I didn’t think I’d see it, but here it is: A college football playoff!

These men look as if they'd just done something historic. They had. (AP photo)

These men look as if they'd just accomplished something historic. Which they had. (AP photo)

I’d given up. I’d gone from believing a college football playoff was inevitable to believing it was … the opposite of inevitable. The bowls were too powerful, I conceded. There was no belief among the movers and shakers that any moving and/or shaking was warranted. What we had was, give or take the occasional BCS tweak, all we’d ever get, and what we had was awful.

My surrender came in January 2008. The BCS had been more of a mess than usual — two-loss LSU wound up playing for (and winning) the national championship in a sport where every game was supposed to matter — and, bang on cue, the Georgia president Michael Adams went public with a plan that made sense: an eight-team playoff overseen by the NCAA.

I had some small part in this: I wrote the story for this newspaper that outlined Adams’ proposal and rationale. It appeared Jan. 8, hours after LSU had won the BCS title in New Orleans. I’d covered the game, and in the lobby of the Marriott the next morning I was approached by SEC officials and even some SEC-loving writers who were irate — irate, I tell you — over Adams’ gall. They questioned his timing and his motivation (LSU had bunny-hopped over Georgia in the final BCS standings), but mostly they were miffed because they thought: Why change what had, at least in their minds, just worked?

My thought, then as now: You call that working?

Let’s recall the date: Jan. 8, 2008 — roughly 4 1/2 years ago. Adams’ proposal died a quick death at the NCAA convention in Nashville the next week, and that, I figured, was that. If an insider like Adams could offer a reasoned alternative that gained no traction among his presidential peers, what chance was there?

Here, as reported in the AJC on Jan. 9, 2008, was Wisconsin chancellor John Wiley’s not-exactly-measured response to Adams: “Are you kidding me? Isn’t there anyone out there who cares more about the student-athletes than about the preferences of sportswriters? Playoffs are a sham/fiction, anyway. Look at the upset statistics. On any given day, there are probably dozens of teams that can beat any other team in the collection. What’s so special about winning once in a single matchup?”

So it is with equal parts surprise and satisfaction that I note: As of June 26, 2012, big-time college football has a playoff. It’s not the one Adams advocated — it’s only half as big, and the NCAA has no part in it — but it is a playoff. And not a sham/fiction. Cold reality.

I wish I could tell you what changed over those 4 1/2 years, but I honestly don’t know. To say the BCS kept getting worse was to ignore the obvious: The BCS was lousy from the start. Obviously the SEC’s dominance had something to do with it: With two teams from the same conference (guess which) playing for the 2011 national title, the marginalization of other leagues was complete. Surely in a four-team playoff, the Big Ten/Big 12/Pac-12/ACC had to think, there’ll be room for some of them … won’t there?

To say that conference commissioners were motivated more by the will of the people than by craven self-interest would be to disregard human nature. (Those same conference commissioners had gone decades ignoring the will of the people.) But the bowl system, which is the cash cow for all big-time conferences, had begun to buckle under its own weight. Only the BCS title game came to matter, which is a big deal when you note that 35 — yes, 35 — other postseason games exist.

Earlier this month, SEC commissioner Mike Slive told me, “We want to take back New Year’s.” And that’s what the playoff will do: The semifinals will be held on either Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, with the title tilt to come a week (or so) later.

Left unclear is … well, pretty much everything else. What will happen to the bowls that aren’t staging semifinals? Will the New Year’s Eve/Day schedule be big enough to accommodate non-playoff games? (The NIT doesn’t play its semifinals on the same day as the Final Four, does it?) Who’ll pick the four teams? How many of the four can come from one conference? How many league champions will be guaranteed playoff invites? Will a Boise State ever get a sniff?

But enough. I reserve my inalienable American right to gripe about process for another time. For now I’m content to be shocked and happy. (Yes, happy. Yes, me.) I thought the day would never come when I could type these words, but here they are:

We have a playoff.

By Mark Bradley

201 comments Add your comment

Rickster

June 27th, 2012
11:24 am

About @#$%^% time! :-)

Rickster

June 27th, 2012
11:27 am

And kudos to the NCAA for removing their craniums from their nether regions to give the fans (remember us?) what we’ve been asking for for years.

