Home Playoff Games: Dead

Submitted by Brian on May 17th, 2012 at 10:59 AM


it is pretty nice.

Read between the lines on other athletic directors' remarkably malleable opinions to find out where the wind is blowing on the idea of playing home games in the first round of the playoffs:

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told the Lansing State-Journal that a plan to hold the coming four-team playoff semifinals on campus sites -- one most prominently supported by none other than Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany -- was no longer on the BCS negotiating table. He said that maintaining the value of the Rose Bowl, however, was "critical."

Those sentiments were echoed by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who said that his opinion had "shifted" on the idea of playing the semifinals at bowl venues rather than on-campus sites, with the Rose Bowl presumably one of those two semifinal hosts. He added that the rest of the league's A.D.'s had been similarly convinced.

Likewise, Nebraska's Tom Osborne left no doubt as to where his opinions stood:

Neb's Osborne: If you play semis outside bowls, "it would pretty much destroy the bowl system." [ED: And?]

Three athletic directors saying that home games were a bad idea within minutes of each other means the idea is dead and the public relations people are getting in some horse-beatin' time to save face. Who knows whether the three guys above really believe what they're saying about how critical the Rose Bowl is? Not us. Maybe not even them. Damn you, Don Draper.

End result: the Rose Bowl will be better-preserved than it has been recently—almost entirely preserved. If you'd like to see your team try to win a national title you're going to have a ton of frequent flier miles, with which you can go… see more games thousands of miles from you. It's a win-win. Also think of the economy.

It's just a flesh wound

No, really, it's just a flesh wound.

It may be time to shoot the Rose Bowl in the head, and by "shoot it in the head" I mean "barely do anything to it at all." A four-team playoff would not have seriously affected the attractiveness of the Rose Bowl in the past decade relative to the current system.

The following bullets look at the results if the playoff expanded to four and you either took the top four teams in the BCS standings or used the top-six champs-autobid structure:

  • 2011: Wisconsin-Oregon is unchanged (or becomes Wisconsin-Stanford if a hypothetical committee reasonably picks the Ducks over Stanford).
  • 2010: Wisconsin-TCU turns into… hard to tell. If conference champs get priority and Wisconsin gets sucked into the playoff, you get OSU-Stanford, a #4-#6 matchup. If Stanford gets in as the #4 team in the BCS standings, you get Wisconsin and 8-5 USC, if USC wasn't banned. So either very little damage or a ton of damage; Rose Bowl might pivot and pick some other team instead of going deep down the rabbit hole.
  • 2009: OSU-Oregon is unchanged.
  • 2008: USC-Penn State unchanged.
  • 2007: USC-Illinois unchanged.
  • 2006: Michigan either gets into the playoff or gets booted by the conference champs rule by USC(#5) and Louisville(#6)—fume city, baby! If they're in, Rose Bowl is USC-Wisconsin. UW was 11-1 that year. If they're out, it's Michigan-Cal (9-3). Damage: there, but not huge.
  • 2005: Rose Bowl was famous USC-Texas NC game. PSU and OSU were #3 and #4, So either OSU gets booted for SEC champ Georgia (#7. so no) or gets in. If they get in, next option is 9-3 Wisconsin. 10-2 Oregon gets the Pac-10 bid.
  • 2004: Michigan-Texas becomes either Michigan-Utah (Utah was 11-0 and #6, but not playing in the Pac-10) or Michigan-Cal. Cal was 10-1 with only a loss to rampant USC.
  • 2003: Michigan and USC get in the playoff. Rose becomes #5 OSU vs 9-3 WSU. This one is pretty bad.
  • 2002: WSU-Oklahoma turns into what it always should have been: WSU-Iowa. This was the year Iowa ended up in the Orange Bowl because of dumb BCS selection procedures.

