The BCS combined elements of the old Bowl Coalition and the Bowl Alliance it replaced. The agreement existed between the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange bowl games, with the Cotton Bowl Classic diminishing in status since the breakup of the Southwest Conference. Like the Bowl Alliance, a national championship game would rotate between the four bowls, with the top two teams facing each other. These teams were chosen based upon a BCS poll, combining the AP Poll, the Coaches Poll, and a computer component. The computer factored in things such as strength of schedule, margin of victory, and quality wins without taking into account time (in other words, a loss early in the season and a loss late in the season were on equal footing). Like the Bowl Coalition, the BCS bowls not hosting the national championship game would retain their traditional conference tie-ins.
The first run of the Bowl Championship Series was not without controversy as Kansas State finished third in the final BCS standings, but was not invited to a BCS bowl game. Ohio State (ranked 4th) and two-loss Florida (8th) received the at-large bids instead. Also, Tulane went undefeated, but finished 10th in the BCS standings and was not invited to a BCS bowl because of their low strength of schedule.
The following rule changes were adopted by the NCAA Rules Committee during their 1998 meeting:
Defensive players are allowed to recover and advance backward passes. Previously the defense was only allowed to recover but not advance backward passes.
Illegal touching of a forward pass by an ineligible receiver is a five-yard penalty from the previous spot but no loss-of-down.
Defensive players may not rough an offensive player in position to receive a backward pass (i.e. trail man on option play).
Standardized uniform recognition regarding memorializing of deceased or severely ill teammates/coaches.
Eyeshields must be clear.
The titles of side judge and field judge were swapped, with the field judge now working on the same side of the field as the line judge (and ruling on placements with the back judge), and the side judge on the same side as the head linesman. Coincidentally, the NFL swapped the titles of back judge and field judge to match the NCAA prior to its 1998 season.