It is absolutely absurd that FBS is the ONLY level of the ONLY sport that I know of to NOT have a playoff system in place to determine a champion.
Sure, the annual BCS controversy creates discussion to no end, but I want to be able to talk about what is good and right with college football, which I'm sure nobody would have any problem with, instead of constantly having the wrong overwhelm our thoughts.
To me, it's beyond obvious that the current BCS system needs to be scrapped in favor of a playoff, so over the many years I have come up with my own plan that I hope can please everybody.
I have created this playoff plan while keeping in mind academics, length of season/health and well-being of the athletes, fairness, competitive integrity, tradition, and money in that order of importance to me.
Short rant: I say "to me," because let's face it, as much as people involved with the NCAA argue about academics, health, competitive integrity, and tradition (notice how I omitted fairness), to them, it's ALL about money.
* Academics - A major argument against instituting a playoff system is that it will have an adverse affect on the student-athletes during fall exams. Well, I'm sorry to point this out to all who argue that point to no end, but the higher the level of competition, the more focus is put on athletics and less on academics. However, all of the lower levels of football, which have a greater ratio of focus on academics to athletics, have a playoff to determine a national champion. Hmm... Anyways, if the first bowl of the season is good to start on or around December 20th, I'm sure we could squeeze three rounds of a playoff in after that.
* Length of season/health and well-being of the athletes - Many argue that a playoff will elongate the season, thus putting athletes at risk of more injuries. This is very true and very concerning to me, as it does not sit well with me to see any player injured at any time, however, it's also the nature of the game they choose to play.
Currently, every team plays a 12-game regular season, therefore, bowl qualifiers end up playing a total of 13 games and conference championship qualifiers a total of 14. I strongly believe we need to shorten the season back down to an 11-game regular season.
Also, we cannot still be playing college football in mid-January, as it interferes with the underclass deadline to enter the NFL draft and the early NFL showcase games for those eligible. It would be extremely unfair to any players who may be trying to make those significant decisions or losing out on the valuable opportunity to play in those showcase games.
* Fairness - This one is easy...
Current BCS system = unfair, just ask Utah, Auburn, USC, Boise, etc., etc.,
Playoff = fair
* Competitive integrity - Many try to argue that in the current system, "every game is a playoff" (please try to argue that right now to anyone that supports Texas or Utah, I dare you!) and that a post-season playoff will dilute the importance of the regular season. In all honesty, we really don't know for sure how this would play out. We do know that there will always be tremendous importance placed on conference games, especially division games, and on rivalry games. For most teams, that leaves two or three other games that could go either of two ways:
1) Teams schedule cream puffs to be able to rest their starters and give their backups game experience. Well, if you schedule a cream puff, you damn well better beat that cream puff or your season won't matter, anyway.
2) Teams schedule average-to-above average competition to make more money at the gate and through TV broadcast and to prepare their team for the challenges they will face if they make it to the playoff. If you schedule a big game, I'm pretty sure you're planning on playing a big game, right?
In all honesty, I don't foresee a playoff diluting the regular season in any way, shape, or form.
* Tradition - Let's be honest, when somebody argues about the tradition of the bowl games, they're ALWAYS arguing strictly about the Rose Bowl, which, by the way, is always a significant advantage for the PAC-10 champion.
Let's just say, hypothetically, that we have a first round playoff game at the Rose Bowl. Let's say we allow the bowls to select according to tradition, not seeding, and the selected matchup turns out to be a Big Ten team seeded #1 (chuckle... sorry, I kid) against a PAC-10 team seeded #8. Can anybody please tell me how that could possibly be fair?
While we're asking questions, can anybody tell me why the Big Ten commissioner is the biggest adversary to a playoff system, favoring instead to send his teams year after year all the way out to Pasadena to be beaten?
Can anybody tell me when the last time the Big Ten won the Rose Bowl was?
To answer the latter question, it was all the way back in 2000, when Wisconsin beat Stanford. Since then, the Big Ten is 4-11 in BCS games, 0-5 in Rose Bowl games against PAC-10 opponents, 0-6 against PAC-10 opponents in BCS games when you include USC over Iowa by three touchdowns in the 2003 Orange Bowl, and 0-6 in the Rose Bowl, overall.