In those ten years you have six where there is no change, an insignificant one (2011, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2004, 2002), or an improvement. We've created a Rose Bowl from nothing for 2005, one which is a little lame. 2006 is either little damage or moderate. 2010 is either a push or very, very bad. Bad to the point where you'd have to have some provision to prevent an 8-5 team from playing in the Rose Bowl. 2003 is admittedly a major downgrade.

So there is damage. I'm not sure how the powers that be perceive a Rose Bowl in which #2 OSU plays #3 Georgia in a national semi. Is that damage? It is not the hallowed Big Ten-Pac 12 matchup.

Let's say that's not damage and the Rose Bowl will be a series of traditional matchups with the occasional weird-but-very-good interloper. Is the above damage something that would cause you to reject the concept of on-campus semifinals? The Rose Bowl would become a consolation prize. Rather, it would stay a consolation prize, which is what it's been for almost every year of the BCS's existence. Has that hurt it? A bit. Much? No.

I find it hard to believe the Big Ten power brokers would look at the above and come back white as a sheet at the prospects of the future. Dan Wetzel annihilated the thought process that results in the quotes above in his column…

[The Rose Bowl is so] critical that they're willing to make business decisions based on emotion, willing to give up on competitive advantages, logistical ease and monetary benefits.

Possible home-field advantage for Big Ten teams? We love the Rose Bowl.

Making the elements, which Big Ten teams are presumably better equipped to handle, a factor in the playoffs? We love the Rose Bowl.

Showcasing the incredible game-day environment of Camp Randall, Happy Valley or the Big House? We love the Rose Bowl.

Not requiring fans, students and players' families to continue to make lengthy postseason trips? We love the Rose Bowl.

Creating economic impact in the league's hometowns? We love the Rose Bowl.

Not taking discretionary spending out of the region and into California or Florida? We love the Rose Bowl.

…and he's right. Here's another opportunity to point at the Big Ten's lack of will to power relative to the SEC, Texas, and, increasingly, the Pac-12. That or they just got outvoted and are trying to make it look good.

Either way, an argument about the bowl system has featured arguments hastily assembled to pretend something that makes no sense in fact does. Tradition!



May 17th, 2012 at 11:47 AM ^

So I'm guessing all this means that they plan on playing "playoff" games in the first week of January so now it makes sense that if you make the 4 team playoff you're taken out of the bowl pool.

If this is not the case none of this makes any sense because even if "playoff" games are played at bowl locations or on campuses during the middle to end of December the actual bowl game can still be arranged and played a week or two later.

The only way this makes sense is if they plan on playing the "playoff" games on New Year's Day and the championship game a week later.


May 17th, 2012 at 11:48 AM ^

NCAA Football schools are not much for seismic change, and presumably the Big Ten ADs fall into that camp. This makes me wonder whether there is a bit of a long con at play.

Big Ten abandons an home-field proposal that faces major objection from some of the game's power brokers (SEC, Bowls, perhaps TV), pushes for a conference champion rule instead.

With a 4-team playoff achieved, and the Rose Bowl "preserved," the stage is set for four years in which playoff teams are subjected to (up to) three road games, costs to the University are high and attendance is poor.

Simultaneously, the mounting dissatisfaction among schools about the logistical/cost challenges of the system dovetails with a movement to expand the playoffs to 8 teams (because of the monies)

Citing costs, logistics and atmosphere, home sites are advocated and well received for the round of 8 AND the round of 4, leading to a National Championship Game, as well as 3rd place, 5th place and 7th place games in the traditional bowls. All teams are now given the opportunity to travel, TV gets more marquee matchups and the schools roll around in their piles of money.

The long con?

Blue Durham

May 17th, 2012 at 11:56 AM ^

preserving the bowl system I was perplexed by the Big Ten's seemingly irrational attachment to the Rose Bowl.  These are not the same thing.  So there is the question:

Why are the coaches and AD's so adamant in keeping the current bowl system?

