What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Now that the College Football Play-Off Committee has anointed it’s “Final Four,” the grumbling is in full force. As you are reading this, there are legions of fans in College Station, Norman, and Cincinnati who think they just got jobbed.
There’s a few simple reasons why get an annual dose of what a bunch of bullshit the play-off committee is. dished by those on the outside looking in. First and foremost, it’s a completely arbitrary decision. The irony is the majority of the people doing the grumbling today aren’t objecting to the subjective nature of these decisions; they don’t mind an arbitrary decision so long as it goes their way. Listen closely to the fans of Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Cincinnati today; that’s exactly what they are saying; “We should be in because…”
There’s an easy solution to this, and it would have happened already except for one problem. Don’t forget that when the current four-team play-off format was devised, there was a tectonic shift occurring in the college football world. There was a dramatic amount of re-alignment happening within the “Power 5” conferences, and all the tea leaves were pointing to a world in which there would only be four “big” conferences. In such a world, the teams in the play-off would be the four conference champions. No muss, no fuss, and no need for a committee. It just doesn’t get any simpler and straight-forward than that.
The problem is the reports of the demise of the Big 12 were a smidge premature. With five conferences and only four spots, the play-off quickly morphed into the game of musical chairs it is now. Instead of being the four conference champions, it is now a bunch of people in a room throwing darts to pick four teams…and its resultant bickering.
All that has to happen is to finish what nature started…re-aligning the existing five into four. It can be done by creating four conferences, each split into two eight or nine-team divisions. It also can be done preserving the regional nature of college football. The four conferences would look like this:
The conference names are generic by design because I know there are people out there who will care about what the actually are. I don’t. In fact, they can sell the naming rights for a bazillion dollars for all I care. The important thing is the structure. The two division winners in each conference play a championship game; the four winners of those games are the play-off teams.
You’ll also notice that except for the obvious exception of the Big 12, the “big” conferences stay largely intact save for some of their more recent acquisitions. For example, The ACC as it exists today gives up Georgia Tech, but gets Penn State, West Virginia, Rutgers, and Maryland. Likewise, the “traditional” Big Ten gives up it’s East coast teams, but gets Notre Dame, Kentucky, and Missouri. With the possible exception of the Big Ten, the SEC is the most powerful conference in college football and no plan like this happens without their being on board, which is why it gets the plum that is Texas.
Aside from that plum, the conference which gets the sweetest deal is the Pac-12. They give up nothing, and get an instant and sorely-needed injection of relevance by getting a top ten all-time program in Oklahoma. Not to mention, this alignment solves one of the biggest problems this conference has…television and time zones. Pac-12 teams are nearly invisible because of too many late kick-off times. But by adding four teams in the Central time zone, with proper attention to scheduling, they could have one of their “marquis” teams on television in the 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET windows most weeks.
Another important point of note is I’m not bothering with the “little fish in the pond.” Every year we have that “Cincinnati”-type team…the team not from a “Power 5” conference who thinks they belong with the “big boys.” They’re the obnoxious kid at Thanksgiving who wants to sit at the adults’ table. That “kid” isn’t getting into the play-off anytime soon; the consolation is they will get a “New Year’s Day Six” bowl game appearance, where they will occasionally perform well enough to keep this nonsense going and/or get their coach a “big” job (see Urban Meyer at pre-Pac-12 Utah and Scott Frost at Central Florida). So, we’ll see how Cincinnati fares against Georgia in the Peach Bowl.
Here’s a tip for the “Cincinnati” of future years. If you want to sit at the adults’ table, then be an adult. In college football, that means building a 60,000-seat stadium, joining a “big” conference, and hiring people to
hand out the illicit cash payments do the heavy-lifting of recruiting. The Toledo Mudhens don’t get to be in the World Series because they don’t play a Major League schedule, and Cincinnati isn’t going to the play-off just because they got fat on SMU and East Carolina.
Don’t get me wrong here. This isn’t the first time I’ve explored re-structuring the college football post-season. The last time involved creating a play-off format which not only eliminated the “big/little” problem by giving everybody an equal shot at the title while keeping the existing bowl system intact. It was pure genus, but it was also far too radical for it to ever happen. It’s main flaw was it did the one thing which has to happen to truly solve the “big/little” problem…it broke up the “Power 5” conferences. Raise your hand if you think that’s ever going to happen.
Here’s the bottom line. The current system is flawed, but it’s better than the BCS was. The BCS was better than nothing, which is what the old “bowl games only” system was. The hard reality is that as long as the relationship exists as it does between the NCAA, the “Power 5” conferences, and the individual bowl committees, any so-called “play-off” is going be just another “hybrid” like we have now.
As such, any honestly comprehensive solution to move college football to a objective, NFL-style play-off format means a radical change. And for even more honesty, who wouldn’t love to see the NCAA get completely blown up?
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