USC fans have got to be big playoff proponents - if only because they've got to be tired of "trips" to the Rose every year. Yeah, it's prestigious and all, but how many times can you go to Disneyland?
Bowl Games this year if there were no BCS, no Playoffs.
I'm going to present a what-if scenario, for the sake of establishing a control in the argument of BCS v Playoff. It has been maintained by some on this board that the best possible post-season for all stakeholders (bowls, fans, NCAA, players, programs, etc.) is a tie-in bowl system, similar to that in place before the Bowl Championship Coalition years.
The Big Four bowl games if there were no BCS, no playoffs, just conference champ tie-ins.
Big Ten #1 v. Pac Ten #1
#6 Penn State v. #5 USC
ACC #1 v. Big East #1
#21 Virginia Tech v. #12 Cincinnati
SEC #1 v. At-Large
#1 Florida v. #3 Texas
Big 12 #1 v. At-Large
#2 Oklahoma v. #4 Alabama
Basically, Oklahoma, by winning the Big XII Championship, gets an autobid to the Fiesta and therefore plays itself out of the Sugar Bowl. From here, there are four things that could happen:
1. Fla. and Okla. win. Both are 1-loss conference champions. The pollsters go the mattresses. The championship is debated ad nauseum.
2. Fla. and Bama win. Florida declared undisputed champ -- maybe winner of PSU/USC game gets some votes. Cue 8 months of insufferable SEC self-aggrandizement.
3. Texas and Okla win. It will be debated...a lot. But I think Texas gets the slight nod for the head-to-head and better bowl opponent.
4. Texas and Bama win. Again, a debate, since neither are conference champs. I think Texas would get the nod, for strength of schedule, but it would be close.
Now, with all possible outcomes, here's how each stakeholder made out:
NCAA, Bowls and TV Contracts: GREAT. The Rose Bowl brought in close to its usual fantastic haul, and two top-tier bowl games received national attention. Down-ticket bowl games were able to fill their seats and promote with an average of 5 to 6 weeks to name opponents before the games.
Fans: OKAY. We end up with a likely disputed national champion, and the potentially strange situation of Oklahoma playing itself out of a matchup with Florida for all the marbles, which, depending on the outcome, could be a moderate inconvenience or a huge scandal. However, three of the four national bowl games were excellent matchups, especially since the teams all had three to six weeks to prepare for each other and get healthy. Those attending the games were able to make plans well in advance.
Teams: GOOD. Those participating were able to use the extra time to practice for their opponents and put their best game forward. Student athletes were able to take their end-of-semester finals and return from their trips in time for the start of the next semester. However, 12-0 Utah and Bosie have a legitimate beef, especially if they win their down-ticket bowls, for not being invited to the party.
Now, let's try this against the BCS:
BCS National Championship
#1 BCS v. #2 BCS
#1 Florida v. #2 Oklahoma
Big Ten #1 v. Pac Ten #1
#6 Penn State v. #5 USC
ACC #1 v. Big East #1
#21 Virginia Tech v. #12 Cincinnati
At-Large #1 v. At-Large #4
#3 Alabama v. #7 Utah
At-Large #2 v. At-Large #3
#3 Texas v. #10 Ohio State
Again, there is plenty of room here for debate, since there were 7 teams with 1 loss and one with none going into the bowls. The BCS's pitting of No. 1 and 2 narrows down the split-championship scenario decidedly.
1. Utah defeats Alabama and/or Boise State defeats TCU. The presence of an undefeated team at the end of the season, even with a weak schedule, puts the question to any 1-loss champion. This is doubly true if Utah fares better against Alabama than did Florida.
2. Cry of the 1-lossers. The winner of the Rose Bowl, Texas if it beats Ohio State, Alabama if it beats Utah, and Texas Tech if it wins its bowl game, all have some claims on the national championship, more or less depending on the winner of the Oklahoma/Florida game. Texas beat Oklahoma and fell to 1-loss Texas Tech. The Longhorns especially have a strong case if all three Big XII teams win -- wouldn't we rank higher a pair of comparable teams the one with the win over the other?
Here's how the stakeholders made out:
NCAA, Bowls and TV Contracts: GREAT. The four BCS bowls had moderate viewership since none really had national championship implications, but that cash was made up for by high national viewership for the National Championship. Down-ticket bowl games struggled to fill their seats and promote with an average of 3 to 4 weeks to name opponents before the games, but most did okay and only a few low-hanging fruit had noticeable lack of attendance.