  • In the current bowl system, many, many more teams get to play in the post season than in a playoff.  Compensation (bonuses) for the coaches and ADs are probably easier to obtain under this system.
  • If a playoff is instituted, the bowls could only be preserved if they are incorporated into the playoffs (or perhaps some rotated in and out).  Eventually, those not initially incorporated will try to survive in hopes of eventually being incorporated in an expanded playoff or, if they aren't, they probably wither and die.
  • In the current bowl system, exactly half of all teams finish with a win.  Playoff, only 1 team finishes the year with a win.  All ofther fortuanate enough make the playoff will finish the post season with a loss.  For example, there are 5 (4 BCS games + championship game) coaches and ADs that are thilled with how the season finished.  Fans, students and alumn all happy.  Why would they want to change that to only 1 school?  Losing in a semifinal of a playoff is much less satisfying than the BCS equivalent of winning the non-championship game, i.e. the Sugar, Rose, etc.
  • Thus the current bowl system much less a presure-cooker than a playoff format.  The current bowl system provides easier bonuses and money and more job security for the coaches and ADs.  All of the motivation is for them to keep the status quo, not change it.  And all of the concern for "the student athlete" is all bullshit.

Instituting a playoff system raises the bar of expectations on all coaches and ADs.  We would be going from about 20 bowls (about 40 teams), 20 finishing the season with a post-season win; 10 teams with a BCS bowl bids to 4 teams getting a relevant post-season bid and only 1 finishing the season with a win.  Is it any wonder that so many of the coaches and ADs are so resistant to switch from such a cozy post season?


May 17th, 2012 at 1:36 PM ^

anyway?  It will be meaningless unless there are many more teams inivited.  Can y ou hear the bitching when an undefeated #5 team gets left out?  It WILL happen at some point.  So why bother, a playoff will not settle anything.

You cant say the NC will be the best teams.  If anyone believes that, you need to go pick up Section 1 and go to Group.

Keep the bowls but clean them up.  Make them accountable.  Then maybe the bowls will not require broke-assed schools from paying money they dont have. 

A playoff is like a wet dream, when you are sleeping, it sounds all nice and good.  However, when you wake up to reality, all you have is a big mess.


Blue Durham

May 17th, 2012 at 2:10 PM ^

have a playoff. Unfortunately it is only a 2-team playoff, and this is the worst of all possible worlds. Since the advent of the #1 versus #2 game (whether it occurred in the Rose, Fiesta etc, or in the now BCS championship game), there is not turning back; we are stuck with this 1-game playoff with the retention of all of the other bowls.

Expanding to 4 teams is the next step, but this step is big in that it marginalizes all of the bowls. There are not enough playoff games to spread to all of the 4 BCS bowls and all of the other bowls become even more irrelevant.

They way I see it, there has been talk about going to a playoff for roughly 30 years. Why hasn't it happened? It would be the end of the bowls (or at least the beginning of the end - if they are part of a playoff, it will become obvious that they are superfluous), so the bowls are against it. But I suspect that present system is much preferable to the coaches and ADs, and because of that we have gotten lip-service but little more. Because of this, I do not think the present system is going to change substantially.


May 17th, 2012 at 12:01 PM ^

So if the Rose Bowl is a permanent outcast from the new playoff system, that means that the bowls under consideration come from somewhere else. Are they conference-designated bowls, like the Sugar for the SEC and the Jerryworld Bowl for the Big XII? Or are we talking pre-selected bowls? Do other bowls get a chance to get in on the action?

This is relevant because it greatly affects the balance of the new system. If they preselect bowls that periodically rotate away from "home" territories (The SEC champ plays in Glendale!) it stinks for attendance but at least works for fairness. If they designate higher-seeded home bowls (SEC plays in New Orleans!) then the B1G gets a different bowl than the Rose Bowl in this slot.

And if they're opening the system up to other participants so that Jerryworld can be a part of this, there's no reason the Motor City Bowl can't get a sudden boost as the "designated" B1G home bowl.

There is still much to be decided. We should probably wait for it to play out before totally panicking.


