I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Commissioners in the process of molding the first major-college football playoff are leaning toward floating bowl sites for the semifinal games.
In fact, the predetermined rotation of semifinal sites in the bowls was described as a “non-starter” to CBSSports.com. There are still discussions over the sites of the entire three-game playoff (in or outside of bowls), but there seems to be a growing consensus that the bowls will at least host the semifinals. The Big Ten recently backed off an idea for campus sites to host semifinals.
While site issue is one of many yet to be resolved in the playoff discussion, this development does point out that the commissioners are sensitive to the fairness issue.
They do not want the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds having to “go on the road” in the semifinals. In other words, if the Sugar Bowl were anchored in advance to be a semifinal site, it would be possible that a No. 4 seed – say, LSU – would have the home-field advantage playing the No. 1-seeded opponent in the Superdome.
So in that instance, LSU as the SEC champ would forego its Sugar Bowl berth and instead would be the visiting team at the No. 1 seed's bowl tie in site. I presume that if No. 1 or No. 2 was an independent [scoffs at self] or from a conference without a fixed bowl tie in, the semifinal bowl game would be backed into by determining which conference champions had to stay or be moved from their tie in bowls based on BCS standings.
Since the Rose Bowl would be a "home" game for a B1G champion ranked 1 or 2, if that team was matched with a 3 or 4 ranked Pac-12 team, home could be in name only, especially if the Pac-12 rep was USC or UCLA. Even so, this is probably the best solution after campus sites (a non-starter option anyhow).
Turn on ESPN, or look at basically any media outlet that covers college football, and you'll find someone railing against the current BCS system. And with good reason. Brian has his well-reasoned alternative here. Today, Andy Staples informed us that the athletic directors of the Big 12 conference, fresh off Oklahoma State's BCS snub in favor of a regional contest between teams that already played each other, have tentatively backed the idea of a seeded 4-team tournament:
Monday, Big 12 athletic directors voted in a straw poll to get behind the idea of a plus-one format that would allow four teams to compete for the national title. Such a format would have allowed USC to play for the national title in 2003, Auburn to play for it in 2004, Texas to play for it in 2008 and Oklahoma State -- which finished behind No. 2 Alabama by the slimmest of margins in the BCS standings -- to play for the title this season. If the league's presidents choose to agree with their athletic directors, the Big 12's support would be a huge step forward. The Big 12 was one of several leagues that blocked SEC commissioner Mike Slive's 2008 proposal for a four-team, seeded tournament. The ACC was the only conference that supported the plan.
Then he goes on to say that the Big 10 is the lone holdout:
From their standpoint, that is the sensible position. That's why the Big Ten will likely offer the most resistance to any plus-one plan if it gets proposed prior to the next BCS annual meeting in April. Commissioner Jim Delany is a master at getting his colleagues to agree to do what is best for the Big Ten, and the Big Ten is better off without a playoff. Because the league contains huge schools with passionate fan bases, the old bowl system actually is the most advantageous for the Big Ten.
Then there's a bunch of "well we don't really know how it would work" stuff that demonstrates how far off this idea still is from becoming reality.
The problems at hand:
The sticking points are, according to Staples:
1. Resistance from the Big 10 ADs and from school presidents generally, who don't want to extend the season further into January and who like the bowl-system
2. Resistance from TV networks, who like the bowl-system
This is only part of the problem. Other issues he doesn't bring up include:
3. A tendency in American sports to keep expanding and expanding tournament brackets. Look at the NBA, NFL, MLB and even NCAAB. Anyone who thinks that this would end at 4, or even at 6, is kidding themselves. Once the cat's out of the bag, it's only a matter of time before it becomes 8, then 16, then 32.
4. NCAA football is unique in the sense that every single game matters absolutely. The more postseason play you have, the more watered down this becomes. This, in turn, could reduce interest in regular-season play, a la March Madness.*
These are, in my opinion, the underlying reasons why school presidents and ADs are opposed to a playoff. Unlike basketball or baseball, football is extremely physically taxing, and requires massive hours of practice, conditioning and preparation. It causes lots of injuries, and takes a lot of time away from schooling just to get ready for a single game. But the ADs and presidents were all okay with adding a 12th game, you say? Yes that's true, and it's a bit hypocritical. But that's where we are with the people pulling the trigger on this thing.
What an alternative to the BCS would have to look like:
Any viable alternative to the BCS, and by viable I mean palatable to ADs and school presidents, needs to do the following things:
1. Preserve the bowl system
2. Not extend the season far beyond its already extended point
3. Not threaten to engulf the regular season by morphing into an actual tournament
So what are the alternatives?
