Even when college football gets it right, they're wrong
Jun 27, 2012
The Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, became the most overused, bad joke in sports starting in 1998. From the time Tennessee defeated Florida State - remember when they were relevant? - all the way through Alabama's rematch victory over LSU in last year's title game, the system has been ridiculed, changed on a whim, debated in congress and threatened with legal action.
It was even called a cartel by the folks at Yahoo! Sports, who put out the incredibly thorough and popular "Death to the BCS" a few years ago which exposed much of the fraud, or at the very least questionable decisions, the men in charge approved. Cartel's are more often associated with drug rings, like Colombia's Medellin Cartel. Only to some, the BCS is worse! While trafficking drugs is a choice, college football is a birthright, and how dare you force us to abide by a system that we pretend to not understand and try to prevent two SEC teams from playing for the title every year.
So, now that we've got what amounts to a playoff, and one that does minimal - if any - damage to the regular season and the bowl system, why can't everyone be happy?
Because we're talking about college football.
College football fans are never happy. They're like Wolfpack fans, or Red Sox fans, or Knicks fans. They're never happy. Well, that's not entirely accurate, Knicks fans are more delusional than impossible to fully satisfy. But, State and Sox fans each relish wallowing in their own misery.
No matter which side you were on, college football did you a solid yesterday and if you fail to realize it, that's a "you" problem.
I've always been a supporter of the BCS theory. The sport of college football survived and thrived for decades using an admittedly imperfect regular season followed by a largely ceremonial holiday bowl system that gave us a mythical national champion. For most of those decades, winning the "national" championship took a back seat to winning your conference championship. Winning the Big Ten, regardless of how many teams were in the league at the time, was the primary goal. If the chips fell in line to be crowned the national champ, great. If they didn't, well, we still beat Michigan.
However, almost since its inception, I've been arguing that the practice of the BCS and the theory of the BCS have never been quite in line. There were always two glaring mistakes that the system could not justify. One, they tried to rectify, even if they went in the wrong direction. The other, they made exactly zero attempt to fix -- until today.
For 14 years, and for the final two of the Bowl Championship Series - yes, you're going to have to wait two more seasons before you can start getting angry at a new set of perceived problems - the system had no provisions for three major conference unbeaten teams. The 2004 season gave us Southern Cal, Oklahoma and Auburn, champions of the Pac 10, Big 12 and SEC, as 12-0 options for a title game. However, no one had ever been able to come up with a formula that would allow three teams to play in one game -- and all we had was the one game. I don't care if it hasn't happened again, once was enough. You can't tell the power conference schools that if you win all your games you'll get to play for the championship, then not have that be the case at the end of the season because of the way the system works. I don't feel bad for 1-loss teams, they lost. I don't feel bad for teams from outside the power conferences, because I'm sorry, I view them differently. Argue with me about that if you like. But, you can't ever have an undefeated champion from one of the power leagues NOT in a the title game because there aren't enough sidelines.
The second problem, the method of selecting the two teams, was a work in progress the likes of which NASCAR found incomprehensible. Not that it was too complicated, it never was, in spite of the fact that coaches liked to play dumb because it helped to play to their base when it was thought (usually by their own fans) that they got the short of end of the system's stick. The coaches didn't have to understand the formula, they only had to play a good schedule and win as many games as possible against it.
How flippin' hard is that to understand, coach?
But, the constant adjustments, removing data from the computer programs - ignoring the fact that in a short season, MORE, not LESS, data was required - taking away the strength of schedule component, and finally giving essentially all the power to the incredibly flawed and biased opinion polls actually made the system worse, not better.
So, while there are myriad issues facing college football's national championship playoff, from when to play the games, to where to play the games, to how to divide the enormous sums of money these games will generate, the only elements that had to be done correctly were who plays and how do we decide who plays. Everything else was frosting.
That brings us back to how the college football fans just can't be totally happy.
