Five years have passed since the University of Wisconsin football team last showed up in any type of serious BCS chatter.

Raise your hand if you think that's too long.

Bret Bielema was in his first season as coach of the Badgers in 2006 when they finished 12-1 overall and seventh in the Bowl Championship Series rankings.

The primary reason UW was in the discussion then was because of an outrageous inequity in the BCS formula — now there's an oxymoron — that still exists today.

The six BCS conferences — Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-10 and Southeastern — are limited to two representatives in the 10-team field.

With unbeaten Big Ten champion Ohio State playing in the title game, the second berth came down to Michigan and the Badgers, who tied for second at 7-1. The Wolverines got it because of their higher BCS ranking (fourth), not to mention they won head-to-head.

Despite protest rhetoric from Bielema, UW was relegated to a second-tier bowl. Meanwhile, Oklahoma and Wake Forest, ranked 10th and 14th in the BCS, respectively, got berths as league champions despite having two losses. That's because the six conferences are locked into a cozy little revenue-sharing plan that values finances over worthiness.

What the BCS should do — outside of disbanding in lieu of a playoff, that is — is create a mechanism that actually rewards the most deserving teams in its rankings. If a BCS conference champion isn't in, say, the top 15 — which would be the case right now with the ACC and Big East — then the door should be open to a third qualifier from the same league.

Let the ACC and Big East keep their eight-figure cuts of the pie, but their BCS assignments should go to more deserving teams. The Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC would all likely benefit from such an option this year.

The Badgers are a prominent part of the current BCS discussion because they're 10-1 overall and, at No. 7, are the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the formula heading into the final weekend of the regular season. It appears they have the inside track to the Rose Bowl.

A victory Saturday over Northwestern at Camp Randall Stadium will guarantee UW a share of its first league title since 1999, but if Michigan State and Ohio State also finish 7-1, we won't know for certain how the whole BCS thing shakes out until the final rankings are revealed Dec. 5.

Five years is a long time between BCS relevance. Now that the Badgers have re-entered the conversation, Bielema was asked Monday if there's anything that prevents them from having a regular presence in that mix going forward.

"I think you have to really have great vision to be a program that consistently does what we're asking our kids to do," he said. "You've got to be able to recruit the talent ... that fits your program. Then, be a steady believer in the things that make us successful."

Bielema said building the proposed $80.9 million Athletic Performance Center is vital to recruiting and development entering a new 12-team, two-division, one-champion era of the Big Ten in 2011.

The past five years have seen six schools play for the BCS title and four — Florida, Louisiana State, Oklahoma and Texas — follow up those appearances with jarring downturns.

"I really do believe it's easy to maybe put together a (great) year or a year or two," Bielema said. "But to sustain success is very, very difficult."

Raise your hand if you think UW is on the verge of bigger and better things.

Contact Andy Baggot at abaggot@madison.com or 608-252-6175.

Northwestern Wisconsin

When: Nov. 27, 2:30 p.m.

Where: Camp Randall Stadium

TV: ABC (WKOW/Ch. 27) with Dave Pasch, Bob Griese, Chris Spielman and Jeannine Edwards

Radio: WIBA-FM/101.5 and AM/1310 with Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas

Wisconsin: Stats | Roster | Schedule

Northwestern: Stats | Roster | Schedule

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