|I believe we are all in agreement on this one.|
By War Eagle Atlanta
This week, the commissioners of the big six BCS conferences meet in Miami to discuss the state of the BCS and possibly propose various playoff scenarios. Mr. College Football himself, Tony Barnhart of the AJC, wrote a series of articles last week about the subject, culminating in Sunday's blockbuster expose' which should be required reading for all fans of CFB.
A 1-A playoff is right around the corner. We can all taste it. Only now can we start to believe in it. But know this: whatever inaugural system they implement is going to need some fine tuning--A LOT of fine tuning. But that's the fun of it. The important thing is to get one in place to show that it can work. We can address it's weaknesses later. Conventional wisdom says that a four-team playoff could be the first format put into place.
But a lot has to happen in order for a playoff to come about, and there are many obstacles in the road. Today I'm going to give you my list of who's driving the bus, who's on board, and who's about to get run over.
College football fans are by far the ones who are really leading the push for a playoff. No where else is it more evident than seeing how much we keep devouring the game. Attendance is up everywhere in the country, especially in the south, where stadiums are jammed to capacity each week. TV viewership and ratings are rising, and CFB sites on the Internet are exploding with new members thirsting for more info on their sport and their teams. Just how big is the demand? You need only look at how much exposure that spring games and recruiting get to demonstrate the escalating desire for more football.
Yes, we fans are hungry for more, and more than anything, we want championships to be decided on the field rather than by the media. When we finally get this done, fans are going to owe each other one big collective pat on the back!
The BCS Commissioners, who each represent the six conferences who make up the BCS, seem to finally be on board, having seen the writing on the wall that this playoff genie was refusing to be stuffed back into the bottle. The commissioners will eventually iron out an initial playoff scenario, but don't necessarily expect it this year. Sure, there will be regional biases, but perhaps new coalitions among conferences might be formed to finally gain acceptance among all. The commissioners know that the spotlight is shining directly on them, so the pressure is on. Although they don't enjoy total autonomy on making decisions, their recommendations do carry a lot of weight. Here's hoping that they move quickly.
The majority of BCS team coaches appear to be all for some sort of playoff. In the article in the AJC, all these coaches were polled about whether they'd like to leave the current system alone or have a four team playoff. More than half responded, and a majority of those definitely favor a playoff. Although it's not hard to imagine that any coach would want a chance for his team to play themselves into a title, don't forget the enormous pressure that will now be added for them to make it into this playoff--considerably more pressure than there already is in maintaining the status quo. That's something to consider for these guys who live and die by their wins and losses.
The school presidents seem to be on the sidelines these days, seemingly allowing their proxies, the conference commissioners, to fight it out for them, but ultimately wielding veto power over the final decision. Realistically, I think that although the presidents may threaten to throw the rock in the blender, we can expect a flock mentality when it comes down to it, with conferences acting in concert to promote their own self interests. What we sometimes forget is that the presidents are tasked with overseeing the academic integrity of the member schools, something that supercedes sports. And until the NFL turns CFB into one big farm system, we always have to keep that in mind.
The non-BCS teams are the patient ones, quietly sitting in their seat on the bus, trusting that wherever the big boys decide to go, they're going to be brought along for the ride. Although currently long-shots for BCS slots, they have to know that a 4-team playoff would raise those odds even higher. Perhaps they hope that eventually the field would be expanded into a format that would allow for the junior conferences to participate. For the time being, they seem to be content to have their occasional Cinderella shot. Time will tell for them.
UGA president Michael Adams is the one person who characterizes those in academia who are accused of plagiarizing their peers. A little over a year ago, Florida president Bernie Machen decided to stick his neck out and suggest that the SEC presidents possibly take the initiative with a playoff proposal. The idea was instantly pooh-poohed by Adams; yet it is he who basically comes up with the same idea a year later. The chilly reception that followed forced groundhogs back into their burroughs for six more weeks.
The idea instantly crashed and burned, playing to only slightly better reviews than he and Machen's grass-roots effort to rename the World's Largest Outdoor C*cktail Party to something else. How good is a leader if no one is following, Dr. Adams? Although it doesn't take a rocket-scientist to figure out that no one likes a copycat, there's still a good chance that the other presidents could have still been pissed about how Adams unceremoniously dumped Vince Dooley a few years ago. No, wait. Sorry. That's MY reason...My bad...
