Why New Year’s Day needs to matter again

New York–One of the things we lost with the advent of the BCS in 1998 was the magical quality about New Year’s Day for the college football fan. Before the BCS scattered the big games over several days, New Year’s Day was when everything got decided.

You would get up in the morning (some of us got up slower than others), watch a little of the parades to make your mother happy, and then settle in for a day and night full of football where multiple games could, and often did,  have a bearing on the eventual national champion.

Sure the system was flawed because No. 1 and No. 2 rarely met in a bowl game because of conference tie-ins. And when New Year’s Day was over there could be multiple teams with a claim on the national championship. But every now and then you got a day like Jan. 2, 1984 (Jan. 1 fell on a Sunday that year).

When we woke up that morning here were the Top Five in the Associated Press poll:

1. Nebraska

2. Texas

3. Auburn

4. Illinois

5. Miami

Here is how the day unfolded:

**–In the afternoon Georgia got a late turnover and John Lastinger scored the winning touchdown with 3:22 left to upset  No. 2 Texas 10-9. Texas was eliminated.

**–No. 3 Auburn got three field goals from Al Del Greco, the last one with 27 seconds left, to beat Michigan 9-7. Auburn felt like it was in the hunt for the national championship if No. 1 Nebraska lost that night in the Orange Bowl.

**–No. 4 Illinois just didn’t show up and got pounded by UCLA 45-9 in the Rose Bowl.

**–The day was capped off by the Orange Bowl, where Nebraska’s failed attempt at a two-point conversion gave No. 5 Miami the  historic 31-30 win.

The next day the voters in the two major polls elevated Miami from No. 5  to No. 1. Auburn finished No. 2 and was devastated.

The point is that on that day four different bowls (Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange) all had a say in who the national champion would eventually be.

In many ways it was better than what we have now, which is that everything is thrown into one game and the rest of the games are for entertainment purposes only.

Do I want to go back to that system? Nope. I want a four-team playoff where the semifinals are played on New Year’s Day. I believe the excitement created by two national semifinals on Jan. 1 would be the equivalent of the NFL’s conference championship Sunday. It would put the pop back into New Year’s Day, which is something I think the sport really needs.

Just for fun, here is what New Year’s Day would look like under a four-team playoff:

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 4 Stanford

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 TCU

The winners would advance to the national championship game in the Fiesta Bowl, still on Jan. 10.

Wisconsin, at No. 5, would have the biggest gripe. But in any system somebody will have a gripe.

Just something to think about. Here is our Fearless Friday Forecast, the last for 2010:

1. Georgia vs. UCF (Liberty Bowl): A.J. Green goes out with a huge game but this will be a tough one for the Bulldogs. UCF is well coached by George O’Leary. Georgia 24, UCF 21.

2. South Carolina vs. Florida State (Chick-fil-A Bowl): Alshon Jeffrey and Stephen Garcia hook up for at least two big touchdown plays. South Carolina 31, Florida State 20.

3. Miami vs. Notre Dame (Sun Bowl): Miami has a interim coach and its players have gone through a lot of drama this year. The Hurricanes have more athletes but Notre Dame will find a way to win with defense. Notre Dame 28, Miami 21.

4. Clemson vs. South Florida (Meinke Car Care): A rested Kyle Parker finds his passing touch for Clemson while a talented defense keeps the Bulls in check. Clemson 27, South Florida 20.

5. Texas Tech vs. Northwestern (Ticket City): Tommy Tuberville already had a bad defense at Texas Tech. Then he fired his defensive coordinator, James Willis. Don’t think the Red Raiders can slow Northwestern down. Northwestern 34, Texas Tech 31.

6. Florida vs. Penn State (Outback Bowl): Gators win for a final time for Urban Meyer. Florida 24, Penn State 17.

7. Alabama vs. Michigan State (Capital One Bowl): Bama pounds the ball with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Alabama 24, Michigan State 10.

8. Mississippi State vs. Michigan (Gator Bowl): Michigan has the No. 108 defense in the nation. Rich Rodriguez coaches his last game for the Wolverines. Mississippi State 38, Michigan 31.

