I know this may be asking for a lot but I’m going to do it anyway. Could we PLEASE have a serious, rational, logical discussion on whether or not there should be some kind of playoff in Division I-A football?
This much is clear: We are sure as hell not going to get that kind of discussion out of Congress.
I was out of town last Friday but I monitored the Congressional hearings on the BCS. What I expected were members of Congress asking thoughtful, probing but tough questions in order increase their understanding of the BCS. Challenging the current structure with hard-edged questioning is what these hearings were intended to do. I get that. I accept that. That is what should happen.
As it turned out, my expectations for the hearings were way too high.
Instead of a serious discussion about post-season college football, what we got was Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) auditioning for Jay Leno’s job.
“This is really the Bowl Exhibition System,” he said. “Or it should just drop the ‘C.’ Call it the BS System.”
Insert rim shot here. Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Barton will be appearing at the Foggy Bottom Lounge all week with a matinee show on Wednesday. Don’t forget to tip your waiters and drive home safely.
Or this one: “It’s (the BCS) is like communism. You can’t fix it. It’s not fixable. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to try a new model.”
Man that had us rolling in the aisles.
Whether or not you want a college football playoff, and a lot of good people are for it, do you want it so badly that college football will be forced to do it at the point of a legislative gun? And do you want somebody like Joe Barton, the King of Comedy, holding that gun?
Here are some facts that the honorable Mr. Barton from the great state of Texas did not take into account before his Comedy Central audition last Friday:
Only a few Division I-A presidents are backing the idea an eight-team playoff. That could change but right now that is simply a fact. Are you telling me that Congress is going to mandate that the CEOs of major educational institutions in this country are going to be forced to take part in a process that they oppose on academic and philosophical grounds? Are you telling me that this will happen simply because Congress wants to satisfy a bunch of college football fans? Colleges and universities aren’t General Motors—at least not yet.
Any time the government forces its way into the private sector there are going to be unintended consequences. Even its critics have to admit that from a pure business standpoint the BCS worked and drove up the value of post-season football because it was market driven. In the 11 years of the BCS the biggest bowls have gone from paying $5 million per team to over $18 million per team, per year. Yes, only six of the 11 Division I-A conferences got automatic bids because that is what the market place dictated. Yes, the BCS had to be pressed into giving greater access to the non-BCS conferences. They did that by creating another game and guaranteeing a spot for any Coalition team that finishes in the Top 12. In a short amount of time the Coalition conferences have gone from zero BCS dollars to over $18 million each year when a team qualifies. The Coalition has gotten that total four of the past five years.
If you artificially change the market place out of a sense of “fairness,” whatever that term means, then the value of the product will be reduced. Some people are fine with that because they want what they want and damn the consequences. They have the luxury of feeling that way because they don’t have to LIVE with the consequences. If you are trying to balance a $60 million athletics budget, you look at life a little differently.
I don’t buy the idea that a playoff would put all of the bowls out of business. I do believe there would be fewer sponsorship dollars available for those bowls if there were an eight-team playoff. That just makes common sense because a lot of businesses would want their sponsorship dollars in the playoff. So you know some bowls would fall along the way.
Again, my beef is not with the potential results, but with the process. I am in favor of a four-team playoff because it is the next logical step in the evolution of post-season football. Until 1992 there was no guarantee that No. 1 and No. 2, regardless of how they were determined, would even play. Georgia Tech won a UPI national championship in 1990 by playing No. 19 Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl. In 1984 BYU won a national championship by beating 6-5 Michigan 24-17 in the Holiday Bowl. So the current system, while flawed, is light years better than what we had.
A four-team playoff would be the least disruptive and provide college football fans with a more definitive national championship game. I also favor further expanding access to the five Coalition conferences. Each of the six original conferences is limited to two teams in the BCS. Let’s make it the same for the Coalition, which now is limited to just one team. If the Coalition gets two teams in the final Top 10 of the BCS Standings, which it had last season, both get in.
Yeah, the TV boys are going to howl and threaten to pay less money if they have to take two Coalition teams because the ratings numbers between 10-2 Ohio State and 12-0 Utah aren’t even close. They’ll just have to bite the bullet on that one and they will because the other games still have such value. It’s a part of doing business.
If a four-team playoff happens down the road I want it to be because the presidents meet with their commissioners and athletics directors and collectively decide that it is best for college football and the institutions they represent. I don’t want to see it happen because of threats by the Joe Bartons of the world.
Because if it’s done by force it is not going to work.