May 17th, 2012 at 12:24 PM ^

You'll notice that the Rose Bowl isn't being talked about as a permanent outcast from the playoff system. Rather, the phrase used is "preserving the value." That could potentially mean that each major conference gets associated with a bowl game, and, in the case where its champion is #1 or #2, that bowl becomes one of the semi-finals. In such a situation, the Rose Bowl would be the game associated with the champion of both the Big 10 and Pac 12 (Sugar with SEC, Fiesta or Jerry Bowl with Big 12, Orange with ACC, etc).

This would "preserve the value" of the Rose Bowl in two ways. First, it would allow it to be a semi-final in years in which either the Big 10/Pac 12 champs were ranked #1 or #2 (indeed, it would boost its value by increasing the possibility that it would host a semi-final). Second, it would allow it to maintain the traditional Big 10/Pac 12 matchup in years in which this didn't occur. 

Now this, of course, would cement the Big 10 into a situation where its "home" bowl was 2300 miles away from the closest member school, but it would preserve that relationship and the value of the Rose Bowl, which does seem to be paramount for Delany and the ADs.


May 17th, 2012 at 12:08 PM ^

So, basically USC, LSU, Miami, and UCLA are not subject to neutral site conditions and the B1G's preferred destination is on the other side of the country. This new system is shaping up into the worst 4-team playoff for both fans and the B1G.


May 17th, 2012 at 1:34 PM ^

and while you and i understand these locations to be "home games" they are understood as neutral sites by the organizers since they offer revenue streams outside of what the universities' facilities would - open advertising, ticket sales, venue naming rights, etc. we know that the super dome would be filled with LSU fans, the organizers know that the super dome would be filled with ticket buyers, which is their primary concern.


May 17th, 2012 at 12:17 PM ^

I'm as traditional as it comes to Michigan football (uniforms, etc.) but someone please remind me why the Rose Bowl is relevant anymore.  I loved making the trip in 1997-98 to see Michigan beat Washington State but these are different times.  Other than money, do people really need to care about the Rose Bowl in this day and age of the BCS and now playoffs?



May 17th, 2012 at 12:44 PM ^

The players like travelling to (presumably warm-weather) bowls, and DB wants to give them that.  I have a hard time thinking of that as his only reason, since we are (AFIAK) only talking about a semi-final being played in the midwest, which would still leave the chance to go to a warm-weather site for the championship (or any non-playoff warm-weather bowl).  Also, Jim Delaney & co. may well be maneuvering to ensure that the top four teams don't include two SEC teams every year, and you can argue that that would be worth it (though I disagree), but I have a hard time believing that they care that much about the Rose Bowl in particular.  The reason I think this is that there is no reason for Nebaska to have any loyalty to the Rose Bowl, yet they're on board too.  The answer may just be that the Rose Bowl is a warm-weather bowl (and maybe a site that pleased the Pact 12) and that the Big Ten gave in on the site of the games to win support for a proposal that would keep the four playoff teams from being based on a poll. 


May 17th, 2012 at 12:52 PM ^

You make a lot of sense.  The funniest thing is that the Rose Bowl is NOT really a "warm weather" bowl.  For you all that have been, its cold as sh-t in the morning there (for those that like to go to the Rose Bowl Parade) and it gets cold again when the sun goes down.  It is basically the equivalent of a home game in late September.  Its definitely nicer than Michigan in January but its not like its playing in Hawaii like they make it out to be.

I just googled "why does the big ten care about the rose bowl" and came up with this interesting article from CornNation.com:  http://www.cornnation.com/2012/5/2/2994163/how-much-longer-can-the-big-tens-rose-bowl-obsession-last




May 17th, 2012 at 2:53 PM ^

Of course.  Normally I would only read things that agree with me or upvote me but they are so few and far between that I have to read everything.  Plus, Brian would get mad if I approached my moderating duties like I do my professional duties.