9. Wisconsin vs. TCU (Rose): TCU is fast and talented but Wisconsin is big and talented and strong. Badgers wear the Horned Frogs down in Pasadena. Wisconsin 27, TCU 17.

10. Oklahoma vs.  Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl): Oklahoma has struggled in this game in the past (losses to Boise State and West Virginia) but quarterback Landry Jones has a hot hand and way too many talented players around him. Oklahoma 34, Connecticut 17.

I’m back in New York today working for CBS and its coverage of the Sun Bowl. We’ll be providing scores and highlights throughout the day starting at 2 p.m. Please come visit if you can.

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162 comments Add your comment

juice sourcer

January 2nd, 2011
4:58 pm

I agree with you 1000% Tony. It makes so much sense and is so easy to do. Make it happen. I watched a little of the Florida/Penn State game only because my dad went to Penn St and I had nothing to do. I watched nothing else the rest of the day other than the end of the Rose Bowl because these games mean nothing.
The BCS has ruined New Years Day…can’t the suits that run the NCAA see how obvious this is.

SEC West vs Big Ten or anyone else

January 2nd, 2011
6:02 pm

After the showing on Saturday it looked like the Big Ten had already committed to the Basketball season. NONE of their teams even looked competitive except Penn. St. who got beat by the 6th best team in the entire league. The big story here is how pitiful their big boys looked in games against teams who beat each other up all year in the SEC and still had the ability to spank the powerhouses in the B10 conference. Once Arkansas lays the wood to Ohio St this week the crying and excuse making will continue.

There is the SEC West, The SEC East, then all the pretenders.


January 2nd, 2011
6:36 pm

You missed alot of games BArnhardt! What makes you credible to make these predictions?

The Ole Ball Coach

January 2nd, 2011
8:54 pm


January 3rd, 2011
12:04 am

I was at that Cotton Bowl, and cursed Dooley for punting with about two minutes to go. .. until Texas fumbled the punt.
This New Years Day I didn’t even watch a game. Who really cares who finishes # 7?


January 3rd, 2011
12:18 am

Hey dawgs, I tried to pull for my SEC bretheren but I ended up laughing for 4 hours…thanks!

Nice chop blocking BTW


January 3rd, 2011
6:16 am

Cam be wanting him and cecil some more money—when do that next check arrive?

Walker, Texas Ranger

January 3rd, 2011
8:39 am

Tony, totally agree. New Years Day has lost all it’s luster for me. To top it off, they put 4 games on at the same time. If no playoff, then I prefer the bowl system over BCS. Nice Picks by the way.

GT Fan ...

January 3rd, 2011
11:11 am

Nice picks there Mr. CFB … yikes, those were rough!

Yeah, I’ve been saying if for a few years now … the BCS (and bowls) aren’t about the players, schools, alumni & fans. It’s all about TV $$ for the networks. Once Jan 1 has passed, most working Americans are back to the grind and are unable to attend their team’s bowl game should it fall after this date. And notice how the BIG bowls are on WEEK nights, not weekends … when TV has the captive audience!! BS I say. Bring back the real Januaury 1st!

Scott Galloway

January 3rd, 2011
2:53 pm

Tony you are right about New Year’s Day it isn’t what it used to be. If you read the book, “It’s Possible! Realignment and Playoffs – College Football’s Opportunity,” you will see a plan that has four games played on January 1st. Each game is a quarterfinal of a championship playoff.

Do you rely on the “good ol’ boy” ranking system to get your playoff teams? It doesn’t have to be that way! Read the book!



January 4th, 2011
10:54 am

Good article. I agree, New Years should matter again. It used to be one of the best days of the year for sports. The fans don’t care about bowl games once the holidays are over. The students are back in school as well. All you have to do is look at all the empty seats for the Orange Bowl. The Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Fiesta Bowl will have empty seats as well, they all still have tickets for sale. Plus, who wants to stay up until midnight 4 nights in a row when you have to work the next day

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