It is college bowl time and there is a lot of talk about the BCS, college football and traditionalists vs. those who want a playoff system of some kind. The theory is very simple and not new. It has worked for years and revolutionized renewed interest in college basketball – both for “recreational oddsmakers” and for the most casual fans. The institute of higher learning known as “bracketology” would galvinize the issues of televsion networks, schools, fans, students and could still pay respect to the tradition of the now inflated and outdated college bowl system. Currently there are THREE DOZEN meaningless consolation bowl games held between December and January. Despite 36 different College Bowl Games, writers, coaches and the BCS Group basically “assign” one game to pit an arbitrary #1 vs. #2. This they claim is the most effective method of crowning what is at best a nebulous “national champion.” These same staunch supporters of “The Bowl System” claim that it is steeped in tradition, honors the largest number of academic institutions and that it makes NCAA Division I football one 0f the most distinctive entities across Americana.
It’s a tournament people! Take your BCS rankings, your existing 36 bowl games with all of the current bowl sites and let’s create a postseason tournament. NCAA heal thyself. As it worked in college basketball, so it can be adapted to college football. Verily, yes it could be created quickly, organized easily and as we stand back to marvel at our work, we will see that indeed it is good. Go forth and prosper spreading the good word to all who have ears to hear or eyes to see – or wallets to fill!
A college football postseason tournament. Damn straight! Solves so many problems. No split champions, no shared trophies and no question of who wins! Sixteen teams? 32 teams? Take as many or as few as you like. OK so you take those 36 bowl game (72 teams) and rank current sites in terms of longevity (Rose Bowl is #1, Orange Bowl #2, Cotton Bowl #3, Sugar Bowl, etc). Arrange a ranking system for all NCAA football programs in Division I across the country – accounting for stregnth of schedule, opponents faced, etc. as the BCS already does. Take this expanded BCS ranking system and now apply it to a committee – much as the NCAA has done in basketball. What do you have? BCS meets its marriage made in heaven – a legitimate postseason tournament!
Seed the teams properly, allowing first-round byes for, say… the top 10 teams. Divide into quarters/conferences making potentially four #1 seeds just like in basketball. Remaining teams below top 20 playoff in first week. Say for argument’s sake it is 64 teams total [can be any number they choose]. Take out Top 20, leaving 44 teams to playoff. 22 games over the course of the first week after regular season ends. Take those teams and arrange second round bracket games which now include Top 20.
Assumedly the Top 20 teams will outplay the lesser team in Round 2 with some exceptions and most of the seedings will favor those teams. Even still, part of the fun is that smaller schools do have a legitimate fighting chance. Tournament culminates in final week with quarterfinals @ Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl sites hosting final games for each bracket – creating a “Final Four” with one winner from each site. What has been stopping this for so many years? Money? Sure! Stubbornness? Absolutely.
Here are the Five Major Issues:
1. University Presidents all over Division I NCAA College Football have told us they have no interest in changing the Traditional Bowl System. They claim that it is to protect the students, allowing them time to prepare for and take final exams in December OR they claim it reduces the amount of cross-country travel (which would cut into class time, study time, etc.). NCAA Basketball has one of the most successful franchises in sports with their Final Four (64 team) postseason playoff structure. NCAA Hockey used the Frozen Four Tournament. NCAA Baseball has the College World Series Tournament. Even NCAA Lacrosse encourages a postseason tournament but NCAA football refuses for reasons above. Why?
REALITY: When it all comes down to it, schools would rather divide 100% of Bowl game profits between two schools than share a fraction of revenue from multi-billion dollar playoff tournaments with all teams (be it 16, 32 or all Division I schools). Greed is Good. Thanks, ya money mongering Jackaninnies!
2. Bowl System has worked for a long time… tradition of profit, prestige, profit, tradition and profit… Historically, National Champions were chosen prior to the handful of Bowl games (Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl) and those games were a simple exhibition. Those four Bowl games were supposed to draw interest and tourism to predetermined locales at a time when people generally weren’t traveling. Translation = generating revenue for Miami, FL, Pasadena, CA, Dallas, TX and New Orleans, LA through travel, tourism, hospitality, etc.
