Monday, November 5, 2007

Problems With A Playoff

One of my favorite debates in sports is the topic of a playoff system in college football. Why? – Because it’s a never-ending struggle. We’ll probably still be arguing about it 30 years from now.

Currently, people are more upset with the BCS system than Donald Trump is with Rosie O’Donnell. Everyone thinks that a playoff system needs to be in place. They claim that there is just too much controversy out there – too many politics. I think that they’re wrong.

Let’s look at what it would take to build a payoff system (we’ll try to keep this as simple as possible and just work with the logistics of the actual setup).

First, we’ll need to decide on how many teams make this playoff system. A 64-team field is almost out of the question seeing as there are only 119 teams in Division I-A football. Half the field can’t make the playoffs. A four-team playoff seems too small and wouldn’t suffice for what the pundits want. Eight seems to be the number that pleases most people. So, we’ll go with eight for the moment.

Now, we have to decide if conference champions get an automatic bid into the playoffs. If so, which conferences? I think we’d have to be looking at the Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Pac-10 and Big East. That’s only six…which two do you add in after that? The MAC? The WAC? Who knows? You’re going to leave someone out. And what happens when a 7-5 Baylor squeaks into the Big 12 title game and it happens to be their day? Then we have a playoff that includes a team ranked 40th in the country. (Keep in mind that this system would also make non-conference football games completely and totally irrelevant.)

Another fact to keep in mind: Notre Dame is independent. Does that mean that they don’t get the chance to play for a title. I’m actually okay with that. Moving on…

So, let’s say that we just run with the six power-conferences. We have to fill those last two spots. How do we decide on those two teams? I guess we’d have to leave it up to a selection committee. There are more than a dozen one and two-loss teams out there right now that will not win their respective conference and a still-undefeated Hawaii team to contend with. You’re talking about some BIG schools, with BIG boosters, who like to throw around BIG dollars. Now, if you don’t think politics are going to get involved in that process then you’re crazy.

Do we simply extend the field to 16 teams? If we do then we are going to be running into the same problems when we get to the three-loss teams. Possibly even more. The Southeastern Conference has seven teams in the BCS Top 25 – You have to think that more than three of them could make a case for this hypothetical tourney.

We all enjoy our college sports and college football seems to be our first love. When we talk about it we use words like “heritage” and “tradition.” There is a certain amount of tradition that goes into the Bowl System. People love talking about that year the team won the Sugar Bowl or the Cotton Bowl or the Bowl (I’m trying to convince everyone that this bowl needs to take place in 2010).

The system isn’t perfect. We all know this. One of the things that makes collegiate football so great, though, is that we argue about it. We constantly enter into debate with friends, co-workers and the “experts” sitting three seats to our right at the local watering hole. So go tell your buddy he’s a moron…heck, come tell me I’m an idiot. I welcome the conversation.


Saleeby said...

8 teams (BCS top 8)
2 extra weeks of football
6 extra games

2nd week in December:
8vs1 at 1's home
7vs2 at 2's home
6vs3 at 3's home
5vs4 at 4's home

3rd week of December:
winners (1vs8)vs(4vs5)
winners (2vs7)vs(3vs6)
*at higher ranked teams home

1vs2 plays at Sugar (rotating)
3vs4 plays at Rose
5vs6 plays at Orange
7vs8 plays at Fiesta

Extra home games
Everyone ends their season at a bowl game.

Amy said...

So... basically, you aren't in favor of a playoff system because of logistics?

There are definitely ways it can be done, including ways that would keep the bowl sponsors happy.

But logistics aside, you gotta admit that a playoff system (of even just 4 teams!) would be amazing for college football. I mean, I get teary-eyed just thinking about the possibility :)

Cheek said...

What I'm saying, Amy, is that if you are looking to get rid of controversy then a playoff system isn't going to help you. Every year we hear about how so-and-so got snubbed from the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (granted when you are arguing for your slot as the 66th team...people tend to dismiss it after a day or two). That isn’t going to happen in football when you have five to eight teams arguing that they have a right to play as that 8-seed.

I’m not saying that a playoff system couldn’t work...obviously, my boy Saleeby has it all figured out above...I just don’t think that there is a "perfect" answer at this point.