Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Death to the College Football Playoff

It all ends on January 1, 2016.

That will be the day that the Rose Bowl game will happen and, for the first time in its illustrious history, no one will give a shit. It will take place the day after that season’s two playoff games.

sugar bowl empty seats
Could you imagine if the NIT final was held the Sunday after the Final Four?

The positioning of the bowls in the New Year’s Six illuminates everything that is wrong about the four-team playoff.

You thought the BCS was bad? This is even worse.                                                   
New Year’s Day was traditionally the end of the college football season. The BCS messed that up so bad that the NHL – yes, hockey – was able to carve out an audience with the Winter Classic. Understandably unhappy with that development, the new college football playoff aimed to reclaim New Year’s Day.

As the 2014-15 bowl schedule reveals, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl will host the playoff games on New Year’s Day after the other major bowls are played, with three on New Year’s Eve. It builds to a crescendo. It makes sense.

The trouble comes in the other two years in the three-year cycle. The Rose Bowl, with its tradition and money, didn’t want to leave its New Year’s afternoon slot. It would seem to make sense, to keep building to that crescendo, to have one playoff game on New Year’s Eve night and one on New Year’s night after the Rose Bowl.

But the SEC and the Big 12 felt slighted. Like a silver spoon child throwing a temper tantrum, they created their own “Champions Bowl” – now the Sugar Bowl – that will almost never consist of any league champions. The result? A semifinal game on Dec. 31, 2015, will kick off at 4:30 p.m., or 1:30 p.m. in California, where a good deal of Americans will still be at work.

It is the definition of stupidity. It is the work of a cartel circling the wagons to ensure all the money stays within the cartel. It is a continuation of the work the BCS started except under a better name that has suckered college football fans into cheering its arrival.

The absurdity reached new heights when SEC commissioner Mike Slive announced a “new” scheduling philosophy for his conference. That included the exact same conference schedule setup and the “mandate” that SEC teams play one team from another Power Five conference.

He literally announced nothing.

But it did not stop moronic sportswriters from carrying his water. The SEC teams will still not play five of its conference mates. They can still play three cupcakes at home. Teams like Alabama will still never leave the South, accepting million-dollar contracts for neutral site games in lieu of road trips to East Lansing.

Do you realize college football has had a playoff since 1998? It was a two-team playoff. It was the literal definition of a playoff as only two teams advanced after the regular season concluded.

And you know what? It actually worked, for the most part, in the playoff aspect. In its last five years, there were four controversy-free BCS Title Games. In fact, the only controversial game was in 2011 because of dumb luck – the best two teams happened to share the same division and played in the regular season.

In the great irony of ironies, what caused that controversy was the rematch aspect. You know what is far more likely to happen? You guessed it – rematches. It could’ve happened in 2010 with Stanford and Oregon. In 2008, the semifinals would have been two rematches in Oklahoma/Texas and Alabama/Florida. In 2012, Stanford likely would’ve played Notre Dame again. Just last year, Alabama/Auburn would’ve played again.

Let me make myself very clear – I am glad the BCS is gone. But I want a 16-team playoff. I don’t want this farce of a four-team playoff that has arrived.

How will teams be selected? Who knows? Strength of schedule has been touted constantly but the SEC and others seem intent on limiting nonconference exposure. There has been discussion about the much-disdained “eye test” about selecting teams, which seems to go against using data points. Conference champions will be given “weight” as if that subjective term is objective enough to matter.

The selection committee was supposed to act in lieu of polls that slotted teams improperly based on only some on-field results. These rankings were rigid, based on preseason perceptions, and prevented movement. The hope – the assumption? – was that this would be a thing of the past and college football would emulate college basketball.

Instead, the selection committee will release rankings weekly during the season.

So we traded the BCS rankings, a poll of more than 150 people and computers, for the College Football Playoff rankings, which is a poll of only 13 people.

This is better how?

mike slive sec 2014
All of this is before we discuss how the Power Five now rule the sport thanks to its bottom line. The other five conferences – the AAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Conference USA and MAC – have zero chance to play for a national title. Maybe they didn’t before, but now it’s set in stone.

The other bowl matchups were set up to box out the other five from getting an opportunity to play a “big boy” in the postseason. It does not help the Big 12 when its champ gets blown out by UCF.

It shows how badly the BCS messed everything up that the system that replaced it, which is even worse, can get a free pass from fans and media alike.

They are so excited to see extra games that mean something that they are willing to forgive, well, everything.

It’s okay because those who run college football haven’t figured it out yet. On January 1, 2016, they will. They tried to have their cake and eat it too. They are trying to maintain an outdated bowl system while compromising to give the fans a playoff.

The fans want a true playoff. They watch the bowls because they are there. They’d rather watch a playoff.

Once Pandora’s box is opened, it cannot be closed. Once fans get a taste for playoffs, they’ll want more. If Alabama won’t visit Michigan State in September, maybe they’ll be forced to do so in December.

Everything is driven by money. The windfall from this farce of a four-team playoff is only a tiny speck of what could be made from a 16-team playoff.

Could you even imagine? ESPN pays $130 million per Monday Night Football game. A college football playoff would consist of 15 games, all of which would outdraw all but the best Monday Night Football games.

ESPN pays more than $1 billion every single year for Monday Night Football. What would it pay for a 16-team playoff? What would Fox pay? What would NBC? What would a combined bid from, say, ESPN and CBS net? Is it now reasonable to think a 16-team college football playoff would be worth $2 billion every year?

It is comical, to say the least, to hear college athletic directors wonder about the affect unions and paying athletes would have on the bottom line when there is literally billions of dollars being left on the table every year.

Thankfully, money always wins.

The four-team playoff will be a great success in Year 1. The playoff games will do great ratings. But in year 2, ESPN will start to question why it’s wasting a playoff game on New Year’s Eve afternoon, as ratings for the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl fall off a cliff.

When the same thing happens in Year 3, as more deserving teams just miss the cut for a four-team playoff, the grumblings will become louder.

The four-team college football playoff has a three-year shelf life.

The four-team playoff will fail.

The 16-team playoff is almost here.  

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2 comments:

  1. I dont know if anything could be worse than the BCS

    ReplyDelete
  2. Definitely agree to a point here. Probably changes your view on who you root for. If you like ateam like Ohio State or Alabama, the playoff is great.

    ReplyDelete