David C

June 27th, 2012
11:29 am

Still like to see the Guidelines that the commitee will have to follow when selecting 4 Teams for Playoff. 1st time you have a 5th or 6th Ranked Team jump 4th Ranked Team I think you will see outcry of Fans demanding 8 Team Playoff. Don’t understand why they can’t just keep the BCS Rankings and just add 2 more teams.

Speed Racer

June 27th, 2012
11:34 am

We know 8 teams will come so why didn’t they head it off at the pass and make a playoff with 6 conference champs and 2 at-large. Done.

GTanner

June 27th, 2012
11:39 am

I never thought I’d see it either. Man, it’s a good week. Football playoff and Hawks do something right. Amazing.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 27th, 2012
11:39 am

Great!

Now for the hard part: getting UGA or Tech good enough to play in it.

Ryan

June 27th, 2012
11:49 am

The next step is this. 4 super conferences. Then the 8 team playoff. The winners of that conference will get a bid along with 4 at large. What will be messed up is when teams play in their conf champ game and then get matched up in the playoff a week or two later.

Person

June 27th, 2012
11:49 am

Love the institution of a playoff, but now we get to listen to everyone argue about who finished #’s 4 & 5 in the country. I can hear it now…. “How come this one-loss SEC team finished 4th and Boise St was undefeated but finished 5th?” Same arguments, different positions in the polls.

keepinitreal

June 27th, 2012
11:50 am

“Now for the hard part: getting UGA or Tech good enough to play in it.”

UGA would have qualified in ‘02 and ‘07, I believe.

Mark Bradley

June 27th, 2012
11:50 am

Georgia was third in the final BCS standings in 2002; it was fifth in 2007. For what that’s worth.

Silly Bloggers

June 27th, 2012
11:51 am

David C, couldn’t agree more. Take the 6 BCS conference champions with 2 at-large teams with the only caveat that if the conference champ does not finish in the Top 12, their playoff spot is forfeit and you add a third at-large team.

wes

June 27th, 2012
11:54 am

DogTheMan

June 27th, 2012
11:58 am

This whole thing smells. So how much will the PLAYERS recieve in this multi-billion dollar enterprise. They won’t recieve a thing!!! College atheletics is the biggest hypocrisy in the country!!!!!!!!!!

wes

June 27th, 2012
12:00 pm

“DogTheMan” isn’t placing too much value on a college education.

Shocked I tells ya’! SHOCKED!!!!

GTBob

June 27th, 2012
12:03 pm

I’m not sure that you can call a 4 team tournament, with teams selected at random, an actual playoff. There are no preconditions for getting in, and the selection committee won’t follow any guidelines that everyone thinks they will. It is slightly better then what we have now but it is still an insult to all college football fans who would like to see a real postseason. The major schools in college football have two missions, protect the power they currently have, and generate as much money as possible. Fairness, fans, and the general spirit of collegiate sports aren’t really even considered anymore.

Luke

June 27th, 2012
12:04 pm

How about approximately 40k in tuition, fees , and board (not counting all the freebies, travel, and tutoring and such) over the course of four years. Sorry that’s not enough for some people.

Shug

June 27th, 2012
12:04 pm

Everyone wins, except the college football player.

Boise Dawg

June 27th, 2012
12:08 pm

I think this is still going to be a huge mess. Go look most years at teams 2 – 8 in the final poll before the bowl games. Several teams from major conferences and several teams with the same exact record. It is going to be very difficult for a committee to determine the worthiness of the #3 and #4 seed. Think of the outrage fans/media have when teams are left out of the NCAA basketball tournament. You can multiply that outrage 10 fold for all the teams ranked in the top 8 that will be left out of the playoff.

Ken Stallings

June 27th, 2012
12:12 pm

The NCAA is not completely out of the picture. There will be an NCAA committee that will officially select the four teams. It seems clear that the RPI will be the measure used. You were absolutely right that the principle motivator at work was too many conferences feeling themselves frozen out. Now and undefeated Boise State will have their shot, as the odds of having more than four undefeated teams is extremely low. Any team from any conference who’s team goes undefeated in the regular season will likely find themselves in that four-team setup, and have their chance to prove it on the field.

I like it!