If you're in the "we need a playoff" camp, this probably doesn't fully meet your idea of a playoff because four teams isn't a playoff, it's a weekend. Seriously, what's a playoff if everyone involved is, at worst, a semi-finalist? But, you weren't going to get one anyway. Unless you haven't been paying attention, the presidents, commissioners and especially the bowl partners, aren't interested in creating a full-blown tournament. And, four teams is enough, anyway. You can go back and look at the numbers after the fact all you want, but I can't recall a single year when someone honestly felt that a team that was thought to be ranked No. 5 deserved a shot at playing for the title. Heck, in many years the 3rd ranked team is questionable. And, we have to remember that the only point of this new system is to get closer to crowning a champion. It's not about being fair, it's not about spreading the wealth and it isn't about giving the little guy a chance. This is about making sure that the system doesn't screw unbeaten Texas (ha ha ha, I know, funny) out of a chance at a national championship because Notre Dame and Florida State both finished the year undefeated (the jokes just keep coming, huh?) and were somehow ranked higher than the Longhorns. That's all this is supposed to solve.
Oh, and it's supposed to make oodles of money. What's more American than fat cats making huge bucks off cheap labor? That's what college football is all about. Only in this billion-dollar industry, we insource our sweatshop jobs.
If you're like me, a guy who thought that the status quo was fine, with a few minor selection tweaks - okay, a complete overhaul - then rejoice. It only adds one more game to the system, creates two additional games with epic meaning, preserves the bowl system for players (note I didn't say bowl committees and schools, heck with them), and still renders the regular season the most important in all of sports.
On top of that, we get a selection committee, of anywhere from 12 to 15 people, who will be charged with selecting and seeding the four teams. I can't tell you how much better that is than coaches (inherently biased) and media members (generally speaking) telling us which two teams are the best. While I know there will be some who will naturally doubt the veracity of the committee, why don't we wait until that body does its work and answers its questions before we scream about it favoring one conference or another. Plus, the elimination of the opinion polls as two-thirds of the formula will eliminate the idea that teams that start lower in the pecking order have to do more to achieve their goals than those at the top. Talk about unfair. Now, the polls, and the computer rankings, and the geography and the conference affiliation (which changes like my teenage son headed to the mall with his friends, albeit with less cheap cologne) are only "factors" in the entire equation. That's progress, people.
The truth is that the teams that have been playing for the national championship over the last 60 or 70 years aren't likely to dramatically change no matter what system you employ. Teams that have winning as part of their culture are going to continue to win regardless of the rules of the game. The salary cap in football hasn't stopped the Steelers or Patriots from competing for and winning Super Bowls, has it?
Over the decades, college football has always thrived on debate. Best player, best team, best conference, etc., have always driven the sport's popularity. This new system doesn't change that, it gives us the ultimate safety net against exclusion, incorporates the word "playoff" and still allows college football fans to whine and moan about their school getting left out.
With a tip of the hat to one of the best broadcasters and people I know, Carolina Hurricanes television voice John Forslund; That's college football, baby!
Most Recent Comments
RE: Even when college football gets it right, they're wrongThe issues with having coaches involved in the polls and, therefore, being partially responsible for choosing those teams that play for the national championship are obvious. The media, with their wildly varying criteria (which seem to change from year to year) are also not serious enough about their responsibility. The selection committee process, while certainly open to simply setting up big money games by choosing iffy teams as the #4 seed (#4 clearly being the most important job the committee will have), is the best way to handle things. Put a limited number of people into a room together and allow them to talk things out, agree on criteria, etc. By and large, it should work fine.
RE: Even when college football gets it right, they're wrong
What a clown Adam Gold..... I'm sure you have a tough time getting out of bed every morning knowing you're a guppy in a small market. I see a Taco Bell in your future.- Posted by ptrrrk1
Very Nice... Sad to know that this is the best we can find for sports talk in this area. Have another Twinkie!!!!!
RE: Even when college football gets it right, they're wrongWhat a clown Adam Gold..... I'm sure you have a tough time getting out of bed every morning knowing you're a guppy in a small market. I see a Taco Bell in your future.
RE: Even when college football gets it right, they're wrongWhy are State, UNC, Duke, and Wake Forest fans even care? Because this will never effect you!!!
RE: Even when college football gets it right, they're wrongImagine a Maryland fan calling State fans "some of the worst".
Ever been to a game at College Park and noticed the fan behavior there?
Get real, folks.