Fans: OKAY. The Texas thing pissed us off, and a lot of 1-loss teams did a lot of arguing. Plus, the non-BCS conferences had a whopper of a complaint with two undefeated teams left out in the cold...again. We got one awesome, stupendous, all-the-marbles football game a week into the New Year, but the other BCS bowls were not as easy to enjoy without national title implications. We had several weeks beforehand to buy tickets and make travel plans, so that was cool. The down-ticket bowls took a hit, too, with most of the teams with national appeal hosting blowouts in the BCS games. Really, the one thing that bothered us most is the BCS system itself -- with very little credibility built up for itself, the system leaves itself open to questioning. Frankly, we're more questioning of the BCS than we were at the polls.
Teams: GOOD. Those participating were able to use the extra time to practice for their opponents and put their best game forward. Student athletes were able to take their end-of-semester finals and most were able to return from their trips in time for the start of the next semester (the national championship game teams had a little trouble there). However, 12-0 Utah and Bosie go home with a legitimate beef, especially if they win their down-ticket bowls, for not being invited to the party.
So between the BCS and the Bowl Tie-In System, there really isn't a whole lot of difference. The BCS provides a more concrete national champion, but hardly devoid of controversy. The old bowl System perhaps would make a bit more money for NCAA, the Bowls, and the TV Networks/Sponsors this year, but this wouldn't be guaranteed to happen every year.
Let's do this one for an 8-team playoff. Suffice to say, a 4-team would include some of the problems from the BCS 2-team playoff system, and a 12- or 16-team playoff would exacerbate the problems of a playoff below.
For our purposes, I used a simple NCAA arbitration (i.e. NCAA says you're here, deal with it) system, no re-seeding.
Quarterfinals: (Dec. 25)
1. Florida v. 8. Texas Tech
2. Oklahoma v. 7. Utah
3. Texas v. 6. Penn State
4. Alabama v. 5. USC
Semifinals: (Jan. 1)
1. Florida v. 5. USC
2. Oklahoma v. 3. Texas
Championship: (Jan. 10)
5. USC v. 3. Oklahoma
Well, this ends the debate. At the end of the day, USC is 15-1 and everybody else has lost (except Boise State, but who would pick 13-0 Boise after USC ran THAT kind of gauntlet?). So the national champion is, beyond any doubt, USC.
Here's how the stakeholders made out:
NCAA, Bowls and TV Contracts: GOOD. Television-wise, the playoffs were HUGE success. Every game received a national audience. That's SEVEN games over 3 weeks with National Championship implications = $$$. The problem, however, came in the lower bowls. Even the traditionally great 2nd-tier bowls, like the Cotton, Holiday, and Gator Bowls, fared poorly, mostly due to having just 3 weeks to recruit high-level teams. The Citrus, which featured Georgia versus Ohio State, was the lone exception, thanks to those teams' traditional fanbases. Where the losses came, however, was in the lower bowls, which tanked with the limited promotional and leave time. And though the TV interest was high, the 2nd round playoff games were not always filled, since fans only had a week's notice to get tickets and fill the massive stadiums. For 2009, it was decided, about half of the lower bowls would not return.
Fans: OKAY. Don't get me wrong, the TV was awesome, and we finally got a good champion. But then there's the poor Boomer the Oklahoma die-hard, who ended up spending $8,000 flying last-minute around the country, only to see his Sooners lose to the Trojans. Many marriages died in these playoffs. Also, the last-minute fielding of down-ticket games while they waited for the playoffs to make their picks killed any chance for MSU fans et al. to get to their games, which they ended up watching on TV. In year two, they'd be lucky if their team even went to a bowl game -- most wouldn't.
Teams: MEH (changed from BAAAAD thanks to LJ's analysis). First of all, the late travel plans made it tough to impossible to use the bowls as recruiting tools. For teams going deep in the playoffs, injuries mounted up. Fortunately, little class time was missed -- students weren't home for Christmas but didn't mind THAT much. Only two teams went into the following semester. A few extra injuries hurt the teams. But the last-minute travel, the poor fan showing at the games, the loss of recruiting time, and a few spotty injuries were rough on the bowl participant teams. Boise State still complained it was left out, and bitterly too, since they ended the season undefeated but STILL weren't invited.
Since much of this is speculative (i.e. how the non-playoff featured bowls would fare, whether fans would want to travel multiple time, etc) I won't comment on speculations with which I disagree. There is one glaring error, however (IMO). For the playoff, you rate the teams faring as "bad" for the playoff and "good" for the other two systems. I GUARANTEE that the players and coaches of Texas Tech, Utah, Alabama, USC, Penn State, and Texas say that they fare FANTASTIC in the playoff scenario. They get a chance to prove it on the field. If they lose, they lost ON THE FIELD and not because a pollster declared (arbitrarily) that they weren't as good as Florida or Oklahoma. Injuries and missing Christmas? Give me a break. The players want it sorted out on the field. End of story.
