New Playoff System More Style Than Substance – From the Bird’s Nest
Well, the fans got what they wanted.
And, my response is, be careful what you wish for.
Yesterday, there was rejoicing around the country as it was announced a new four-team college football playoff to decide the national champion.
Around the country, fans and even some sportswriters have been duped into believing it's all gonna be better.
Boy, do the conference commissioners and university presidents have THEM fooled.
Let's break down what was announced yesterday.
The idea is to have the top four teams in the country play in a semifinal/final matchup using the "best' four teams available. Those teams will be selected by a committee, taking strength of schedule, head to head competition and conference champions into consideration.
That sounds like what we have already in the NCAA basketball, baseball and softball tournaments. And, if that's any indication, teams that aren't in the ACC, SEC, Big XII, Pac-12 and Big 10 need not apply.
Yep. Boise State can go undefeated again. And, it won't matter if they're in the Mountain West or the Big East. Their phone won't be ringing, welcoming them to the foursome. That "strength of schedule" aspect is going to get anyone not in the big five conferences. The committee will see to it.
There's even talk that the committee could exist of as many as fifteen people, which would be more than the committee that chooses the 68 and 64 team fields in men's and women's basketball, baseball and softball. Fifteen people? For four teams? Really?????
Some who look at math will say having four teams makes this more inclusive. It doesn't.
The semi-final sites will be chosen in a rotating group of six bowls. We don't know which six bowls they are. We know the Rose Bowl and the new Champions Bowl (featuring the SEC vs. the Big XII) will be two of them. We don't have a site yet for the Champions Bowl. With the ACC expected to continue its relationship with the Orange Bowl, you figure Miami will be part of the mix.
Now, let's do a little math. Six Bowls. That's twelve teams. Four of them are in the national semifinals. Let's say for sake of argument, it's the champions of the Big 10, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 that qualify for the "tournament." If the two semifinals are held, say, in Phoenix and Atlanta (Fiesta and Chik-Fil-A), the Rose will take another Big 10 and Pac 12 school, the Champions Bowl will take another SEC and Big XII, The Orange will have the ACC champion.
Well, there's nine of your twelve slots gone. Who gets the other three?
My guess is, not an undefeated Boise State. Not an undefeated Southern Mississippi. Not an undefeated anyone else.
Not unless a provision is made to make it inclusive. Not unless that committee has more power than it appears it will have.
Do you think TCU, Boise State and Hawai'i would have gotten invitations to BCS bowls in the past if those bowls weren't FORCED to take them?
After the 2004 season, when there were five undefeated teams, do you think Utah or Boise State would have been invited to go into the four team playoff with USC, Oklahoma and Auburn?
After the 2006 season, would undefeated Utah have gotten a shot along with Florida and Ohio State?
So, you see, this playoff that has been approved really solves nothing. It means instead of two big boys getting to play, there will be four. It means when a school outside the big five goes undefeated, we'll get to hear football's version of Jay Bilas say their schedule wasn't good enough....and the committee will agree.
I've always said the only true playoff that makes sense is a sixteen team playoff where every champion gets included, along with at-large teams. But we're not going to see that. Not in my lifetime.
The presidents and commissioners can talk about missed class time and concussions as the reason the field isn't any bigger than four. But the reality is, more than ever, the big boys want it all to themselves. This new system will be a huge financial windfall and the MAC, CUSA, Sun Belt, MWC and now, the Big East, will get some extra money thrown at them. But in exchange, they will forfeit access to the new system.
And, we're going to be stuck with this for twelve years. During that time, there will be at least ten debates about the job the committee did in selecting the four participants. About six years into it, the fans will start complaining the field isn't big enough. And, they will be right.
No, this new playoff that's being celebrated today is no reason to celebrate.
Because, when the best thing you can say about it is "well, it's better than what we have now," you really haven't said anything at all.