May 17th, 2012 at 12:23 PM ^

One of the ironies behind all this is that David Brandon recently said that one of the objectives behind the Athletic Department's master plan to spend $250M over the next seven to ten years is to enable UM's non-revenue sports to be able to host conference and national tournaments.   See http://annarbor.com/sports/michigan-to-spend-250-million-to-upgrade-facilities-for-non-revenue-sports/[email protected]

Michigan has just spent $300M over these recent years on massive upgrades to the football stadium and in building a state of the art practice facility  with plans to spend another $9M to renovate and expand Schembechler Hall.  But due to the Rose Bowl Uber Alles mentatlity in the Big Ten or because the conference felt it had to use the idea of semi-final games at home sites as a bargaining chip in order to get confrence champions autobids into a four-team playoff, UM will not be able  to use any of it for post-season play.  That strikes me as absolutely insane.

Michigan isn't the only Big Ten program that's had major renovations in recent years to its stadium (or in the case of Minnesota, built a brand new stadium).

Minnesota - Spent $288.5M to build TCF Bank Stadium that opened in 2009

Ohio State - Refurbished Ohio Stadium in 2001 for $194M

Nebraska - Undergoing $56M expansion/renovation to stadium for next season

Penn State - Had major renovation in 2001 to make it second largest stadium in country at the cost of $93M

Wiscosin - Recently started renovation project at Camp Randall Stadium for $76.8M.  The renovations that was completed about ten years ago cost $83.7M.

I haven't listed all the Big Ten schools, but the six mentioned above have spent over a billion dollars on their football stadiums over the last decade.  A more comprehensive list would probably push that final sum to around $1.5B or so.  Does anyone not see something wrong with this picture?  

The other thing that I find rather head scratching about the Big Ten is that while they're evidentally conceding on the idea of having semi-final games at campus sites as a concession to the warm weather schools, they're also putting forward the idea of bidding out the championship game itself.  In an ESPN article, the cities mentioned are Detroit, Minneapolis, Boston and New York.  The first two cities have domed stadiums, but the last two are definitely outdoors (Gillette Stadium, The Meadowlands).  How does the B10 expect to sell the idea of playing the college football championship game in New England or NYC or even Chicago (Soldier Field) in early January when it can't even get them to agree to the possibility (if the B10 team is rated #1 or #2 in the country) of having the semi-final games at campus sites?  Does that make sense to anyone here?








May 17th, 2012 at 12:34 PM ^

To me there is nothing better than the idea of the B1G hosting a camp "up North".  I would trade every aspect of the Rose Bowl for this.  I'm extremely disappointed by these proceedings and am just a bit tired of the B1G being so damn L1ttle.  Now, if we could emulate college basketball's ACC/B1G challenge with the SEC I would be slightly satiated.  Slightly.


Nothing trumps having LSU (insert fair weather SEC team) play UM in A2 in December or January.


May 17th, 2012 at 12:44 PM ^

Memo to Dr. Tom: The bowl system's lack of providing meaning for the paying and viewing public is already destroying the bowl system. Nice of you guys to try to inject some life into the dying carcas though. Too bad it is at the expense of the rightful recipients of that money: the division 1 athletic programs barely making ends meet.   Enjoy the $20,000 golf outings down in Tempe or Orlando with what would otherwise be your athletic department's money.   

I hope you sleep well at night knowing the reality of this system you all defend so strongly.


May 17th, 2012 at 12:59 PM ^

Maybe I missed something but what happens if USC  and Michigan finish # 1 and # 2 in the proposed playoff format?  USC would have home field at the Rose Bowl.  Where would Michigan play as the next highest seed?  Would they have their choice of BCS locations (Miami, New Orleans, Glendale)?


The FannMan

May 17th, 2012 at 1:16 PM ^

Back in the pre-BCS era, I used to wonder why DI didn't have playoffs and a "true" national champion.  Having seen the BCS bumble and falter, and the evolution of whatever the heck this new system is going to be, I just want to go back to the "old days." 