In the Way:
The Big Eas(y)t is the one thing that is not like the others, the one thing that doesn't belong. Decimated by mass defections unheard of outside the old Soviet block, the Big East combines old guard schools like West Virginia, Pitt, and Syracuse with a host of new kids on the block, and frankly, they just don't deserve to be there with the rest of the big five. I mean, MAYBE, if they somehow convinced Notre Dame to join in football, but I don't think a good old-fashioned Catholic miracle could bring that to pass.
The prime reason that it's bad for an undeserving conference being added to the guest list of the playoff party is because it gives hope to the rest of the junior conferences who are standing at the rope line, trying to sneak in. Look, eventually you guys can be included, but it's going to take a little of that fine-tuning we were talking about before we can work you in. In the meantime, no soup for you! Come back, one year! Next!
Notre Dame. Why the hell not include ND on the list of obstructionists? I dunno... Maybe because the Pope was just in town and decreed that the Irish should not join a conference until after marriage? Come on! They're an obstacle because for now, they write their own ticket and they refuse to join a conference. (which will be their death knell, BTW) But the Irish's luster may be starting to tarnish and non-Irish fans are getting a little tired of the golden dome pony show. Last year ND got paid by the BCS a few million for their 3-9 record and an appearance in the Toilet Bowl. Anyway, write your own reasons why they're part of the problem in the comment section. Next!
The Pac-10, the Big 10(11) and the Rose Bowl are the biggest obstacles to avoid on the road to a playoff, and I'm thinking real soon here that we take a detour around them all together. If there's ever been a case of trying to take your ball on go home, these three are the epitome. Seemingly binded for eternity in a blood-pact in Pasadena, these three and their tradition are the hold-outs that prevent the four major bowls from becoming de facto playoff venues in the proposed 4-team tournament.
The Pac-10 went to a 9-game conference schedule in the 2006 season so that every team played every other team and could crown a champion on the field. That was a good first step in lieu of expanding and having a conference championship game. Inexplicably though, they still have had co-champions the first two years, seemingly ignoring head-to-head competition while determining the ONE champion. Hello! Anyway, crowning a true conference champion on the field will go a long way toward a playoff, especially when the playoff evolves into one between conference champions.
The Big 10(11) is truly a complete mess. Aside from having their ass handed to them in MNC title games of late, they are risking their own relevancy in the modern CFB world by refusing to expand by one more team and crown a true champion of their conference on the field. Seemingly, they want to remain a crusty relic of days gone by, relying on the media to vote into the national title hunt a multitude of their teams who never play each other during the season. If you say that this lack of a conference title game gives them an unfair leg up on all the real conferences that do have one, you'd be right. Don't shirk your responsibility of providing us your best, Big 10(11), if your best hasn't been tested against all your conference has. If you say that it'll just mean that your conference will devour itself, I'd say welcome to the SEC, baby!
Of course, all wrongs could be righted if somehow the Big 10(11) could manage to land the ever elusive Notre Dame into the ranks, but that would lend itself to new problems--like what to call the new conference since 'Big XII' is already taken...
The Rose Bowl is starting to remind me of that aging Hollywood star who wonders why the Paparazzi is no longer following him around. Can it be because the youth and vigor are long gone? You don't invite many people to your party, so pardon us if we start to think about throwing our own. How can you claim to be the 'Grandaddy' of them all if you don't even want to claim the red-headed step children of the CFB family? If you still want to cling to the old days and honor your pact with two conferences of yesteryear, then I guess it's your right. Just don't expect all the cameras to be flashing...
Guaranteed of a MNC game at least every four years, the RB is probably thinking that it may be as good as it gets if the playoff expands and even more venues are brought in. Although the idea of bypassing the RB completely was floated during the early formation of the BCS, no one really wants to exclude the Rose Bowl from any playoff scenario. CFB fans are traditionalists, and we'd like to have Pasadena on board. He's just going to have to realize that he can't be the leading man in every film.
So there's my compilation of all the players in the playoff scenario today. Just remember, it's not WHAT kind of playoff you get installed, it's THAT you get one. All the tuning and adjustments will be completed later. That's what the media is for. Since they'll no longer have as big a hand in determining who's going to be in it, they'll want to shape up the process to their liking as much as possible.
Playoff 1.0 is going to be less than perfect, and it's still going to rely heavily on the polls. With only four teams, the media is still going to be selecting who the participants are. Yes, team #5 and the rest of the cast are not going to be happy, but it's better than it is now. Eventually, the playoff will evolve into having all conference champions competing against each other, but that day is way off, considering the logistics in weighting all 1-A conferences against each other and having enough rounds to include them along with at-large teams. The road to a solution will be long, but think about all the great pit stops along the way.
War Eagle Atlanta will now take your stark criticism...