January 3, 2008

Jumping on the Playoff Bandwagon

Since college football is happy to crown their champion based on polls and computer formulas (rather than letting teams decide), my wish each and every season is for the worst possible match ups for the BCS. Any sort of controversy will do. Anything to stir the pot and get more and more people on the playoff bandwagon.

This season did not disappoint. There are no fewer than 10 teams could claim they belong in the championship game.

Ohio State - 1-loss team
Kansas - 1-loss team but didn't make B12 Championship game
LSU - 2-losses and dangerously close to a few more
USC - playing great and is probably best team in the country (arguably)
Georgia - same record as LSU with more dominant wins in common opponents
Oklahoma - best of B12, beat Mizz twice
Missouri - ranked #1 in 2nd to last week but still only has 2 losses
Virginia Tech - also only 2 losses and both to #2 ranked teams
Hawaii - only undefeated team but left out because of weak conference
West Virginia - another 2 loss team, ranked #2 in 2nd to last week

So I am happy that this season has produced some awful bowl games to watch (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta) and I'm happy that controversy may continue. I know that you can quickly eliminate a few of the teams listed above. But you could just as easily make an argument that Georgia and USC are as worthy to play for the national championship as LSU and OSU.

So after some of these bowls have been played you can look back and say Hawaii, Illinois and Oklahoma had no business playing in a major bowl this year. But with the dominating performances by USC, Georgia and West Virginia why don't they deserve to be considered the best team in the country.

The results of this year's bowl games are really meaningless. What matters is that the BCS system fails us more often than not. What is the most irritating is that a sport that is passionately followed and one of the biggest sports in the country doesn't crown a true champion.

So why don't we have a playoff? The most common excuses thrown out there are money and academics. I have never truly bought into those excuses though. Instead of having 1 maybe 2 bowl games of high interest you would have 7 games (in an 8 team playoff) that would generate significantly higher TV ratings, which leads to more ad revenue for TV which leads to monster contracts for the NCAA. The academics excuse I buy a little bit but I think the added weeks of games would be played while most teams are on Christmas break. The NCAA has no problem with basketball teams playing over 3 consecutive weekends and usually over midterms. Football players typically take a light class load during the fall semester anyway so I really don't think the academic futures of these kids will be ruined by a playoff.

After seeing quotes in a couple different articles (one in Star Trib) from high ranking conference, school and NCAA officials I get the feeling that it isn't the power of the BCS preventing a playoff, it is the power of the meaningless bowls. There is a LOT of money that these meaningless bowls get and that money would slowly (quickly for some) dwindle as they would become less and less relevant.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney - “I really think that [the BCS] is intended to create a 1-2 game, and it’s done that. It’s intended to make the games in the regular season more meaningful, and it’s done that. And it was intended to support the bowl system, and it’s done that.

Northwestern President Henry Bienen - "I like the BCS system because it preserves the bowl system."

Fiesta Bowl President/CEO John Junker - said he is intrigued by a plus-one but is deeply opposed to a full playoff because it would undermine the current bowl structure. “The bowl experience is a very valuable part of college football.”
What I don't understand is why school and conference officials are so in favor of keeping the current bowl system. THIS article in the Orange County Register (HT to Lake the Posts) outlines in detail how much money schools lose/waste on these meaningless bowls. Teams are forced into buying expensive hotel rooms for more days than they need and schools are forced to purchase tickets to the event and eat the difference if they go unsold.
"The ticket allocating is killing us," said Georgia Tech's Mayfield. The Yellow Jackets ate $400,180 in unsold tickets for last year's Gator Bowl. "When you have a season-ticket base of 25,000 and the bowl is making you sell 10,000 to 13,000 tickets, getting 50 percent of those season-ticket holders to go to a bowl can be unrealistic."
For a fan (especially a casual fan) these games are worthless and should be done away with.

I know I'm not the first to get on the playoff bandwagon (especially in blogdome), but I REALLY think the biggest hurdle to get over before we get a playoff is the "current bowl structure." Money and academics are not the driving forces here, they are the excuses used to pacify the public.

And don't give me the "plus one" scenario. If the BCS truly thinks thinks this is the best system and it annually gives us a #1 vs. #2 scenario then why add another game? Let's look at two seasons...
2005 - Plus one would have made USC play Penn State after they beat Texas. I think 2005 was a year that the current system worked (maybe the only year)
2007 - So this year you take the LSU/OSU winner to play who? USC? Georgia? Kansas? All three would be deserving of a shot.
Give me a playoff. If you want to keep the relevancy of the regular season then you keep the criteria for selecting your participants, with a little tweaking. 6 automatic bids for the BCS conferences. Then 2 at large for teams for the likes of Notre Dame when they finish .500 or an undefeated mid-major or Michigan after they lose to OSU every year. Or give them both to the SEC because they are so dang fast.

I know this will never happen in my lifetime. I'm sure that in a few years we will move to a plus-one world then after many years of that not really working maybe they'll move to a 4 team playoff which will of course eventually move to 8. But that is decades away my friends.

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