Sunday, January 11, 2009

Playoffs! Playoffs? Yes, PLAYOFFS!!!

Collegiate Basketball has the most celebrated one.
Baseball has one with a double-elimination.
Even women’s water polo has it.
I’m obviously talking about playoffs.
Yet college football, the only sporting event in the country that can pack 100,000 people in an open-air stadium in freezing weather in venues from Ann Arbor to Knoxville, doesn’t have something as simple and conclusive as a playoff system.
Instead of having a climactic event along the lines of the Final Four or the Super Bowl, NCAA football has a system in place that is supposed to produce an overall winner, though it has done better at generating controversy and debate before watercoolers and on talk radio.
Granted college football isn’t the NFL. There are 11 conferences in Division I football plus the independents making it impossible for the NCAA to have something as succinct as pro-ball’s post-season set-up. And that’s where the sportswriters and head coaches are supposed to come in to separate the wheat from the chaff, since, the theory goes that a 12-2 team from the mighty Southeastern Conference is superior to an undefeated team from the lowly Mountain West.
There’s nothing like the reality of actually playing out such a match-up to show the folly in making such an absolute assumption.
And that is what we have. A running debate, injustice to athletes striving for on-field excellence and three-dozen or so bowls whose obscure sponsors belie their true significance in the grand scheme of things, since the bowl games mean little further down the Top 25.
To invoke a personal grievance, how is it that Louisiana State University demolished Georgia Tech by a score of 38-3 in the Peach…scratch that though I will get back to this travesty of commercialization…Chick-Fil-A Bowl yet the Tigers didn’t crack the AP 25 while the Yellow Jackets are able to cling to 22nd. If a bowl game does not determine which of the two teams competing is better, than what is the game about?
Aside from money and an ugly trophy, apparently nothing.
And while everyone comprehends footballs’ physical strain that basketball, baseball and, yes, water polo do not have, and thus putting limits on the calendar, there is a better way. And here it is.
1) Go to a ten-game schedule.
2) Start the season earlier.
3) End the meaningless conference championship games and assign this empty distinction via tiebreaker rule or worst-case scenario, recognize co-conference champs.
4) Let the sportswriters and coaches pick the top sixteen teams in the country in a single-elimination tournament.
5) Call those playoff games bowls, thus allowing the parochial Don Fanuccis that run the bowls to wet their beaks in a game that actually means something and thus generating more interest and revenue.
6) The whole exercise would last 4-5 weeks pending the desire of the avaricious NCAA wish to spread things out for money sucking purposes.
7) As a sop to both tradition and the gross commercialization that has trivialized this whole process, make the seven oldest bowl games permanent playoff bowls with the current big four continuing their championship game rotation, allow the next ten oldest to alternate as five playoff bowls every other year while giving each of the new bowls a shot with the remaining three playoff bowls over the course of the cycle. This will also necessitate capping eligible bowls so new bowls don’t keep springing up to take advantage of this inclusion. (The Port Allen Raisin’ Canes Chicken Finger Bowl?)
8) Those bowls that are not part of the playoff system are allowed to keep their contests though the winners of the bowls cannot be ranked in the final standings below the teams they beat in the games.
An added bonus to a playoff system is that college teams would be more likely to
schedule competitive non-conference opponents for their regular season games as a loss in the regular season would not necessarily knock them out of contention for a shot at the national title. Fear of losing one’s season early on keeps this LSU fan from ever having the extreme privilege of seeing his team play at Happy Valley.
Now I am certain for a bevy of reasons, the Bayham System of Collegiate
Football Excellence will be viewed as unworkable, impractical, environmentally unfriendly, etc., etc., etc. However, my playoff theory is far superior to the reality that exists today.
The reason why a playoff system won’t ever come to be is that it requires people relinquishing power and authority, including the bowls, conferences and media. The upshot is that a playoff system would empower the players to determine on their own who is truly the best in lieu of allowing this flawed “League of Nations” system’s manner of determining an overall winner that is heavy on favoritism and light on actual football playing.
And one more thing.

Why the hell are old bowls having their names totally bowdlerized with absolute corporate sponsorship? The Peach Bowl, which started in 1968, no longer exists and is now the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Not the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, which it was between the years 1998 through 2005. I don’t mind a business that invests heavily in an event to have their name broadcast all over the game but to totally supplant Peach, which is symbolic of the state the game is being played in is classless and undermines tradition. Shall our neighborhood streets one day fall victim to this crass commercialization so that Ferncrest Way is replaced with Taco Tico Trailway in the future? Protect tradition; keep the old names on our public schools and our college bowl games!


MortenM said...

I tried to follow the Bowls this January, and it is quite confusing. The fact that an unbeaten team can't make it to the national championship, because of sports commentators' bias has nothing to do with sportsmanship.

A playoff system is needed.

Mike Bayham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.