Well, yeah, it's speculative.
But before we get to the end of story, I want a hearing on my best arguments -- that the teams lose their recruiting tools, and have to fund exorbitant last-minute travel out-of-pocket.
To your response, yes, players want to "Prove it on the field," but the seeding and selection of eight teams is still arbitrary enough that teams would complain. This didn't create a lot of season repeats, but I guarantee it would eventually. I also presented only the best-case-scenario for a playoff. Once we get into WHERE these games are held, and weather factors, believe you me, the players will find a way to feel they were screwed. To use these same outcomes, imagine if USC won because it never had to leave Southern California, while everyone else was flying cross-country?
Still, you make a very valid point, LJ, in that the more teams in a playoff, the more student athletes are satisfied that they were given their chance to win it. I will change that BAAAD to a MEH.
I think you're being unrealistically optimistic about the matchups you would see in an original, non-BCS bowl system.
The old bowl system was in danger of falling apart because every year, bowls kept trying to lock up participants earlier and earlier in the season. A bowl would sign up Penn State in mid-October only to see them lose three of their next four games. It would take a lot of luck to get the perfect Sugar and Fiesta Bowl matchups you have listed.
Easy fix for that: NCAA rule says no team may be invited to any bowl until the completion of the final game on its schedule.
There's a reason the bowls offered so early -- they care about getting butts in their seats. Perhaps that's why the Big Ten tie-in bowls seem to always fare better than their same-level counterparts; they can be selling tickets before Thanksgiving.
Side-note: If we go back to the Coalition (i.e. Sugar/Fiesta/Orange agreement to field top 2 champs), then we'd have the Okla/Fla national championship this year. I'm not saying that's the system we should go back to.
This was just one step of my gradual unveiling of a new bowl system (preview: it's scenario-based). I'm looking for as much criticism as possible every step of the way as I refine it. Keep it coming!
Sure, it's speculative, but that was the point, was it not? I like your scenarios and find them plausible, as well as your analysis of outcomes. I'm inclined to find the old bowl system to be most appealing, for the reasons your scenarios play out. The 8-team playoff thing just bites -- there is a big difference between a school taking 2000, maybe 3000 fans to a series of hoop tournament locations around the country (x 4 teams puts 8-12k in the seats with room left for locals in most locales), and trying to fill big, honking football stadia with the traveling fans. If they get filled, it happens with locals or big money football fans who just can get there.
One factor that you didn't mention in the standing bowl arrangements is the yearly anticipation that gets people planning vacations and holidays around potential bowl locations. This gets even the down-ticket bowls a reliable booking base, since there will be a relatively narrow range that people need to plan around (3-4 bowls per name conference before the quality gets gooey).
Since the BCS thing has been in place, there have been controversies nearly every year that cause everyone to scurry back to the drawing board to perfect the imperfectable. The BCS hasn't and won't really ever reliably settle anything, and costs the non-championship bowls, as you point out. The other end, the 8- or 16- or whatever- tourney bites for fans, as you point out, who are the base of the wonderful tradition of college football. Big time college football is different than every other sport, because it is so big. Given the defects on either side of it, the old bowl system really supports the largest factor that makes college football the best spectator sport in the USA!
Last point, and then I'll fold in the face of what I know is a huge majority favoring "settling it on the field". More playoff, more emphasis on college football having only ONE TRUE CHAMPION, will do to the regular season what it has to the regular season for a lot of sports -- devalued it. Over-exposure on low-value games is a potential trap, especially with all the choices that modern media brings. We've gone through economic up times that have supported nearly every sport that there is to be watched. Downtimes will cause more selectivity, and the investment in a college football weekend is a large one that must be considered at the margins for a lot of folks. A butt in a football stadium seat is the most valuable commodity an athletic department has. We've buggered the value of being in the stadium with the stand-around for TV timeouts (who hasn't booed the TV ref?). We can't act like there is a bottomless well for in-stadium fan dollars. Remember, basketball was providing more "bowl games" by making a broader tournament, which made the regular season more valuable to more teams. A narrow playoff in football works in reverse, doesn't it, by reducing the value of each individual bowl game that is not the national championship -- fewer teams have a stake in the outcome, so they are playing simply for the warm weather, post-season appearance. Doesn't it make sense to build value in those rather than take it away?
