A playoff makes good sense. It's logical. But instead of common sense and logic we have this beast called the Bowl Championship Series that decides the national champion for college football by selecting two teams through this thingy they call the BCS Standings. Here's the BCS system in a nutshell: Geeks who don't know which end of the football is up but can program a computer to wash your socks and get you a Friday night date have a say in it. Coaches who have their sports information directors actually do the voting have a say in it. Sports writers who usually cover just one team and don't have a clue about the rest of the nation have a say in it. Essentially, what we have are the judges of those real sports such as water ballet and ice dancing deciding the two finalists for college football's ultimate prize.
Throw in the complicity of the BCS with its alternating four-bowl system and it's power play attempt to squeeze all but a few power conferences out of the mix and you end up with deserving and undefeated Utah getting into a $14 million BCS game by the skin of its teeth and deserving teams like Boise State and Louisville playing in the Liberty Bowl for a million. Instead of undefeated Utah against undefeated Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, Utah gets its welcome to life with the big boys by having to face mediocre Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl.
The best two teams I saw in the BCS conglomeration were Utah and Southern Cal. I'm not so certain that Utah could have stopped Southern Cal's offense, but I'm also not so certain that Southern Cal's offense could have done much more than just slow down that high octane Utah offense just a tad. I'm not sure there is a team out there that could have actually stopped it.
I also saw Louisville play Boise State in a game that was as good as any you could have hoped to see. I'm certainly convinced they deserved something better than being stuck in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl. I'm also convinced that there isn't a team in the BCS that would have relished the thought of trying to stop either one of those offenses. Pitt got $14 million to play in the BCS with three losses. Louisville lost just one game on the road to Miami. Boise State didn't lose until the Liberty Bowl.
Wouldn't all of college football benefit from a playoff that would have allowed Utah or Boise State or Louisville a chance to prove that there really is such a thing as Cinderella? But instead of something so entertaining and with the potential to keep everyone in the nation who loves college football on edge for three weeks, we get this charade that's the BCS which follows something that's called Bowl Week, a parade of games pitting undeserving 6-5 and 7-4 teams in games that have no meaning other than to save some college president or athletic director from having to fire a coach who's got the football program up to its hips in mediocrity.
Southern Cal is our national champion by virtue of this system that is so bad that every year it has to be tweaked. If it has to be tweaked every year, isn't that a sure sign that something serious is wrong with the system? Yet, we're told not only is this the system, it's the system that we're going to have to endure because the college presidents and athletic directors are against a playoff.
I just love the arguments they give us for no playoffs. The first one I always hear is that silly argument that the bowls reward the kids, coaches and fans for a job well done. Then there's that equally ridiculous argument that if we extend the season, we're going to keep these student-athletes from earning a college degree. Last but not least is the one that we're asking too much of our fans to have to travel to all the games that you would have with a playoff system.
I'll shoot those arguments down one by one.
Should 6-5 teams be rewarded with a chance to play another 6-5 team in a meaningless bowl game that won't sell out and that no one will watch on television? We've got so many bowls now that if you finish above .500 that it's almost considered an entitlement to make it to a bowl game. If we're going to use the reward excuse, then at least have the guts to cut back on the bowls so that the teams that actually deserve a reward can play in games that have fan interest, will sell out the stadium, and will be watched on television. You finish one game over .500 and you do NOT deserve to be in a bowl game.
I love the one about how extending the season will hurt academics. That doesn't seem to bother anyone during the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Make it to the Final Four and chances are you've missed a month of class if you're on one of the teams. Football is played in September, October and November. You play one game a week, so the athletes typically miss school only on Friday. Throw in playoffs and you have the month of December and in the last half of December, there's no class anyway. Basketball begins in November and extends into the first weekend of April and typically teams play twice a week. So, I guess the college athletic directors and presidents are telling us that the basketball players are smarter and can afford to miss more class than the football players?
If the season is extended three weeks, the same fans who can afford to travel to the away games will continue to travel to the away games. How many thousands of dollars must you donate to get season tickets at any top tier football program in Division I? I guess those fans who shell out $3000 a year or more for the right to buy two season tickets won't go to a football game that leads to the championship game?
They have playoffs in Division I-AA, Division II and Division III and have had them for years. The champions in each of these divisions play at least four extra games which means that their students miss class and their fans have to travel. Are we to believe that the athletes in the lower divisions aren't as smart as the ones in Division I? Are we to believe that the fans of these teams can't afford to travel to support their teams?
The simple thing for the presidents and athletic directors to do would be to say they want the networks to propose a playoff system but the kicker is it has to pay more than the bowl games presently ante up every year. Do you think for one second that some network or a consortium of networks wouldn't come up with a plan and the cash? If that didn't happen, then the presidents and athletic directors could tell us the bowl system is the best we have and we could believe it. We'd have the proof we need and you wouldn't hear talk about playoffs for years to come.
Instead, we hear the same old tired arguments about missing class, student athletes, extending the season. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. And, we keep on with the same old system that "rewards" 6-5 teams then dupes us into believing that computers, SID's and sports writers can pick out two teams from the 117 that play Division I football and line them up 30 days later for a real championship game.
So, pardon me if I'm not all that impressed with Southern Cal's championship. To be impressed means I have to buy into the hypocrisy. To be impressed means I think the system we have is a good one.
I know it's not a good system. You know it's not a good system. Now why can't the presidents and athletic directors figure that out?