Since it appears that this year my team is the one that gets screwed by the BCS, I am drawn back the grail-like search for a college football playoff.
As I look at it, there’s a way to create a college football playoff system and only add one game to the current schedule for the eventual winner.
It would take a lot of “outside the box” thinking, but if I have your attention keep reading…
First, five assumptions to get to my proposal:
1) A playoff system must start with a 32-team bracket.
Only then will it create the kind of buzz/excitement that March Madness enjoys, and avoid the controversies of the current BSC system. Barack Obama –and many others apparently– suggest an eight team playoff. With all due respect, that won’t solve a thing.
Teams 9 through 25 will bitch about how they were left out or ripped off by poor ranking. Additionally, an eight team bracket will not build nearly the excitement of a 32-team bracket, or even as much as the current bowl system. No, a playoff system would have to include a 32-team bracket to avoid the charges of being too biases toward major teams/conferences.
Also, an added bonus: At 32 teams, almost every year would include some of the “Cinderella Teams” that make March Madness so cool.
The teams could be picked using the current BCS ranking system, expanded out to include the top thirty two. Or any other ranking system, really. To my mind, the system of ranking wouldn’t matter nearly as much, since even if it’s close to accurate, the playoff itself would help weed out any errors.
Number one would be seeded to play number 32, avoiding the charge that the seeding was unfair (If the top ten can’t beat the bottom ten, they probably didn’t deserve their seed, whether it was one, two or five…)
2) The Bowl System, as is, will have to go.
But the cities that host bowls could be incorporated into a playoff system. I’ve never understood why this wouldn’t be a HUGE “win-win.” If the playoff is as extensive as suggested here, there’d be plenty of games for even the most obscure bowl/city to be included in a playoff system. And, frankly, the less lucrative bowl cities would probably end up being the first tier playoff cities. It seems to me that it could end up a wash, or even a net plus for the more obscure bowls.
3) The Conference Championship Games would also have to go.
I’m not sure anybody believes they have any real purpose these days anyway. The competition is so UNeven from conference to conference that there’s just no way to justify keeping them around. To my mind, this might be the most difficult hurdle of all the assumptions, but for the life of me I don’t understand why.
4) The first two meaningless non-conference games would be repurposed to be part of the system.
Instead of playing these early Fall games, they would be added to the end of the season as two rounds of a playoff system. Yes, that would mean that not every team would get to play one of these games, but the payouts for the teams that DO make it would be HUGE. And wouldn’t the college presidents, who are allegedly “so worried” about student athletes, find it hard to argue against a system that makes the season shorter for most teams?!
5) The “Rivalry Week” games would have to move a week earlier.
Actually, if everybody bitched, the truth is my proposal could be adjusted to avoid this. The reason would be to open up Thanksgiving Week for the first-round of the playoff system….capturing the holidays for this in a way that would be very cool. But, as I said, it if it can be worked out to move these games, over time the first round of a playoff starting Thanksgiving Weekend would be an amazing tradition that everyone would quickly embrace.
Having said all this, here’s the plan:
Eric’s Proposed NCAA Division 1A Playoff Schedule
When: Thanksgiving Weekend through the First Week of December (when Conference Championships are now played).
Who: 32 Teams.
The sixteen sites for these games would be pulled from bowls that currently take place in mid December and from Conference Championship sites. There are a lot of pretty meaningless bowls with dismal payouts out there. They would probably kill to be in the first round of an official playoff system.
Think of the excitement generated with a playoff that starts Thanksgiving Weekend with, say, eight games. Eight more could be played the following weekend, when the Conference Championships are currently played.
TWO TO THREE WEEK BREAK FOR FINAL EXAMS:
I keep hearing that final exams are a big concern for college presidents. OK, then… take several weeks off. You can do it and still make this schedule work!!!
When: The week before Christmas.
Who: 16 Teams.
The eight sites for these games would be culled from the late December, Christmas Day, and week-after-Christmas bowl games. Again, think of the excitement of these games, as the holidays approach. Yes, a lot of bowls would have to change their current date. But take a look at how many there are right now….more than enough to fill an eight-site round of playoffs.
When: New Years Day.
Who: 8 Teams.
These four games would rotate among the current BCS bowl sites. Four games on New Year’s Day, to satisfy everyone’s endless thirst for college football on this day. It’s clean. It’s doable…and these games would be HUGE in terms of revenue.
ROUND FOUR: Semifinals
When: The Saturday before the Super Bowl.
Who: 4 Teams.
As everyone knows, the NFL takes that week off, in an attempt to build excitement. So, what if the college football “semi-finals” stepped in to fill the void? This would also allow the final four teams several weeks off for rest.
The sites would be determined by a rotation of current BCS bowl sites.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: The Saturday of Super Bowl Sunday
Why not? What a cool weekend that would be.
The site determined by a rotation of current BCS bowl sites.
Note that if you assume the current champion currently plays two non-conference games, a conference championship, and a BCS bowl, this playoff system only means ONE additional game for the winner!!!
It’s also 31 total football games… more than enough to fold-in every bowl worth bringing along, assuming they would move to fit the schedule…and why wouldn’t they?!
To get there, it does mean thinking very differently about the bowl system, about non-conference games, and conference championship games. It shifts the season later into January. But is that all bad when Pro Football is still going on? And do we REALLY care about those two early non-conference games? Get rid of them! Move them into the playoff system, and think of how much bigger they’d become!!
If we have to play football in early September, allow teams to schedule semi-official scrimmages with smaller schools. Or, if extending the season that late is a bad idea, then fine, don’t take so many weeks off, and the season can still be done the second week of January. There are still enough spare weeks in there to take several weeks off for exams.
Can it be done?
Of course it can be done. It’s college sports, for crying out loud, not a United Nations treaty. To do it RIGHT would involve shaking up a lot of the current assumptions. But the payoff –literally, the financial payoff– could be huge.
It can be done. No question.