Friday, May 2, 2008

Save your breath -- a college football playoff ain't happening


Don't waste your time, college football fans.

Instead of arguing with your friends over whether there should be four, eight or 16 teams ... take your kids to the park.

(If you don't have kids, go see an IMAX movie.)

A college football playoff isn't happening now, isn't happening in 2012, and likely won't happen ... ever.

Here's why: The commissioners of the BCS conferences are rather comfortable with the BCS. They say, mistakenly, that it's working the best it ever has. (Put them in front of an angry pack of Georgia Bulldogs fans, and they might change their opinion.)

Here's why Part 2: College football's popularity is at an all-time high. Large stadiums from Ann Arbor to Gainesville are routinely packed full, and even the meaningless spring game garners tens of thousands of fans. More important than the fans, FOX is in the process of negotiating a new, gigantic T.V. contract to televise the BCS -- minus the ABC-shown Rose Bowl -- through, most likely, 2014.

Who knows what the world will resemble in six years? In this fast-changing society, there might be flying cars by then. But not a college football playoff. When SEC commissioner Mike Slive is the lone ranger among a group of 11 conference commishes plus Notre Dame athletics director Kevin White to propose a plus-one format, you know the chances aren't good.

The irony is that Slive's conference has won the past two BCS championship games.

I haven't always been a proponent of a college football playoff. I hear what the fellas are saying when they talk about not cheapening the regular season. Last year's season was absolutely remarkable -- until the bowls began.

I believe a 16-team playoff would be poisonous for the sport. Late September games would be almost worthless, and when would the season end?

But the plus-one format is legitimate, and it would still allow for a full slate of bowl games, which now, by the way, is made up of 34 contests thanks to the additions of the St. Petersburg Bowl and Congressional Bowl. A four-team playoff that takes two weeks could easily work.

There's no point in talking about it, however. At least not for six years. It ain't happening.

As long as fans continue to fill stadiums -- a certainty -- and as long as big-name schools continue to haul in big bucks off meaningless bowl games and jersey sales ... well, nothing's going to change no matter how much fans and "SportsCenter" anchors clamor for it.

Whether the BCS works each year will continue to be based on luck. If there are two zero-loss, major-conference teams, it worked! If there are three, then there will be plenty of bitching by a team's fan base.

When ACC commissioner and BCS chairman John Swofford says, "I believe the BCS has never been healthier in its first decade," I can only give a slight chuckle, because serendipity is the only reason for those words.

In 2005, the dream matchup between Texas and USC fell into the system's lap. A year later, Michigan was just as deserving as Florida of the national-title game berth, but because the Gators destroyed Ohio State and Michigan lost to USC, everyone forgot about the controversy. Last season, a handful of two-loss teams had a legitimate beef as to why LSU was chosen to beat OSU.

It's impossible to put together a perfect system, but that doesn't mean the commissioners shouldn't try. A plus-one format would give four very good teams the chance to show the country why they're No. 1. Four, to me, is better than two.

But to powerful men like the Big Ten's Jim Delaney -- who doesn't want to see the "tradition" of a Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup in the Rose Bowl ruined by a new system -- there is nothing to gain from innovation. He'd rather sit back, enjoy his Big Ten Network some more and, probably, play a round of golf a week while it's nice in the North. Beats worrying about a new, complicated postseason format, right?

And when it comes to making progress, the opinions of men like Delany are all that really matter.


J-bo said...

His reasoning is terrible. Football in general is more popular than ever, and in the case of college football this is in spite of the BCS system, not because of it. I think an 8 team playoff would be ideal, but not even trying 4 is a joke. I am a moderate sports fan, but barely watch the BCS bowl games because they are confusing, controversial, and mostly meaningless. That's not going to change now, so I'll stick to following college basketball and the glory that is March Madness.

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