Playoffs?? Don't Talk About a College Football Playoff!

By Michael Collins

If only the immortal words of Jim Mora were true in today’s college football landscape.  The gridiron fans of educational institutions all over the country are now abuzz with the talk of a proposed college football playoff system, but nobody seems to realize that just the mere mention of the word “playoff” associated with some sort of predetermined college football post-season facade does not make it any different than the previous incarnations that we’ve endured for decades.

Seriously, let’s really break down what they are offering to us, and see how much of a “playoff” it really is compared to the current system which is entirely full of fail.

Right now in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) we have polls, computer rankings, and more polls…all combined together to give us a convoluted point total, and in turn, a ranking of the top teams in the nation.  At the end of the college football season, the two top rated teams are thrown together (after a month off) in the BCS National Championship game.

Really, we could have done the same thing with the system that was used for many decades prior to the empty suits that sit on high in the power conferences offices coming up with a “system” for determining a champion.  We had two polls – AP and UPI – one was from the sportswriters, and one was from the coaches.  Why not just take the two top teams from those polls and let them play?  Oh wait. I forgot.  Money.  But, I digress.

So first came five conferences (and Notre Dame) forcing the Bowl Coalition down our throats in 1992.  Disastrous.  Smaller conferences were completely left out, the Rose Bowl didn’t want to participate, and the so called “de facto champion” that we were promised never really materialized from this farce.

Then in 1995, the Bowl Coalition was morphed like a Michael Jackson video into the Bowl Alliance. New name, same problems, only even bigger than before.  This time only three bowls wanted to participate, and all non-alliance conferences were still left with their cheese blowing in the wind.  This one was so bad that it was even reduced to four conferences in it’s final year.

So for six years, we had miniature versions of the BCS in place, that were bent on excluding any non-coalition/alliance conference (not to mention the Big-10 and Pac-10 champions), and keeping the trophy – as well as the wealth – in the hands of those who already had the power.

Enter former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, and the BCS in 1998.  This was supposed to fix it all.  It was going to make the championship all-inclusive to anyone who wanted to vie for it.  The Big-Six Conferences (SEC, ACC, Big-10, Pac-12, Big-12, Big East…oh, and Notre Dame) were supposed to be opening up the door for the smaller Division-1 schools to join the party.  Problem is, since 1998, the number of schools from outside those Big-Six who have played in the national championship game….zero.  The thing that makes you scratch your head about this, is that those so-called smaller schools have a 4-1 record against the Big-Six conferences in BCS sponsored bowl games.

Fast forward to 2011.  Two teams from the same conference (the SEC) are chosen to play in the national championship game.  One of those teams, Alabama, didn’t play in their conference championship game, but yet went on to win the BCS National Championship, and kept the trophy in the hands of the SEC for the sixth straight season.  Suddenly, conference commissioners from outside the SEC see a problem with the BCS – even though screams from fans, journalists, coaches and players had fallen on deaf ears for years.

And then it happened.  During the spring of 2012, whispers of the word “playoff” began being heard.  Meetings went on behind closed doors, and questions that were directed at the principle players in this soap opera were summarily dodged.  But it was obvious…they were up to something.  The winds of change had finally blown into college football.  But wait….I think we are downwind from a landfill.  The announcement was finally made that the BCS commissioners had agreed upon a 4-team seeded playoff system (not called BCS) to begin in 2014.  Hoooraa….wait, what?  Four teams?

Here are my (main) problems with the proposed “playoff”:

  • Four teams is not enough.  A minimum of eight teams would be necessary to make it a true playoff.  Four teams is almost essentially a BCS with a plus-one.
  • The four teams are supposedly going to be chosen by a “selection committee”  Really?  Why not ask the folks over at the NCAA Basketball Tournament how well that goes, and they select 68 teams.
  • The plan is to still utilize the current bowl system as part of the playoff.  Which means conference champions and conference ties will still play a part in the bias of selecting the four teams.
  • The smaller conferences are going to be shut out even more than in the past.  Under past rules, winners of smaller conferences that ranked in the BCS top 12 were guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl game, and the chunk of cash that came with it.

No, don’t talk about playoffs…not unless you really plan to have one.  And for college football to actually have a playoff, they will have to be willing to abandon everything about the way things have been done in the past.  The bowl games.  The conference alliances. All of it.  The entire system would have to be restructured and re-imagined.  Then and only then could an actual playoff system be put into place. Simply adding one more game and removing the BCS moniker does not make it a playoff in the least.

Folks, don’t be fooled by the rhetoric surrounding this new system.  It’s just more of the same, and it’s designed to keep rewards for the non-power schools and conferences to a minimum, and to keep the status quo in place.



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