BCS No More: College Football Needs Playoffs to eliminate the BS
For years there has been a need for a playoff system in Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) football. The creation of the BCS in 1999 was supposed to cure this ill, but it has only compounded the problem. An undefeated Auburn was shunned in 2004, Boise State’s undefeated 2006 season which included a win over heavily-favored Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl was not worthy of a chance at a National Championship and this season will see at least one one-loss team in the BCS Championship with other qualified one-loss conference champions on the outside looking in.
In the past few months the idea of a college football playoff has a renewed fire. When interviewed the night before his election win over John McCain, President-elect Barack Obama said that an 8-team playoff was a must. A few short weeks later, Obama told 60 Minutes that he would “throw his weight around” to see what he can do to get an 8-team college football playoff started. While I love Obama’s enthusiasm on the topic there is a lot more that needs to be ironed out.
Below you will find my plan for a 16-team college football playoff. I am certain that many will disagree with me on this topic and I expect it. If you have a better plan email it to me at email@example.com and we’ll add it in our alternate plans & comments section (see college football playoff fan comments below).
Before getting into the details, the regular season needs to be cut back to 11 games for every team. Since Conference Championship Games are basically a must in today’s game, we need to require every conference to have a Championship Game. Also, no more 13th game of the season @ Hawaii to end the regular season for BCS Conference teams. Last season it was Washington, this year Cincinnati travels to face the Warriors despite having 12 games under their belts already and just a week ago Washington State fell to 2-11 with a loss @ Hawaii.
I have chosen the 16-team format for one reason and one reason alone. FAIRNESS, something that has long been neglected by the NCAA for Division I-A Football Bowl Subdivision football. You see, the whole idea of the BCS basically limits any real chance at any kind of a fair chance for 45 of the 120 Division I-A college football programs in 2009. With 65 teams in BCS Conferences and over 90% of the BCS Bowl Game bids (and the $17 million payout for playing in those games, win or lose), the deck is stacked against the non-BCS teams in the WAC, Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA & Sun Belt. Add in the whole Notre Dame special name recognition and money clause and the deal is even more corrupt. So we start with 16 teams – 11 conference champions and 5 at-large bids.
The BCS computers, the same computers that somehow placed Oklahoma over Texas for the 5th tie-breaker in the Big 12 South this season despite Texas’ win over the Sooners in the regular season, can be put to a new use under my plan. The BCS formula can now be used to help determine seeding for our new playoff system for college football. Seeds 1-6 can remain with the 6 BCS Automatic Qualifier conferences (unless a new conference were to emerge as a BCS member), assuming these conference champions are ranked above non-BCS AQ conference champions. The rest of the seeds can be determined by a selection committee (much like the NCAA Tournament) and the BCS numbers, which are the equivalent of college basketball’s RPI rankings.
For example, based on the 2007 BCS rankings, our playoff would include these 16 teams in the following order:
How this playoff would have ended none of us will ever know, but what would likely have avoided is highly-hyped BCS Championship Game blowouts like the past two seasons where Ohio State could not matchup with Florida and LSU of the SEC.
2008 is even more interesting. Normally, a non-BCS conference team needs to finish in the Top 12 of the final BCS rankings to be BCS bowl-eligible, or in the Top 16 with at least one other BCS conference champion ranked below them. This season, we have 3 non-BCS conference teams in the BCS Top 12 with Utah being guaranteed a BCS Bowl berth. However, while an undefeated Boise State has more BCS wins in the past two years in half as many games, it seems likely that the “sexier” Ohio State will instead be cashing in on another $17 million while a higher-ranked and more deserving Boise State gets left out of the BCS. Remember when I mention fairness above?
So what do we do with the bowls? I love bowl games as much as anyone, and I do not want them to go away nor do they need to be eliminated. A 16-game tournament means 15 games will be played, 15 games that can be hosted by the Top 7 bowls, matched up regionally as best as possible, with the four big-money (current) BCS bowl games, the Rose, Orange, Fiesta & Sugar hosting the College Football Final Eight through the National Championship.
The 16-team format eliminates the need for 8 traditional bowl games because those 16 teams are now in the playoffs. Thus, the current 34 bowl games will be reduced to 26 bowls. Some overlap will likely be needed with the 3 non-BCS bowls involved in the first round of our playoff format, but this could allow some cities to double-dip and actually get two bowl-caliber games (one bowl, one playoff game). This overlap could even be rotated to allow for a greater economic impact to ensure the same cities do not get the tourism dollars year in and year out.
The 26 bowl games would be handled the same as today; conference affiliations & agreements. Of course a 6 win season will still be required for bowl eligibility.
So there you have it, a 16-team playoff format. Critics will begin with arguments like “that’s too many games for these student athletes” or a focus on the academics and the hardships these college students would be under if they advance to the 16-team playoff and keep playing. My counter to that is that academics did not decide the 12th game that was recently added to everyone’s schedule in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and academics don’t seem to matter in breaking the Texas-Oklahoma-Texas Tech debate for the Big 12 South title and Big 12 Championship debate, so quit saying you care about anything other than money. Some may wonder how to handle the dollars in a playoff system. Much like the professional sports, teams are rewarded with additional revenue the farther they advance in the playoffs. The traditional bowls can remain the same while the playoff system will be based on a predetermined amount, much like today’s $17 million payout in each BCS Bowl Game.
At the end of the season all teams below .500 will end with 11 football games, those who play in traditional bowl games will play 12 games, conference championship participants a minimum of 13 games (unless a conference championship loser finished with a 5-7 record, a very rare result), and playoff participants would play a minimum of 13 and a maximum of 16 games.
Look, there is obviously no exact solution that everyone will like. An 8-team playoff is a nice idea, but this once again likely keeps all non-BCS conference champions on the outside looking in. The thrill of the NCAA Basketball Tournament is when a heavy favorite collides with an underdog, and this plan allows for underdogs to have a fair chance. While I understand that the University Presidents who make these decisions are looking for more revenue wherever it can be found, this system opens the doors for that revenue based on the teams that deserve it the most by earning it for their school’s athletics department and their conference on the field.
December 8th Update: With all of the bowl games having been announced, here is how the seeding for our 16-team playoff would work in 2008:
* Typically, a BCS Automatic Qualifier Conference team would be seeded higher, but due to higher computer rankings, Utah & Boise State jump ahead of Cincinnati & Virginia Tech despite their being BCS AQ conference champions. With these two non-BCS AQ conference champions bouncing the ACC & Big East Champions down, the at-large teams are also bumped down in terms of seeding.
Wow. Now that would be a playoff! Does Texas still get the shaft? Yes, but at least they have a chance to prove it on the field! How about Texas Tech - is this better than no BCS game at all? Of course! Would Boise State now have a fair shot instead of being overlooked in favor of a lower-ranked Ohio State team for the Fiesta Bowl? Once again, this is a better system! Too bad we will not see it happen...
By Michael Shull
From Scott Shaw on February 8, 2009:
From Jim Rodriguez on January 5, 2009:
From Chad on December 7, 2008:
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