REALITY: Following such storied tradition, we now have 36 corporate-sponsored meaningless bowl games. Such “granddaddies” as the Nokia Sugar Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl have now been joined by such noble entities as the “Poinsettia Bowl“, the ”Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl“, the “Chik-Fil-A Bowl“, the “Outback Bowl“, the “GoDaddy.com Bowl” and of course the venerable “Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.” No plans yet for “Viagra Bowl,” “Planters Mixed Nuts Bowl” or “Ty-D-Bowl…Bowl“… but give it time… (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPPBnciNAqI)
Ergo, if it is old and storied and tradition, it should NEVER change? Should Major League Baseball still be segregated? Should the NFL still be using leather helmets? Should the NHL go back to wooden sticks, wooden teeth and pond hockey? Horse hockey!
3.More Suspenseful Regular Season. Coaches and Athletic Directors tow the company line, claiming that lack of a playoff system means that every game counts. All 11 games for each and every school ensures sellouts on campus, at concession stands, in school bookstores and for Saturday tailgating parties. While that is all well and good and while I concede that Conference rivalries still matter under the traditional Bowl and/or BCS system (since 1998)… even this relatively reasonable answer is still “bilge water” at best!
REALITY: A 6-week college football tournament or 4-week football tournament culminating in Championships the first week of January would make use of the current timetable. More importantly, all of that TV revenue would be generated by playing pre-determined slate of games on weekends. Currently, there is a dead month of Heisman Awards and sitting around for a month waiting for bowl games and then a barrage of toothless, meaningless bowl games that most casual viewers completely ignore if not disregard as relevant in any way, shape or form. Fantastic!
4. Better Than Before… there was a time when Bowls were supposed to be regional (SEC played in Orange Bowl, PAC10/WAC played in Rose Bowl, etc.)… This argument suggests that the BCS System, while still flawed, is an improvement because it creates the possibility of a true national champion. Under the old rules, it was common that #1 school was playing in one Bowl game while #2 was in another and #3 in another. More often than not the opponents were based on regional rivalry as much as overall record, strength of schedule, etc.
REALITY: Build on previous improvements on an ongoing basis to reach the common goal. Didn’t the Founding Fathers allow for Constitutional Amendments because they knew they couldn’t cover all bases or predict everything? 26 Amendments in 234 years isn’t bad (average of about one amendment every 10 years) while we have discovered electricity, public services (light, sewage, internet connections, phone, warp engine and transporter technology). So was “Separate But Equal” an improvement over the first 100 years of US history? Did that mean that equal rights for all wasn’t an earmark of further improvement? We should have stuck with what was “better than before”? Be serious people!
5. US Supreme Court ruled on June 27, 1984 that Conferences or individual schools were permitted to pursue and negotiate their own television rights – not the NCAA. This not only reversed 45 years of broadcast practices but it spawned renewed interest from specialty cable networks like ESPN, ESPNU, Big Ten Network, Fox SportsNet, College Football Network, Versus, Comcast Sports, SEC Network, Turner Sports, Big 12 Network, etc. to encourage new revenue practices. Fast forward 25 years and we have 36 bowl games, or NINE TIMES the number of meaningless exhibition games all designed to encourage revenue, sponsorship, travel and tourism across the country.
REALITY: Football conferences are not willing to relinquish their revenue for their own TV contracts, nor would they permit the NCAA to return to negotiating the terms of any postseason tournaments or residual TV deals. When NCAA garners billions from CBS Sports and all of their advertisers, they distribute amongst all conferences and schools involved. Smaller piece of a larger and much sweeter pie is not as palatable to SEC, Big Ten, Pac10 as keeping the larger piece of their regional pie! BCS = Total unmitigated BS
FIX IT: Each current bowl site gets a final in that conference or bracket ensuring that the tournament has to go through all four sites (Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl) with important games involving potential national champions. Then you determine sites for true championship games or you can create buzz involving other sites – Las Vegas, Hawaii, a barge sailing on international waters, whatever. The result is a true, unquestionable, un-debatable NATIONAL CHAMPION.
Rating$$$$. Best part of all is that TV networks would have 3 weeks of solid tournament programming between Thanksgiving and Christmas - with the Final Four between New Years Eve and first week of January! ESPN would love it because they could do virtual wall to wall college football on ESPN, ESPNU and ESPN2! Schools would love it because these “bowl games” would suddenly have impact and meaning while retaining both sponsorship and profit!!!! Networks could buy whatever portion of the tournament they want to accommodate their programming Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Comcast Sports could put regional games in any market they want. College Football Networks could make sure they can carry network feed for their chosen conference teams and deliver proprietary local markets. Literally, EVERYBODY wins!
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org