College football needs a change. While I believe the BCS system has enhanced college football, a simple playoff system would increase its popularity and fairness. First, what has the BCS done right? The BCS allows the number 1 and number 2 ranked teams to play each other for the national championship. This was a very important step for college football and took a great deal of work. A playoff system is the next step in the evolution of college football.
We will start with a little history. In 1990 and 1991 college football saw co-national champions. Because we don’t like ties, for the 1992 season the Bowl Coalition was formed. This system tried to improve upon the system of conference tie-ins to bowl games by allowing the top two teams to play for the national championship. The problem was that the Rose Bowl would not break its tie-ins so the Pac 10 and Big Ten were excluded from the arrangement. In 1995 this system became the Bowl Alliance which changed a few things but still did not include the Pac-10 and Big Ten. Only in 1998 were these two conferences included to create the BCS. The BCS tweaks its formula each year, but in 2006 has automatic bids for the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, and SEC conferences. On top of that, four other schools can earn bids through a number of detailed rules. Finally, if Notre Dame wins more games than it loses and Charlie Weis tells the media he deserves to be in a BCS bowl, Notre Dame goes to a BCS bowl.
In order to make a playoff work, it has to improve upon the BCS, but stay within a number of ground rules.
Players are student athletes and a playoff should not increase the number of games. This is a major argument against a playoff. To think that major conferences and FOX really care about the education of the football player is a stretch. Why would you introduce a twelfth game if you’re worried about the education of the youth? Because of this rule, a playoff system can only contain two or three rounds.
Don’t kill the regular season with a playoff. Any playoff system needs to ensure teams can’t coast at the end of the season. It also has to keep the interest of the lower tier schools.
College football has peculiar institutions that add to its appeal. College Football has unique systems like polls and bowls that should be a part of any playoff. Any system that allows Boomer Esiason and Anthony Munoz to vote has to be kept in order to keep the support of the Bengals fans.
Respect the conferences. Conferences and conference rivalries are huge in college football. A playoff system should respect the major conferences by giving automatic bids to conference champions.
Money Money Money Any system needs to make boat loads of money because that’s what its all about these days, right?
With these rules I propose my plan which has probably been proposed by 500 other people. I’m sorry. I’m too lazy to read what other people wrote unless it was put on The Goat.
I propose an 8 team playoff to decide the national championship. The eight teams would come from automatic bids from the six major conferences and two at-large bids. The two at-large bids would come from the two highest ranked teams which are not conference champions. The polling could use the current system or some other alternative as long as Boomer and The Rocket still have a voice. All other bowls should be kept and this system will not detract from them anymore then the BCS does now
An eight team playoff would require three weeks. By subtracting the twelfth game (Should teams really be able to go to a bowl with a .500 record?) this would be in line with the current system. Only two teams would play a fourteenth game. Just this year, Purdue will play fourteen games so the academic argument is void. The first round of the playoffs would be played the week after the final week of the season. The top four teams would play home games to give them an advantage. This keeps the regular season competitive. Teams will need to compete to win their conference and will also have to win to stay in the top 4 because of the importance of home field advantage. It also adds a second tier of interest for the schools competing for the two at-large spots. Those schools will add the spoiler element that makes college basketball so enjoyable.
After the first week the winning teams would play each other and the losing teams would play each other in the traditional bowl games. The winner and loser bowls would rotate with a loser bowl always hosting the national championship game. This is how the money comes into play. The first week will add a lot of TV revenue and the second week will keep or exceed the current BCS revenue. Finally, the national championship game would pit the two top teams against each other a week after the bowl games just like the current system.
The proposed playoff system is an easy architecture to implement to advance the current BCS system. The system does not increase the number of games. It keeps the regular season competitive. It keeps the bowls, the polls and the importance of the conferences. I know people will argue that this system will have its own controversies and its own problems. This is true. The system will not be perfect, but it will improve upon the system that we have today. In 1992 people argued about the Bowl Coalition because it crowned mythical national champions. They cried in 1995 when the Bowl Alliance did nothing to fix the problems. Today we still argue about the BCS. Many of us relish the days of the 10-10 tie or think about the replay implications of the Stanford band entering the field or the personal four for running over the trombone player, but those days are over. College football is big-business, and if that’s the way it has to be then lets at least continue the trend of improving the crowning of a champion by implementing a playoff system.
(I’m sorry this is so boring. I write technical papers for the government. Passive voice is my life. Think about it: Jeanne Zelasko as a sideline reporter.)