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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Arguments for a college football playoff system

As university presidents and chancellors get ready to vote on the expansion of the NCAA men's basketball tournament from 64 to 96 teams, it is worth revisiting the issue of expanding the BCS into a playoff system.  The same university presidents and chancellors who are dead set against creating a playoff system, ostensibly for monetary reasons, are going to vote for expansion of the basketball tournament, again for monetary reasons.  And while I am against the expansion of the basketball tournament(you can read about it in my post dated February 4th, 2010), today I would like to address the issue of why the universities and colleges should be in favor of a football playoff and how they can make it work in the short term.  The biggest argument for a college football playoff system would again have to be monetary.  Major conferences such as the Big Ten are losing so much money currently that they have been forced to seek other schools to join their conference.  Opponents of a playoff system would argue that there is no way that a college football playoff system could bring in more money than the current bowl system.  But I will have more on that in a bit.  The next reason why universities should make the move to a football playoff system would be to allow the national champion to be decided on the field, rather than by some computer or human poll.  Playoff detractors would say that a plus one or playoff system would be no more objective than the current BCS system, and they may have a point.  But I will tackle that issue as well shortly.   So without further ado, here is my proposal for a college football playoff system:

  • maintain the current bowl system minus the BCS championship game, with the winners of the four BCS bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange) playing in the National Semifinal, with the winners of those two games then going on to compete for the National Championship.  The 25+ other bowl games would be virtually unchanged, and payouts for these games would be the same as well.  This would then eliminate the need for a BCS championship game; payouts for the BCS bowl games would remain the same, and teams that participated in the National Semifinal and National Championship games would then receive additional payouts.  If university presidents and chancellors don't believe that this simple expansion format would bring in more money than the current system, they shouldn't expect that a 6 seed versus a 22 seed in basketball will bring in more money, either.
  • the six BCS conference champions (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, PAC-10, and SEC) will receive automatic berths into the four qualifying bowls, with the remaining two at large bids going to the highest remaining teams ranked in the BCS top 12 who also happen to have the best record.  Opponents of this plan would argue that a 1 loss Florida team should be included in the playoff before an undefeated Boise State or TCU because they have a better strength of schedule.  I would argue two points: a) Florida could have played its way into this playoff by beating Alabama in the SEC championship, and b) a team like Boise or TCU should be rewarded rather than punished for completing a perfect season.
  • the four BCS bowl games will take place on January 1st, with the National Semifinals taking place the following Friday.  All other bowl games will take place according to however the networks and conferences choose to schedule them before or after Jan 1.   The National Championship game will then be played on the Saturday before the pro football Conference Championship games.  This will allow for complete broadcast of the National Championship without disrupting the NFL's schedule.  University presidents who argue that this is too long to wait to determine a national champion should have never agreed to have the BCS title game January 8th, either.
  • there may be concerns that a playoff will cut into the student athletes exam time, but let's get real, it's not as if the university heads currently care to much about the well being of the student anyway.  If that's the case then what about the notion that expansion of the basketball tourney to 96 teams will cut into mid term exams? And we're only talking four schools here, not 32, so I am sure some exceptions can be made.
The time has come for university presidents to act and disband the BCS as we currently know it.  Adopting a playoff system like the one I have described not only settles things on the field, but it would also bring in more money than the BCS does today.

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