Edward Khil

May 17th, 2012 at 1:26 PM ^

The PAC12 should not play in the Rose or the Fiesta.  The SEC should not play in the Orange or the Sugar.  The Big12 should not play in the Sugar or the Fiesta.  Everyone should be required to travel as far as possible.

I don't see any way to even things up for the MNC game, though...


May 17th, 2012 at 1:46 PM ^

and the old system was better, which wasn't really a system, but had a kind of logic. The different conferences had their bowls, the matchups were usually excellent, yes, in sunny spots, which matters in January, and sometimes you got an undisputed national champion and sometimes you didn't. What's the problem that this is solving?

The circus around this issue is indicative of the funny-if-it-wasn't-so-pathetic national capacity to get a.) exercised over trivia and b.) to delude itself that some new supremely logical system will solve everything, and c.) to use any excuse to maintain a continuously hyper-contentious environment.. It's like a bunch of puppies with new teeth tearing at anything that comes along. It's ironic that fans of a team that has an inside track on this excellent game are as eager as anyone to rip it down, for the occasional opportunity Michigan might have to play for a national championship.


May 17th, 2012 at 2:16 PM ^

Tradition is all well and good. So are The Rose Bowl and Pasadena generally. But logic and practicality dictate that the B10 should be happy to break free of the Rose Bowl relationship.

The Rose Bowl is typically a nightmare for B10 teams. P10 teams almost always have an advantage, in part because they're playing at or near home, and therefore have far more fans at the game. Even when M played WSU -- a game I attended -- I was shocked to see more WSU fans than M fans.

Plus, the P10 teams are usually superior anyway. Since the early 70s, Michigan is 4-11 in Pasadena; the B10 has won precisely one Rose Bowl this century. Instead of routinely getting slaughtered by USC, in the Trojans' hometown, I'd rather take my chances at a neutral-site game against pretty much any other team.



May 17th, 2012 at 2:40 PM ^

A four team playoff at the end of the regular season at the home field of the higher seed and then a normal bowl season like we have now seems too easy to me.

matty blue

May 17th, 2012 at 4:02 PM ^

i'm honestly not a playoff guy.  if it happens, great, but if not i'll probably be okay.  seriously.  i rarely even read the calls to abolish the bowl system in order to create some sort of supposedly equitable playoff system.  they're just going to screw that one up, too.

but.  if you going to DO it, have some balls and do it RIGHT, for fuck's sake.  cripes.


May 17th, 2012 at 6:21 PM ^

There is one way to make this a little fairer to B1G teams, which will always have to travel 1000s of miles to get to their "home" site Rose Bowl:  Stipulate that the B1G will never have to play a Pac 12 team when the B1G is the Rose Bowl host team.

If the B1G is #1 and the Pac 12 is #4, the Pac 12 switches sites with the #3 team.  If the B1g is #2 and the Pac 12 is #3, the Pac 12 switches sites with the #4 team.

This is a simple solution that will not have to happen very often.

While this won't be a true home-field advantage for the B1G, it won't be the big home field disadvantage that the Rose Bowl is now.

I don't mind Michigan playing LSU in a Rose Bowl playoff.  What I mind is Michigan playing USC in a Rose Bowl playoff when we are supposed to be the "home" team.

Ed Shuttlesworth

May 17th, 2012 at 6:51 PM ^

How many Michgan fans would travel to the Rose Bowl and then, say, Miami a week later -- the Miami game on spec with a week to prepare and make arrangements? 

All during the holiday season when people travel for family and non-football purposes. 

The expense of the plane ticket to Miami purchased five or six days in advance is itself a big deterrent.

This isn't being properly thought out and is heading for disaster.


May 17th, 2012 at 8:08 PM ^

I'm still not sure why a playoff is necessary. I guess I'm in an extreme minority but I couldn't care less if, at the end of each season, we're not quite sure who the #1 team in the country is. It just isn't that important to me.