCS Rose Bowl pairs up the Big-10 and Pac-12. For college football, that meant a matchup of #5 Oregon and #10 Wisconsin. The Laxpower.com Rose bowl would feature the ACC and #8 North Carolina against Colonial League champion and #11 ranked Hofstra. Prediction: UNC 9, Hofstra 7
The BCS Orange Bowl headlines the ACC champion against a BCS at-large team, this year setting up a matchup between Clemson and West Virginia. For the Laxpower.com Orange Bowl the ACC requirement remains the same, and matches up #7 Maryland with Patriot League champion and #10 ranked Bucknell. Prediction: Maryland 13, Bucknell 12
The BCS Fiesta Bowl shows off the Big 12 champions versus an at-large team. This year, which some may believe included the real national champions, featured #3 ranked Oklahoma State and #4 Stanford and quarterback Andrew Luck. The Laxpower.com Fiesta Bowl would bring together #3 Johns Hopkins and #4 Denver, for a matchup that would be a replay of the 2011 quarterfinals game between these same two teams, in which Denver upset the Blue Jays 14-9. Prediction: In a 5-game series, Denver would not beat Hopkins again. Hopkins wins the Fiesta Bowl 12-10
The BCS Sugar Bowl ordinarily is a matchup between the SEC champion that year and an at-large team with the highest ranking. However, being that the BCS national championship features the two top teams from the SEC, the bowl committee set up a matchup between the Big 10 and ACC, something normally dedicated to early season college basketball. Sugar Bowl spectators were granted with a game between Michigan and Virginia Tech. For the Laxpower.com Sugar Bowl, I slated the ACC regular season champion and #6 ranked Duke against the Big East runner up and #5 ranked Notre Dame. Again, we have a rematch of last season’s quarterfinals, a game in which Duke advanced with a tight 7-5 win over the Fighting Irish. Prediction: In a rematch, Notre Dame would stick it to the Blue Devils, a game in which they should have won the first time, with a 12-5 victory.
The Cotton Bowl and Capital One Bowl are non-BCS bowls, but both are two of the oldest and most prestigious of all of the bowl games.
The NCAA lacrosse version of the Cotton Bowl would feature a matchup of the 2011 NCAA men’s lacrosse champion and #9 ranked Virginia Cavaliers from the ACC and the Big East’s #12 nationally ranked Villanova Wildcats. Because of its regular season record, the Cavaliers would have been slighted if NCAA lacrosse was operated by the BCS. We see here, a team that had some struggles during the regular season, and was able to overcome adversity and gain some momentum throughout the tournament. This is something that would have never happened under the BCS format.
The Capital One Bowl would set up an event between Patriot League runner-up and #13 ranked Colgate and Ivy league runner-up and #14 ranked Harvard.
Based on this fabrication of the BCS intertwined with NCAA lacrosse, it’s clear that any notion, if any exists, of college lacrosse operating under a bowl series would be completely ludicrous. There would be some glamorous matchups, but fans, both casual and die-hards, would be robbed of the excitement from round to round combat that we all saw in last year’s May Madness. Sports are supposed to be win or go home. In the BCS, it’s win or get selected for an irrelevant Bowl game. The BCS format should not be used for any collegiate sport because it strips everyone involved from the excitement that snowballs among round to round competition. The BCS creates a loser culture, where it’s acceptable to not be quite the best because no matter what, your team will still get to play in a national game that has an elite tag attached to it, your school will be awarded a cash stipend for your presence, and your players, coaches, and anyone else involved will be showered with bowl game gifts.
The lacrosse community is a tight-knit group with families with generation after generation of lacrosse players and grass-roots values. The BCS format would never fly with NCAA lacrosse. We are a unique brand of people, but we are a brand of athletes that enjoy the competitive nature of the bracket style tournament. It’s only the beginning of January, but May Madness could not come any sooner.