this thread seems to have sort of gone in 2 directions, first, what was changed from the old way to make things so bad, and second, what is ideal. i think the latter issue is fairly unbounded and there are so many ways to go, ill just stick to the first.
the fundamental change was with respect to quantity of recruits available at different levels of quality. previously, there were great recruits, yes, but there was a nice gentle slope down, there were a lot of great players, a lot of really good players, a lot of good players, a lot of pretty good players, etc... what people didn't like is that the top teams only had great players, which made them too similar, and there wasnt enough strategy in coaching (how do you game plan against a team with no weakness? its ok when they are #1, but not when they are #15). i will say, my opinion is strongly that the problem was over stated. i totally agreed there were too many recruits on the high end, but totally disagreed there was no room to differentiate there, and people were very successful even though some called it the "coin flip dynasty".
anyway, its hard to say when the "old days" were exactly, there was pre-potential and then a few months of potential where it was totally ridiculous, where players were obscenely good, and then seble's patch that brought back sanity. for this post, ill refer to the time after seble's patch, and before the "new engine" (~2 years ago when seble changed d1 recruit generation, resulting in one in three d1 coaches hanging it up), the "old potential" era. anyway, in that old potential era, there were more players who could appear as low end players on top teams, and solid players on decent big 6 teams, or great players on mid major teams (all 3 of those are about the same, roughly). there is often a mis-statement that recruits are better now and everyone was capped back then. the top recruits are actually clearly better today than they ever had been, at least IMO. there were guys with 90s in all their cores, but you didnt get the guards with 95+ in all their cores plus 60 reb plus 60 lp, or the bigs with 95+ ath/reb/def/sb/lp AND 50+ per/bh/pass.
so, what actually happened is the top players got even better - making the minimum player who could compete with those guys, significantly better. but the number of players over that minimum was greatly reduced. there are some high potential low rating guys out there, but the only reason its nearly enough to go around is because d1 is so empty, and its still not enough to go around, its just that a smart coach can find a way to survive. i can say with certainty, its at least 5 times harder right now for a coach like me to pick up a mid major in a non-power conference and win a title, than it used to be. because there were so many guys who were good or better, it was a lot easier for things to slip through. also, the advantage of IQ was more significant - now you might have better IQ, but the other team's players are all 150 points better. that IQ isnt making up that gap. before, if you were a really good coach, you could recruit a team without major problems, who just wasnt quite as flashy, and when they were experienced, of course you were still disadvantaged to the A+ elite schools, but you could routinely put together teams capable of beating just about anyone.
another way of saying it is, because all the top guys go to the top schools (obviously), the gap between #5 and #30 teams is bigger than ever. really there are like 10 teams each year now that are so good, it feels more like coin flip dynasty to me now than it ever has, just among those top teams. the thing that makes people so unhappy is not that the best teams get the best guys, but that what is left over just simply has no chance of competing. if you had d1 worlds at the level of population they were in the old potential era, a solid d1 mid major would basically be a top d2 team today, and d2 teams and d3 teams would be a notch lower. that all is fine except that the #10 d1 team is then beating solid mid majors by 20 points a game, its just too big a gap. there has to be a middle ground, for all parties. top teams get ****** because if they lose a target, the drop off to the next guy they can get is MASSIVE, so they get really ****** off when they have a rough class, instead of just tolerating a couple decent guys to replace the guys they missed. the mid tier BCS teams are frustrated because you are stuck playing against teams who are only a little above you in standings - maybe the 3rd best team in a conf, instead of 5th - but they are way better, a good 10ppg better frequently, without significantly better coaching. so that really ****** those guys off, they just cant compete with the upper crust of the conference (unless they are way better of a coach). the low BCS teams and mid majors are frustrated as hell because even if they coach really well, they struggle substantially to make the NT.
it used to be that excellent recruiting OR excellent coaching could get you really far. great coaching and creative recruiting could have a major impact. today it feels like you really have to nail recruiting to have a chance, because all the coaching in the world won't win a game where the other teams' backups crush your starting lineup. things are too 1 dimensional now. you need to be able to find guys with solid ratings to start who dont have much growth, and guys with lots of growth and crappy ratings, who as seniors, can compete with the top sophmores. there has to be a variety of angles to attack the problem from, any of which, when combined with high quality execution, yield quality results. when you simply have to recruit the elite players or you are screwed, its 1 dimensional, and it takes the fun away. to me, that is the problem. i know the best HD coaches can succeed at any d1 team anywhere, but that can't be the standard. significantly better performance should make up for significantly better prestige, but it doesn't, and that sucks.