So, how's that for a long, post hoc ergo propter hoc justification for my desire to return to the old bowl system?
Have a ball beating me up!
Thanks for bringin the Latin!
Yeah, I admit this was a bit of a shameless plug for the 3rd-way "Let's just go back to the bowls."
I keep getting the feeling we're the Ron Paultards of this particular argument.
Actually, your old system is wrong. In the old system the Big 12 champ went to the orange bowl. It was that way until 1998 when the BCS began. So oklahoma would be playing in the Orange Bowl in the old system.
Your playoff system assumed neutral location sites all over the country. What would be the downfall of having the higher seeded teams play home games until the championship game?
Good job! I agree with most of what you said.
of really crappy weather that would diminish the quality of play, diminish the ability of the visitors to see their teams and bestow an enormous homefield advantage -- 'Bama traveling to, say, Columbus in December? OSU traveling to Austin, for that matter. Who would LSU bring to Ann Arbor in the second week of December on one week's notice (dreaming ahead a bit)?
While I think about it, there are enough domes around that a higher seeded team could play in a reasonably close dome in the north, but then the campus "pageantry" (as Keith used to call it) gets lost in favor of just a game.
But isn't it a little artificial to play games in neutral domed stadiums when much of the regular season is played in lousy weather outside?
Of all of the above situations, I prefer the pre-BCS matchups, notwithstanding the problems that I Blue Myself identified. I don't mind the BCS system, but I am really upset about the extra BCS bowl. I am solidly against playoffs.
Interestingly, I played around with ESPN's playoff simulator yesterday, and it demonstrated my dislike of playoffs almost too perfectly.
First Simulation: Georgia Tech upset everyone and beat Florida for the title. Is there any meaningful sense in which Georgia Tech is the best team, even after that run? Including the playoffs, they lost 4 games that season to Florida's 2, Oklahoma's 2, Texas's 2, etc. I think an outcome like that would put an otherwise thrilling season to shame. Of course, all the hours I spent watching those Big 12 games (e.g., Texas Tech/Baylor) would not have happened, so maybe I wouldn't have considered it a thrilling season anyway.
Second Simulation: Oklahoma beats Texas in the title game. For the fun of it, let's say it ends 45-35. So...Oklahoma settled it on the field, did they? Which field was that again?
That was enough to make me want to stop playing entirely.
if you add the plus 1 NC title game you could settle this once and for all.
I remember how ballistic I was listening to the car radio on i-65 S on the way home from Ann Arbor when the first poll (upi?) named Nebraska named Nebraska named Nebraska named Nebraska ad nauseam Nat Champ. That sucked! That experience alone is enough of a problem with the old system to scrap it forever.
I would have been okay with Um-Neb the next week and needless to say would have peachy keen on UM outright as it should have been. Besides that, I like the deevolution model.
Through being cool, gerald v casale
I don't see why the lower tier bowls would have to wait any longer than they do now to slot their teams and start selling tickets. Presumably the playoff bids would go out at the same time they do now, right after the Conference Championships games. The playoff scenario though might lead to some conferences getting rid of their conference championship games if they felt it would increase their chance of getting a team(s) into a playoff. The ACC in particular hasn't been doing well at the box office with its games. No Florida teams have been in the games and other team fan bases have been reluctant to head down to Fla on rather short notice when there will be a bowl trip following a few weeks later. This could be an indicator of what attendance would be like at playoff games.
As to the comment about USC tiring of the Rose Bowl. Californians generally don't travel much outside of California, other than Vegas and the occasional trip to Hawaii. So they're quite happy to hang around at home and watch their team in the Rose Bowl. Also, as a private school, its fan base isn't that large.
the BCS National Championship worked to dilute schedules? Perhaps this has added to parity, as more players get the chance to play in big games at lesser schools, but the quality of non-conference games has gone down since the BCS has supplanted the old bowl system.
One commenter remarks that the old bowl system was in danger of collapse, a fact I don't recall -- I'd like to hear the facts behind that assertion, because it seems to me that the schedule dilution, diminished importance of the conference, potential undermining of the regular season, actual undermining of the bowls and travel attendance all speak to moving away from rather than toward a definitive on-field championship in big-time college football.
The conclusions remains, that "We wuz robbed" will be the theme of Div 1 football until a large-enough tournament is held. That tournament would truly undercut conferences, further dilute regular seasons, diminish the ability to draw traveling crowds for the tournament games, kill the bowl structure (and attending economic benefits to the cities/regions that started the things), and diminish the traditions that have made college football different (and arguably better) than all the other major spectator sports. Is getting a championship settled on the field worth buggering the sport?