The answer to the former question is unfortunate because the reason for keeping the "tradition" is strictly money, as the Rose Bowl seats nearly 15,000 more fans than the next biggest BCS stadium and always draws the highest TV ratings aside from the Championship game, therefore actually making more money than the Championship game.
As for the other bowl games, who has ever said that an 8-team playoff would affect them in any way? NCAA basketball has both the championship tournament and the NIT. The NIT is totally pointless, as all the non-championship bowl games are, but it's still there. Bowl committees can play the games if they want or not. They can invite whomever they choose, even playoff qualifying teams, although given the choice, I can't see any teams passing up a playoff spot for a meaningless scrimmage. It makes me pound my head against a wall when people think that instituting a playoff system would eliminate any other bowl games.
* Money - Ahh, money. The root of all evil. Well, here's an idea for the guys in charge: Instead of having four relatively meaningless "traditional" BCS games and one controversially meaningful Championship game, let's have 7 (or more) non-controversial, extremely meaningful games? How can we make these guys realize that 7 x $$$ > 5 x $$$?
Now that all that has been said, it's time to reveal "The Plan."
First, conference championship week, usually the first weekend of December, is essentially the first round of the playoff, as my plan does not include ANY at-large teams. I firmly believe that if you do not win your conference championship, you do not deserve to play for the National Championship.
That week, the usual SEC, ACC, and Big 12 Championship games will be played, as well as potential PAC-10 and Big Ten Championship games should they finally decide to expand, split into divisions, or conclude that a clear champion could not be determined by using the current format.
Also that week, the MAC and C-USA champions and WAC and Mountain West champions would face off in annual inter-conference challenges. I would love to see top-to-bottom matches between the rival conferences, but since the champions are the only ones with playoff implications, we'll just stick to that for now.
Of course, this means that the MAC and C-USA Championship games would have to be pushed up a week, but that should not be a problem. The WAC and Mountain West conferences, each currently with nine teams and no conference championship game, would essentially become divisions of an 18-team super-conference.
Lastly, the Big East champion, since the conference currently carries only eight teams and has no championship game, would have to play the Sun Belt champion. Let's be honest, if they can't win, they don't deserve a spot in the field of eight.
This gives EVERY conference-affiliated team a chance to win the National Championship. Notice how I specifically said "conference-affiliated," Notre Dame? It's time to join one or settle for being champions in your own mind.
Once those games are decided, eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals, which should be played on Christmas Eve (early, noon and 4pm, so as to interfere as little as possible with any religious commitments) and Christmas Day (late, 4pm and 8pm), giving all teams over two full weeks to take exams and prepare.
Those eight teams should be separated by east and west and seeded 1-4 by a selection committee, much like the NCAA basketball tournament or lower levels of NCAA football. If this is where some form of BCS formula is incorporated, I doubt anybody will have much argument.
These games should be played with a home-field advantage or at a site determined by the higher seeded team, as all playoff games at all higher and lower levels of football competition are until their respective Championship games. A major reason being that you can't expect fans to be able to travel too many times, especially during shaky economic times.
In the meantime, all bowl-eligible non-playoff teams will go through the normal bowl selection process and play their glorified commercialized scrimmages without conflict.
Moving on now to the semifinals, where I have an interesting (maybe too complicated) idea. The games should be played in the traditional BCS bowls, but I still believe in the highest seeded teams being allowed to determine their own destination, contingent on their selection agreeing to host them. This will avoid the afore-mentioned potential home-field advantage of a lower-seeded team.
Once the #1 and #2 seeded teams have settled their destination, those respective bowls will have the opportunity to select the opponent from the two remaining playoff teams and the two other BCS bowls will select from the four eliminated teams.
This will still allow the Rose Bowl to potentially host the traditional Big Ten vs PAC-10 game if either both teams have been eliminated from playoff contention or if both teams are still alive and the higher-seeded team selects the location.
Even if the Rose Bowl is selected by a #1 or #2 seeded non-PAC-10 or Big Ten team, they will have the option to decline the bid.
At the conclusion of these games, we will have two remaining teams who have rightfully earned a Championship matchup to be played at a pre-determined location on a prime night with no less than a full week to prepare.
Ladies and gentlemen, using this playoff system, we have successfully crowned a true National Champion, all played out on the field, using no selectivity, allowing no bias, allowing every student-athlete the time to handle their academics, while creating five additional big-money games for the greedy. To me, it's a perfect scenario. What's it to you?
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