1. A "+1"
Go back to the old way of picking bowl participants (thus satisfying the Big 10 and Pac 12), and then have a game at the end pitting #1 against #2.
LIKELIHOOD: Low. This appeals to me, as someone who's always liked the ideosyncracies and old traditions of college football. But there's a lot of path dependency going on here, and I don't know if the NCAA would ditch the BCS selection process entirely at this point.
2. A pseudo "+1"
Keep the BCS, but instead of having a #1 vs. #2 game, have the BCS bowls all pick by lots, then schedule #1 vs. #2
LIKELIHOOD: High. I don't think this completely solves the selection issue, but it does sidestep the potential tournament problems that seem to be a sticking point. This would, at least, give the NCAA a decade of breathing space before the pitchforks and torches get too numerous to ignore...just like the BCS did.
3. A 4-team tournament
Have two bowls choose the top 4 teams, seeded, and then have the +1
LIKELIHOOD: Fair. This does solve the selection problem, but opens the door to more expansion, which I believe to be the ultimate fear of the ADs and school presidents who are backing the BCS. Still, it's not impossible given this year's BCS catastrophe.
4. A 6+ team tournament.
At least 6 seeded teams playing each other.
LIKEIHOOD: Low. Brian's suggestion is sensible and would make for good drama, but it potentially suggests 2+ games to the end of the season. The only way this becomes reality in the short-term is if ADs and school presidents agree to shorten the regular season, which ain't gonna happen.
5. Keep the current crappy system with some new window dressing to make it look, to its architects if to no one else, as if something has changed.
All Hail the BCS and its Opaque and Frustrating Selection Process.
LIKELIHOOD: Very High. Institutions are incredibly conservative things, and college football is, at base, a collection of autonomous institutions bound together by a host of decentralized institutions (conferences) loosely bound under an umbrella association with only limited authority and decision-making power (the NCAA). The NFL it ain't. This makes the most conservative solution the most likely, and keeping things mostly as they are = the most conservative solution. Don't believe me? Just wait and see...
As per previous diaries, I've just outlined some scenarios and argued why I think they are likely or unlikely. I'd like to ask all of you the following questions in your comments:
1. Which scenarios do you think are the most and least likely? Why or why not? Are there any I missed?
2. What system would actually be best for the sport, and for the student athletes who play it while enrolled full-time in college?
*March Madness has its own uniquely endearing qualities to it: IMO it's the best tournament in American sports. Not a diss here, but just because it works in one sport doesn't mean it's appropriate or feasible for another.
Story from the Petoskey News-Review recapping the "Lunch with Lloyd" in northern Michigan (the reporter is a friend of mine). While most of the article is about his work with the hospital and talking up Brady Hoke, the most interesting tidbit is at the very end. When asked about a potential BCS playoff format, Carr said:
"I was in New York a month ago for the College Football Hall of Fame and I talked to some important people that said in the next 10 years or so, there could be a group of prominent schools with large budgets and stadiums that could break away from the NCAA and play their own schedule. There could be anywhere from 60-65 teams that would break away and play their own schedule and then have a playoff."
While I would be completely shocked if this ever happened, the fact that it's coming from Lloyd and the "important people" he's talked with and not random Joe Blogger throwing out some wishful thinking idea gives the concept a lot more credibility. Thoughts?
Not sure if anyone saw Will Forte's song about the BCS last night on SNL. It was fantastic. The opening line?
"I like stepping in dog crap. I love it when children get sick. I love papercuts on my cornea, and I love the BCS."
Here's a link:
The song is about a minute into the video but it's worth the wait.
I agree with the WLA post on money keeping the BCS in place, but don't think a viable alternative would really be that hard to figure out. In an 8 team playoff, there would be 7 games, 4 quarterfinals, 2 semi's, and a championship game. with 6 major conferences and a whole bunch of schools we can group as "other" it gives us a total of 7 different groups we must appease.
Now, when you start the playoff, you start a rotation of games. You have games 1-7 numbered and drawn out of a hat, with 1 being the title, 2-3 being the sems, and 4-7 being the quarters. Each conference, including other, gets to choose a site among its schools to host their game at this year. The tv rights for that game would be sold to that conference and they would then sell them to a network. By doing this the conference can rake in ad revenue and ticket sales from each game. Obviously games would try to be matched regionally in the quarters so as to increase draw.
Each year the conferences rotate, going up one number, or, if they are number 7, going down to 1. This is necessary because obviously some games will make more money than others. You also would keep the current non bcs bowl structure for teams that do not make it into the playoff system, yet still get 6 wins, as sort of a huge nit.