Want A College Football Playoff? Read This
Personally, I don’t want a playoff. That’s just me. I recognize that I am in the minority, and I can live with that. But what drives me nuts is all the proposals that have no chance of working. Wetzel avoids the two most common mistakes:
— A four-team or eight-team playoff? This will never, ever happen. There are six BCS conferences, and there’s no way any of them are going to risk being left out of a playoff for a year or two. If you have an eight-team playoff, that’s six conference champions and two at-large teams. This year, either unbeaten TCU or unbeaten Boise State or one-loss Florida would be left out. That kind of defeats the purpose of a playoff, doesn’t it?
— Using existing bowl games for the tournament will never, ever work. Let’s say you’re an Oregon fan, and the Ducks have a first-round game in El Paso. Then a second-round game in New Orleans. Then a championship game in Miami. Think a lot of Duck fans are going to travel to all three games? And if they do, it will be a one- or two-day trip, which defeats the purpose from the bowl organizers’ perspective: Have people visit for five or six days and spend money.
— John Canzano, the great columnist for The Oregonian, suggested that the Pac-10 should unilaterally leave the BCS. Great idea, except that 1) The other conferences would say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out;” and 2) The Pac-10 and Big Ten tried this when the BCS first formed, and then quickly joined up.
Wetzel gets around these problems. He proposes a 16-team playoff with the champions of all 11 conferences — even the lousy ones — and five at-large teams. Then he proposes playing the first three rounds at the home of the higher-seeded team, with the championship at a neutral site.
Wetzel explains all of this in his column better than I can here, but he echoes a lot of the things I wrote a year ago. Or maybe I echoed him; I guess he devised this plan awhile back.
Anyway, one important thing to remember is that the NCAA doesn’t run the BCS, the power conferences do. The NCAA has no power to set up a playoff, unless it doesn’t want the SEC and the Big 12 and all the other relevant conferences to be a part of it. “Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 NCAA football champions: The East Carolina Pirates.” Um, that wouldn’t go over so well.
The other important thing to remember is that nothing is going to change until fans get so mad they boycott the sport. As Wetzel wrote: “People keep watching football on TV. Since ‘Bowl Week’ is ESPN’s highest rated of the year, don’t count on that changing.” And until that changes, all the teeth-gnashing in the world from the media and the fans is going to do nothing to bring about a playoff.