Dawg Bite

June 27th, 2012
12:13 pm

Do Away with the Conference Championship games. Let the SEC and all others rank their teams 1-12, or however many the conference has, and the guy on top gets the bid to the playoff. If a tie within the 1-12, set up tie breakers such as head to head, or National ranking. Why have the CCG if it might put the wrong team in as the CC? OR, expand the playoffs to 8 teams. Whatever, at least maybe a step in the right direction with the approved format.

Frank Lane

June 27th, 2012
12:14 pm

Shug, do you think that the playoff will not help a players chances for a pro contract, which is the biggest prize of all?

skier

June 27th, 2012
12:14 pm

What changed. Follow the money.

Joe 12-Pack

June 27th, 2012
12:15 pm

1 step forward, 2 steps back.

Getting a playoff is great but having a selection committee pick the participants is not.

Skram30082

June 27th, 2012
12:17 pm

Hey Mark, get one of your graphics designer types to photoshop you into that picture!

VinnyD

June 27th, 2012
12:18 pm

This is the step that was needed. I feel better about the 5th team getting hosed than the 3rd and 4th.

Dawg Bite

June 27th, 2012
12:18 pm

Luke, I agree with you. If these players aren’t happy with getting a free ride for a college education, then let them go to a technical school, or better yet, go to work. Why should they get any more out of this? No one is making them play the game, it’s their choice to pursue an education via football!

Boise Dawg

June 27th, 2012
12:19 pm

Dawg Bite. Couldn’t you theoretically view the conference championship game as the defacto first round of the playoff? Is a team that can’t win it’s conference championship game worthy of a top 4 spot? am not opposed to doing away with the conference championship games, but I am opposed to crowning a conference champion that hasn’t played everyone in their conference. Especially given that in the SEC, you now have 13 conference opponents, yet only play 8 of them in any given year. That just isn’t acceptable in my opinion.

David Granger

June 27th, 2012
12:19 pm

Yeah, looks like it’s going to happen.
Not a perfect system, but it moves the annual argument down a couple of spots. Right now the big fight is always over which team is #2, and which teams are #3 and below. (Last year was a perfect illustration of this.) Now the big argument will be which team is #4, and which ones are below that. I also think it will pretty much preclude a team from a smaller conference from getting in.

D.A. Nuggla

June 27th, 2012
12:20 pm

The problem will come down to those doing the selections, their agenda, biases, and favoritisms. Each year there will be at least one team left out that swears they earned the right to be there.

Tech Fan Since 1950

June 27th, 2012
12:21 pm

It is still a fraud Mark and you know it. Save for another day? Teams play within the NCAA, but the NCAA has no role in a Division I playoff(?), while they sponsor playoffs in all other sports. Ask Valdosta State, Furman, Georgia Southern, etc. how much fun real playoffs are. (They are great!) Yes, the old guard blinked a bit because the front porch of their so-called integrity was caving in. Hope one day they’ll get to the back porch and the rest of the foundation. The NCAA has the construction plans up in Indiana in case they are interested (and I know they are not). Hard for me to believe the truly “Big Boy” conferences act like they play tough schedules, but frame their schedules between conference schedules with the little sisters of the poor (some teams from other NCAA divisions or weak teams from Division I). Some way to build rankings?

SSIgator

June 27th, 2012
12:22 pm

Mark Bradley -

“I didn’t think I’d see it, but here it is: A college football playoff!”

You might not get to actually see it Mark since it doesn’t start until 2014. Remember what they say on ESPN Sports Center, “So and so was injured, but his status is listed as day to day. But then again, aren’t we all”.

TuffShhhtuff

June 27th, 2012
12:23 pm

Reminds me of this for some reason: “When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.”

GTBob

June 27th, 2012
12:26 pm

The NCAA is not completely out of the picture. There will be an NCAA committee that will officially select the four teams.

The NCAA will have nothing to do with the playoff or the selection committee.

TuffShhhtuff

June 27th, 2012
12:26 pm

Or even better this little nugget of wisdom: ” The 50-50-90 Rule- Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there is a 90% probability you will get it wrong.”

HighTech

June 27th, 2012
12:27 pm

Meh. Will last a couple of seasons until a deserving team gets screwed out of a place in the bracket or the committee hypes a pairing with Clemson-West Virginia results. Dr. Saturday has the best playoff plan.

