While there is no actual data to back this statement, I’m almost certain my three greatest sources of email relate to unclaimed winnings in the Irish lottery (“This is your final notice!”), male enhancement pills (“See the desire in her eyes!”) and the perfect college football playoff format (“I have no life, no friends, I live on Pop-Tarts and ramen noodles and have been working on this for 17 months!”).
So it comes as great relief that college football finally appears to be moving close to some form of a playoff, with even NCAA president Mark Emmert saying Thursday that he might support a four-team format. We will get a champion. I will get less email.
But I’m kind of old school in many ways. I believe college football is better with debate. It partially fuels the passions and traditions of the sport. What we don’t need is an eight- or 16-team playoff format, which is unworkable and would drive the bones of these kids into dust. We already have hypocritical university presidents who pound their fist on tables and claim they’re all about academics, then when the TV lights click off approve 12-game regular seasons and conference championship games to generate revenue (and not to build libraries).
“The season is very long, and I don’t know if you can do a whole lot more than what we’re doing now,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Friday. “I guess you can do the plus-one that they’re talking about. Keep it sane. But beyond that, you’d have to cut back on regular-season games.”
That’s not happening.
With that, I now unveil the perfect plan, not to be confused with all of the other plans.
Understand something: Bowl games largely have lost their appeal. Too many matchups are not appealing to even the fan bases involved in the game. One reason for that is the BCS’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup has rendered all other bowls meaningless. The under-40 crowd may not realize this, but New Year’s Day games used to be a treasure, not just because the Sugar, Rose, Orange, Cotton were great, but because the games actually meant something. Human polls determined the champion, so several teams in the major bowls could convince themselves, with a series of results, that they had a chance to finish No. 1.
This plan also restores the bowls’ tradition, gives them meaning, provides a title game and leaves worthy debate intact. So here goes:
• 1.) Drop the BCS into a dumpster. What other sports enterprise takes its biggest money-making venture and allows an outside company to run it?
• 2.) The NCAA creates a blue-ribbon panel of a dozen members, similar to basketball, who select at-large berths for the five major bowls (see below). All remaining teams are available for other bowls.
• 3.) We bring the Cotton Bowl, which has revenue-generating Cowboys Stadium, back into the equation, joining the Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta. If somebody considers five too many, dump the Fiesta. They bring little to the table anyway, other than corruption.
• 4.) The major bowls will have traditional conference tie-ins. SEC champion to the Sugar, ACC to the Orange, Big 12 to the Cotton, Pac-12 and Big Ten to the Rose. (The Fiesta can get two worthy at-large bids, since no other conference champion is worthy of an automatic bid.) Potentially, each of the five bowls will mean something because there’s no automatic 1 vs. 2 match-up. It effectively gives you “five semifinal” games (kinda, sorta). The often-heard proposal of having two of the current BCS bowls designated as semifinals would render the other three bowls meaningless.
• 5.) After the New Year’s bowls, the panel selects the two best teams for the championship game. Of course, arguments will ensue. So what? Each team will have had a chance to prove itself in the bowls. Picking four teams for semifinals would diminish the bowls and extend the season too long.
One last thing: If the two best teams come from the same conference, I’m OK with that. Most consider the NCAA basketball tournament the greatest thing going, and nobody complains when there are multiple teams from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten or Big 12 in the Final Four. So why should football be any different.
So there’s the perfect plan, which by the way would’ve concluded the same way as the BCS’s imperfect one: Alabama over LSU in the final.
By Jeff Schultz