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New College Football Playoff Doesn't Go Far Enough

Updated on June 18, 2013

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College Football's Playoff Leaves Alot to be Desired

For all of you college football junkies out there, it appears as if a change is coming.

The BCS, the archaic and downright frustrating system that is in charge of determining college football’s national champion is on borrowed time as the commissioners of the 11 Division I football conferences and Notre Dame’s athletic director have finally come to the conclusion that a change from the current system to a four-team playoff must be made.

The hows, whys and wheres of the process have yet to be approved by university presidents, but a change seems imminent by the 2015 season.

Unfortunately, a four-team playoff is only a band-aid over a bullet hole, much driven by rhetoric that makes very little sense.

A recent statement by the commissioners and Notre Dame’s AD espoused the importance of protecting the regular season as well as the importance of protecting the tradition of the bowls as this change occurs.

"We are determined to build upon our success and create a structure that further grows the sport while protecting the regular season,” the statement said. “We also value the bowl tradition and recognize the many benefits it brings to student-athletes. We have more work to do and more discussions to have with our presidents who are the parties that will make the final decision about the future structure of college football's postseason."

First, let’s look at the bowl tradition. Admittedly, there are a lot of traditions worth holding onto.

The bowl system just isn’t one of them.

As the current system stands, there is one game (The BCS National Championship) that matters and the rest are simply exhibitions that are set up as pat on the back for achieving at least a .500 record.

And even that requirement is dubious.

Last season, UCLA was granted an exemption to play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl despite having a 6-7 record and a margin of defeat of 25.4 points in those seven losses. Not surprisingly, UCLA lost to an only marginally better Illinois team that was 6-6 in the regular season.

Is this really the type of game the BCS is desperate to protect?

These bowl games come with advertized payouts ranging from the hundreds of thousands to the millions for participating schools.

That total, however, is a misnomer.

As pointed out in the wonderfully written and excellently researched Death to the BCS by Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan, a majority of the schools suffer a monetary loss from going to a bowl because of mandatory ticket allotments and travel costs for team, coaching staffs, cheerleaders and bands.

Getting $750 K isn’t nearly as exciting when you dropped $1 million to get it!

One of the major reasons that university athletic departments want to keep the bowls is for the internal bonuses received by coaches and athletic directors for the achievement of reaching a bowl game. Never mind that nearly 70 percent of all teams in Division I make a bowl game.

Any system that offers rewards for simply NOT being the worst 30 percent at what you do is a system that is seriously lacking in credibility.

Now on to the value of the regular season.

The question that needs to be begged is why these people believe that the regular season is so valuable under its current format.

Lets just take a look at 2009. Alabama, Texas, Boise State, TCU and Cincinnati all finished the regular season undefeated, yet only Alabama and Texas got to play for the National title. As a reward for going unbeaten, three teams were not afforded the chance to play for the championship.

So which game of the all-important regular season games eliminated TCU, Boise State and Cincinnati from a shot at the title?

Under the new system, if the same thing were to happen, there would have still been an undefeated team not invited to the dance and maybe more if there was a one-loss team from the SEC or Big 10 -- a problem that would not be remedied by the all-important regular season or the too-small four-team playoff.

College football is the only sport anywhere on the planet where a team can be undefeated and still be told it isn’t good enough to compete for a championship.

The fact is that TCU, Boisie and Cinci are the lucky ones – they were at least in the conversation. Under the current system and under a four-team playoff the vast majority of teams start the season with zero chance of winning a championship. The regular season that is being “protected”does nothing to give any value to most teams in Division I.

The “every game counts” mantra that the BCS bigwigs love to repeat only accounts for those determined worthy of consideration by the polls and the BCS computers at the start of the season.

A four-team playoff, while a step in the right direction, is a half measure that will allow the BCS conferences to keep all of the money and power and does nothing to truly improve the overall competitive landscape of college football.

The 16-team playoff suggested by Wetzel and company in which each conference champion and five at-large teams are seeded is truly the best system for determining a champion. It would make the regular season truly important and offer access to conferences like the MAC, Sun Belt and Conference USA access that they won’t have in a four-team playoff and that they certainly never had under the current BCS format.

That type of access would make recruiting easier for lower-tier programs and improve the competitiveness of early season games between power conference and non-power conference teams.

The good news is that the culture of the athletic world is one where you expand or die. It won’t be long before fans begin clamoring for expansion of the playoffs and my feeling is once those involved in the decision making see they type of cash cow that the playoff will be, expansion will soon follow.


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      dturner 5 years ago

      Great writing!