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College football needs a playoff system

Posted: November 27, 2011 - 1:05am

It is that time of year again, a time to give thanks and send out holiday cheer – or in my case, start my annual crusade, albeit localized, to bring about a playoff system in Division I-A football. (I know it is FBS, FBC, FBI or something, but it will always be D I-A to me).

This goes back a long way. I actually did a college paper back in 1993 on the idea of a college football playoff. While I knew then a playoff was still a few years away, I must admit I did not expect to still be having the debate 18 years later. It is extremely rare to get the public to agree on anything, and the last national poll on the topic found that 88.9 percent of the people surveyed were in favor of a playoff. Here are the usual arguments from the people who support the current Bowl Championship Series:

1. A playoff would take away the importance of the regular season.

Oh, really? Louisiana State University beat Alabama on the road and likely will have to play them again on a neutral site for the national title.

It’s possible a non-conference champion will play in the title game.

And this is not the first time this has happened. In 1996, Florida State beat Florida in the regular season and had to face them again for the national title. The match-up was not early in the season; it was their last regular season game.

2. It would take away from the bowl game tradition.

You mean the bowl game tradition of breaking every non-profit regulation under the sun? Or the tradition of paying CEOs nearly $1 million per year salary to run a bowl game each year? Also, keep in mind that in some playoff models many of the bowls are left intact. Do we really need 36 bowls anyway? Do 72 teams deserve a bowl game? Last year, several 6-6 teams got to play in bowl games.

3. The season will last too long, which would be too tough physically and it will hurt the kids academically.

This one is actually laughable. If someone attempts to use it on you during a debate, don’t waste your time explaining your thoughts because they are too dumb to understand you anyway. But just in case you were wondering: High school state championship contenders in nearly every state play 15 games. Division II, Division III and NAIA schools do, too. Don’t even get me started on the academic portion of the argument.

We have a playoff to decide the champion at every level of virtually every team sport known to man. What makes D I- A football so different?

Money is the answer. Not that a playoff would not make money. It would. But why should the bowls and BCS fat-cats change? They are making millions and, basically, answer to no one.

We are, in my opinion, getting closer to a form of a playoff, but it likely would just be an added game to the current system. However, if I were in charge, I would not ease the country into a playoff. I would go all-out with a 16-team playoff. It would look something like this:

I would take the champions from the top eight conferences and add eight at-large teams. I would select the best available eight teams that did not win their conference crown, based on the BCS standings. (See, I even gave the BCS folks something to do.)

The eight conference champions would host the opening round of the playoffs on the second Saturday in December. This set up would make winning a conference championship a huge goal (another argument against a playoff format). For instance, this year it would look like this:

Round 1, Dec. 10

Alabama (at large No. 1) at Louisville (Big East)

Arkansas (at large No. 2) at Texas Christian University (Mountain West champ)

Stanford (at large No. 3) at Michigan State (Big Ten champ)

Boise State (at large No. 4) at Houston (C-USA champ)

Oklahoma (at large No. 5) at Oregon (Pac 12 champ)

UGA (at large No. 6) at Oklahoma State (Big 12 champ)

Wisconsin (at large No. 7) at Virginia Tech (ACC champ)

Kansas State (at large No. 8) at Louisiana State University (SEC champ)

In Round Two, I would incorporate the bigger bowl games and continue to use conference allegiances to determine which teams play in each bowl.

Round 2, Dec. 17

Orange Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Alabama

Fiesta Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas

Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Houston

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Michigan State

Round 3 (Final Four) is to be played at rotating sites, with a week off for Christmas break and to prepare for games.

Dec. 31: Semifinals

Jan. 7: National title game

These two weeks could even be held at the same site.

And heck, all the other teams could still battle it out in some of those meaningless bowls if they want, but at least the champion would be decided on the field and any complaining teams would have to keep quiet because they lost their final game and all rights to a title.

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