Thursday, November 09, 2006

One Man's BCS Solution

Basketball season will begin for the Orange this Friday night. Before the action begins, I’d like to throw in my two cents (make it a buck fifty) on the college football, and particularly the BCS.

I think it is absurd that Division I football does not have a playoff system. Division II and III both have playoffs involving 16 teams. In theory, at those levels the student athletes are more concerned about their education than the game, and yet they somehow manage to squeeze in all those additional games for the playoff teams, all within the month of December. The administrations of those schools don’t seem overly concerned about the educational impact on their student athletes; that’s because there really isn’t an impact. Yet, that is the most common response Division I administrations will give for not having a playoff system. Poppycock! It’s all about the money that the university’s get from the Bowl Games. Plain and simple.

However, I think a Division I playoff system would work, and would ultimately bring more revenue to all involved. It’s purely near-sighted to not see the potential. Look how big March Madness is for the revenue dollar.

Here’s my plan. You have a playoff of 8 teams. Starting with the second weekend in December, you have 4 games; that narrows you down to your Final Four. Then the third week in December you have your Final Four competition… that narrows you down to your National Championship pairing. You then have two weeks until New Years… and schedule the game anytime you want around then… I’ll let the network execs decide when it best suits them.

Now here’s the thing about the bowl games: you can still have all 25 or so bowl games. They currently are all meaningless anyways; the BCS already determines that only one bowl game has any meaning, so the rest are just exhibition games, opportunities for fans, alumni and boosters to travel to commercialized locations, spend their money and have a good time watching their teams play. You still have the bowl games; you just reserve the New Years day bowls for the six teams that don’t make the championship game… thus those games are a little more special.

Now I’ve thrown this idea out to friends and colleagues over the past five or six years, and the consensus response is that 8 teams isn’t enough. I disagree. I think its more than enough. It’s pretty safe to say that if we take the eight top teams, the best team in the country is in that group.

And, I’m going to make this even simpler for everyone. I’m a big fan of earning the championship on the field. And one thing that makes college football enjoyable, is that every game means something over the course of the season. They are all important. And they should be treated that way. And so my proposal is that only the conference champions are permitted to going to the NCAA playoffs. That means if you come in second in your conference, and you’re ranked #2 in the country, you’re out of the playoffs.

Why can’t you do that? Hey, if you did not win your own conference, why do you deserve a chance at the national championship? You had your chance on the field. You could have won the necessary games, but failed to do so. The opportunity was there. College football doesn’t allow for too many mistakes; but that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable. Remember, every game is important! And we can leave it up to the individual conferences on how their champions are determined. If you want a playoff like the SEC to determine your champion go ahead. If you want to use the regular season standings paired with your BCS rank (like the Big East) then go ahead. Whatever the individual conferences want.

I’m also a big fan of making sure this system works for ALL Division I college teams. So NO conference is guaranteed one of the eight positions. But before the SEC, Big 10 or ACC gets all riled up, they’ll most certainly have a representative if they are even close to deserving.

Here’s how you determine which conferences get representatives in post season: You start with the BCS rankings. Starting with #1, you go down the list until you find eight conferences that are represented. And to be fair to Notre Dame (and their fan base and their big $$$), we’ll allow the Independent schools to be classified as a “Conference”.

So here’s the BCS standings as of November 8th, 2006:

1. Ohio State
2. Michigan
3. Louisville
4. Florida
5. Texas
6. Auburn
7. USC
8. California
9. Notre Dame
10. West Virginia
11. Arkansas
12. LSU
13. Rutgers
14. Boise State
15. Wisconsin
16. Tennessee
17. Oklahoma
18.Georgia Tech
19. Wake Forest
20. Oregon

The qualifying conferences would be Big 10 (Ohio St at #1), Big East (Louisville #3), SEC (Florida #4), Big 12 (Texas #5), Pac 10 (USC #7), Independents (Notre Dame #9), WAC (Boise State #14), ACC (Georgia Tech #18).
Now obviously, there are games left to be played, and conference championships to be earned. But I’m using this as an illustration of how it would work based on today’s standings.

We’ve now identified the eight post season conferences. Now we identify the champions of each:

Big 10: Winner of the Ohio State / Michigan
Big East: Rutgers (big win tonight for them!)
SEC: Winner for Florida/Arkansas
Big 12: Winner of Nebraska/Texas
Pac 10: California
Independents: Notre Dame
WAC: Boise State
ACC: Winner of Wake Forest / Georgia Tech
You could then have an NCAA selection committee seed the eight teams, and have a "Seeding Selection Show". Pump it up like March Madness. You'll know who the participants are prior to the show, but you won't know who's playing who, when or where until the show.

USC fans would immediately scream because their team currently is on the outside looking in, even though they are ranked higher than Cal. But hey, the Trojans had a chance on the field. So far, Cal has been better in the conference. Obviously the loser of Michigan / Ohio State will gripe. But you know what? If you can’t win your big game, THE rivalry game on your schedule, when it’s for all the marbles, why do you deserve a chance at a National Championship at the expense of another school. You had your shot and blew it.

Here’s what is great about the plan. A school like Rutgers, who may run the table this year in the Big East, would actually get a chance to earn the national championship, on the field. Right now, because people don’t “think” they can earn it, they won’t be given the opportunity. That’s a shame. The players go out, beat every team you throw in front of them, and then you say, they’re not good enough to get a chance.
It irks me when a team is discounted because they play in a weak conference. If you put Ohio State in the MAC, and they went undefeated, would that make OSU any less of a team? They'd still be the same talented team; just waiting for the opportunity to prove themselves. Right now mid majors have it tough because the top teams won't play them; beating a mid major does nothing to improve your image, and you have a legitmate chance of losing to one.

Second, since conference standings become very important, and individual team rankings become less important, it becomes easier for a team to schedule tough out of conference games. Those games don’t hurt your conference standings, and help to strengthen your team’s respective game.

Third, the schools from the mid majors have a legit chance to make the post season, if they can prove it on the field. This year, the ACC’s bid would depend on there not being 8 other conferences with at least one team ranked higher than 18th. They are lucky that’s not the case, so the ACC gets in. The MAC could have squeezed team in at #17, and then they get a berth.

Fourth, the concept of ‘super conferences’ for football will become archaic. When conferences start to realize that their teams have only a 1:12 chance of getting into the post season tournament as opposed to a 1:8 chance in a reasonable sized football conference, teams will want to restructure and get into more reasonably sized conferences.

You would have to put guidelines in saying that a conference doesn’t qualify if it has less than 8 teams (or perhaps, it qualifies, but only as an independent, of which there is one possible berth).

Anyhow, this is one man’s thoughts.

I know the NCAA will never move this direction. It puts the actual competition on the field, and removes control of the dollars from the big schools to all the schools. Currently the big conferences have absolute control over the bowl dollars; this plan would give them significant control, but not absolute.

Plus, in a strange and perverse way, the current method using rankings to determine a champion does keep the water cooler conversations and fan interest rampant all the time. There’s no absolutes with rankings, so everyone can debate all the time.

And finally, it won’t work because it makes too much sense.

1 comment:

MariusJanulisForThree said...

As good a plan as any I've heard. Personally, I like a 6-team playoff's not as long as the 8-team playoff (so they cant bitch about kids missing classes) and besides, I don't think anyone outside the Top 6 in the country should have a shot at the title.

But...your conference system works pretty well. That Notre Dame slot would also be a Wild Card, so to speak, if Notre Dame didn't qualify.