NCAA’s “Playoff”is a Baby Step—Nothing More
By Akiem Bailum-Host of “10 Minutes on the Clock with Akiem Bailum and TRST Columnist Twitter: @Li495Akiem
If the NCAA’s recently announced “playoff format” counts as a baby step, then the BCS was thefetus.
This week,we witnessed the announcement by the major college presidents that starting in2014, the NCAA will replace the Bowl Championship Series with a 4-team playoff format.
The teamswill be selected via a selection committee as is the NCAA’s college basketball tournament. This will lead to reseeding of those teams from 1 through 4. The 1 seed will play the 4 & the 2 seed will play the 3.
For such along time, the presidents of the huge conferences’ colleges have always been resistant to even the idea of a playoff. The excuses that them and many of their spokes people in the media (ESPN’s Around the Horn & Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw is the first that comes to mind) include that a playoff would delegitimize the regular season.
Ask the 2003-04 Auburn Tigers about that horseradish theory. They were undefeated thatyear, but so were USC (who at the time were huge darlings of ESPN—and in manyways, still are) & Oklahoma. In the championship game, the Trojans ran rough shodall over the Sooners. That game made it clear that Auburn should’ve been in thetitle game vs. the Trojans of USC.
Not tomention the numerous times that schools like Boise State, Cincinnati, & TCU have been shafted by the BCS system. For example, there was that one occasion inthe 2009-10 season where the Broncos & Horned Frogs played EACH OTHER inthe Fiesta Bowl. Most agreed that they should’ve had a shot against either Texas or Alabama (who played against each other in the National Championship game that year).
Another excuse that BCS apologists have used is that they say a playoff would not begood for the players as they’re also college students in addition to beingathletes. If those schools really cared about education, then they’d do whatjust recently happened with the basketball tournament.
The University of Connecticut Huskies will be ineligible from being a part of March Madness next year because it failed to maintain a reasonable level of what the NCAA calls “academic progress”.
Other schools have also been booked by the powers that be in Indianapolis for these issues.
In my opinion, schools that don’t maintain this academic progress shouldn’t be eligible for the BCS or even any of the bowls. That way, it would force the schools to put as much emphasis on academic performance as they do on athletic performance. Especially with the big money that college football brings in. Dollars should not play second fiddle to sense.
Unfortunately it does, and this deal could actually lead to even more money through the bowls since those are being incorporated into this new mini-playoff. The sites of the semifinal games will be rotated amongst sites of the current BCS bowls: Orange (Sun Life Stadium in Miami), Fiesta (University of Arizona Stadium inGlendale), Sugar (Mercedes Benz Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans) & Rose (Pasadena).
Also, what will be at stake is a new TV rights deal that The Big Four (CBS, Fox, NBC,ABC/ESPN) will be more than ready to get their hands on. The main issue withthis is that the networks are already television partners with the major conferences. CBS has the SEC, ABC has the Big 12, & Fox has the Pac 12. ESPN also announced that the Rose Bowl (aka the “Granddaddy of Them All”) will remain with Team Bristol until the 2026 season. That bidding is expected to be hot and heavy with the sports TV and radio portfolios of CBS, Fox, and NBC all notably growing.
NBC, of course, is stuck with Notre Dame which isn’t exactly living a football renaissance right now.
First,anything that isn’t the BCS and is even a mini-playoff is an improvement overthe BCS. That goes almost without debate among the vast majority of fans. But,I can’t help but think that since it is only 4 teams that more controversy will ensue. Instead, the controversy will be over 4th, 5th,(and perhaps) 6th seeds as well. It’ll especially manifest itself ifthose 5 & 6 seeds turn out to be outside of the six major FBS conferences.
And anotherthing that fans will be thinking about is if those smaller conferences will have bigger microscopes on them by the major conferences. Some are already saying that the major conferences are just chomping out the bit to screw overthe first TCU, Boise, or Cincy.
To me, 16 teams seems like the best way to go since it would provide the opportunity foreven more teams outside of the soon-to-be-former FBS conferences. The NCAA’sbasketball tournament picks a 68-team pool of schools from almost 300 of them. There are around 120 teams in Division 1 college football. 16 in a pigskin tourney seems about fair.
Again, it’s an improvement over what we had where the national championship was decided by a computer. Unless Steve Jobs came up with one last innovation prior to hispassing last year that enabled computers to play football games, last time Ichecked, computers can’t play football games.
Another aspect of this is that it will enable cities to bid on the nationalchampionship game in the same way they bid on the Super Bowl. I see this as asmall baby step as well, because there is the danger that the NCAA, the colleges,and the TV networks will want to keep these championship games in the South& Southwest of the country due to weather reasons as well as tradition.
I maintain the same position on this as I do with cities that get the Super Bowl. Hopefully,places in the North and Northwest will get a fair shot to get these games inthe same way that progress seems to be mounting to get more Super Bowls in “cold-weathercities”. Football is a cold-weather sport, and a game can just as easily beaffected by rain as it can by snow, dispelling the “coldness” argument.
Super Bowl 41 in Miami would agree with me.
While this announcement of the 4-team playoff is a mere baby step in the right direction,the biggest irony could be that it was accomplished sans the stigma of realignment.
In 2010 and2011, realignment seemed 95-99% a certainty. The Big 12 was on life support because the competing Big 12 schools thought the brass in Dallas/Fort Worth hadthe Texas Longhorns & Oklahoma Sooners in their back pocket.
The Pac-10 added Colorado and Utah to become the Pac-12. Nebraska said “bye-bye” to Dallas and hello to Chicago & the Big 10. Texas’s Bristol-supported Longhorn Network was the last straw for Texas A&M as they went to the SEC. The ACC,SEC, Big 10, and Pac 12 were all supposed to establish 16 team “super-conferences”or “mega-conferences” and that was said by many to result in a playoff.
Therealignment talk also, ironically, was motivated by money and not academics.
Fortunately,the Big 12 was saved and many rivalries were preserved. Even with the gridiron-centricbad blood there is between Longhorns and Sooners, They held hands and haddemand for the NCAA: “Don’t deny us our opportunity to maintain our bad blood!”
Eventuallythey listened. Now, a playoff has been established, and it may only be a signof bigger things to come. This deal is an 11 year deal that extends out to theyear 2025. But, in the case of NCAA basketball, their tournament was only 8 teams from 1939 to 1950. They didn’t add the additional 3 teams until last yearin 2011.
The women’sNCAA basketball tournament began as a 32-team tourney in 1982 and late expandedto its current 64-team format in 1994.
So, this thing is starting out small and has a chance to grow much bigger. Starting in 2014, the new playoff will be a mere newborn. Hopefully it won’t take long for this thing to mature into a full-grown adult.