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/blog/dr_saturday/post/the-doc-sat-playoff-plan-2011-bracket-engaged?urn=ncaaf,wp11266

Jim 70

June 27th, 2012
12:27 pm

BCS was an improvement over the previous system, and this one is better. I agree with many previous bloggers on putting the conference champions in an 8 game playoff, maybe that will happen in the next iteration. Doing away with the CCG would be good and a way to jump start a better playoff, but there is too much money involved by the conferences for that to happen, and we all know this is entirely driven by dollars.

Dawgdad (The Original)

June 27th, 2012
12:30 pm

I never ever thought the Berlin Wall would come down and it did, so I learned to never say never as far as a playoff. Glad we have this concession, now quickly move to 8 teams, best teams picked by a committee using a RPI type strength of schedule.

The rest of the bowls should be looking for a cemetery plot however, good riddance I say

Missing rule

June 27th, 2012
12:33 pm

It should be that if you lose your final game of the year, be that regular season or conference championship, that you can’t be in the playoff.

SWAT Native

June 27th, 2012
12:33 pm

Thanks for helping get this done, Mark.

charles s.

June 27th, 2012
12:35 pm

LMAO. Shug nailed it.

Clewis564

June 27th, 2012
12:42 pm

It’s not a real playoff until at least 16 teams are in it. Do it like div. II and III.

Seen It All

June 27th, 2012
12:51 pm

Anybody who believes a playoff will solve the controversy about naming a national college football champion needs to buy the oceanfront condo I just acquired in Acworth. I’ll go ahead here and name the Top 10 objections to the playoff results once those results appear:

1. My team wasn’t named a semi-finalist, although we had a better strength of schedule, etc.
2. Our best player(s) was hurt when the playoffs started.
3. This team selection was biased because smaller conferences weren’t represented on the committee.
4. There’s no way the team that won the national championship could have beaten my team on a neutral field.
5. I don’t see how my team was left out, since it beat one of the semi-finalist teams in the regular season.
6. This system stinks—allowing one lousy game to determine the national championship just wipes out the sustained excellence we showed during the regular season.
7. It’s just what I expected—choosing referees exclusively from the major conferences just stacked the odds against us.
8. The site chosen for our semi-final game was only 400 miles from our opponent’s campus—it was a home game for them.
9. We were shut out of being in the final four because of a couple of weak opponents that were scheduled six years before this system came into being.
10. The refs robbed us blind. Anybody could see that we were clearly the better team on that field.

UGAnSFLA

June 27th, 2012
12:54 pm

I’m happy that there will finally be a playoff, but it should really be 8 teams as opposed to 4.

Big Dawg Daddy

June 27th, 2012
12:55 pm

Wow. 2 games instead of 1. Huge change Mark. Maybe you can fix health care next.

RiffRaff

June 27th, 2012
1:02 pm

So which four SEC Teams will be in it??

te29wr

June 27th, 2012
1:06 pm

Coming next 4 conf. of 16 teams = 64 conf winner will play in first round winners will play for Nat Champ all other teams not in the four major conf., will be on the outside looking in or as we would say second class This includes teams like Troy State, Tulane, So. Miss , U Conn, Rutgers Toledo, Fresno St New Mexico Ga State So Fl. Cent Fl etc so get ready

Paul in NH

June 27th, 2012
1:06 pm

@Seen It All
You missed an objection
11. We may have lost 2 games including a 21 point blow out but we were playing better than any team in the nation at the end of the year.

DC

June 27th, 2012
1:09 pm

Mark,

I guess you didn’t care when AU got snubbed from the title in 2004…

Yurtle_the_Turtle

June 27th, 2012
1:10 pm

I like the move to a playoff format but watch while Boise State and TCU start screaming once again that they are left out of the playoff picture (because they annually play only one or two games with competition) and sue the NCAA for representation. Not sure we’re there yet but it’s a step in the right direction. My other concern is that basketball has 64 teams that get in the tournament, yet still have complaints from teams that feel they should have gotten in. Watch the complaints from teams 5,6,7, all saying they belong too.
DogTheMan….not too smart, are you? Tuiton and a free education aren’t enough for you? If they want to get paid, go to try out for a professional team. College sports are not hypocritcal. They are supposed to be amateurs, dolt!

GIVE ME A BREAK

June 27th, 2012
1:10 pm

Money talks.