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Process of Elimination: Let's Determine What a Playoff Should Not Be

Last week, eleven conference commissioners and the Notre Dame AD met in Dallas basking in the glitz and glory of trying to determine a future playoff scenario for major college football. Nearly all interviewed stressed the fact that this would be a gradual process of determination, but none have confessed how quickly this subject moved to the forefront from previous years. With nothing on TV except SEC national champion reruns, the rest of CFB's major powers, led by the Big 10++, have made this subject public enemy issue #1.

It's a daunting task. With 130+ years of precedent and history,120 FBS teams involved, and conferences waxing and waning with new members almost weekly, there remains a lot of people to piss off. Make no mistake: most everyone will be made unhappy by whatever initial playoff scenario gets melded together with the BCS and the latest offering from their minions, the school presidents and conference commissioners. Naturally, money should be at the forefront. And TV ratings. Did I mention money?

With all the millions of suggestions we will soon hear about what a playoff should be, I think an easier way to go about shaping a playoff is to first eliminate what it should not be. Voila! The process of elimination. And if that makes sense to you, you'll now know how I passed most multiple-choice exams while in college. Without further adieu, let's draw the straws and see who's got the shortest ones:

No more Notre Dame as wild card, conference unto itself: Re-read the first sentence above: "...eleven conference commissioners and the Notre Dame AD met in Dallas...". Why are we still kowtowing to the Irish like they own college football? They've enjoyed their special relationship with the BCS for over five years now and during that time they've done jack squat--both on the field and in the polls--not to mention in the public relations department.

While the winds of change whirl across the sport, the Golden Domers have made no contribution to improving the sport or their lot in it. Simply relying on special treatment is an anachronism that should disappear but just won't, like back-dated national championships or Lou Holtz's lisp.

Join a conference and compete nationally through that or take your chances in the polls, Notre Dame. With no boost from winning a conference championship to lift you in the polls and only three service academies to schedule, you may get to live off a BCSbowl appearance morsel every 15 years or so but I'm confident the national titles will be long gone like the Gipper and above flat-line TV ratings.

No basketball brackets, please: Forget 64, 32, 16 or 8. It's 4. F O U R. That's all we're gonna get. For a long time. Maybe in a decade or two it may grow to eight, but that's all it would ever be in our lifetime. Here's where my purism kicks in. The most meaningful regular season in all of sports must be preserved, otherwise we have basketball.
Or pro football. Or something else that historians will never be able to trace back to the roots of the game.

Quit dreaming. The logistics of football and the length of the bowl season dictate this limited team necessity even more than the tradition does. Four. That's the number. Let's concentrate on getting the best formula for arriving at that number and calling them something other than the Final Four.

No special treatment for Non-Automatic Qualifying Conferences: Yes, I am on board for reclassifying who exactly constitutes a BCS conference. While I'm sure that it should include a divisional format for determining the conference championship, we'll need another year or two to find a few more sister wives for Texas in the Big 12, so we may have to grandfather them in for awhile. Know this: the mid-major conferences are reorganizing into divisonal play as a beard to fool voters into thinking their conference titles are BCS-worthy. But even with 24 teams as in a revamped Conference-USA, until revealed to be otherwise, they are still sheep in wolves's clothing.

It's not that I'm unsympathetic to their plight. I'm a fair guy. I'd like for them to be represented, but this isn't democracy. There's only so many seats available for them to ask to have one reserved. There's a reason why they're still sitting at the kid's table, being of college age and all. That reason is becausethe adults in the game haven't died off yet, opening up their seats. I'd like to get 50-yard line tickets at Jordan-Hare next year. Tough toodles. With the major schools and conferences, you have over a century of glory, tradition and commitment--commitment to not only the sport, but to everything else a university is.

Is it fair? Maybe not, but with decades of game infrastructure laid down, the major powers are firmly and rightly entrenched. It just goes to show that only with a sustained dedicated commitment to the sport--scheduling, stadium attendance, rivalries---will the best of the new kids stand a chance to go to the show. It can't happen overnight. It's not easy. Nor was it for the founders.

No non-divisional conferences need apply: I've always said that the de facto first round of any playoff would be the conference championship games. That time has come. It only stands to reason that with four slots available, CCGs become a valuable weeding out tool. We can can no longer afford for conference champions to be ambiguous or mythical. Only decisive champions should be eligible, regardless of what the polls say.

That also means no wildcards, ruling out the aforementioned perpetual special case Notre Dame or last year's Alabama (but not retroactively, mind you) If you can't win your conference in this brave, new CFB world, you don't belong in a playoff. How could any rational person disagree?

No throwing out the humans. Or the computers. Yet. This is a tough one. Most fans either hate one or the other or both. I tend to alternate year to year on which one I favor putting out to pasture but the truth is that most fans probably don't have enough trust in either to totally eliminate the other. With 120 teams, we're going to need dead-on accuracy determining the four participants.

The human polls were with us in the beginning and I think they still serve a purpose today. Granted, I'd be all for abolishing them until about the fourth week of the season. I hate the preseason popularity contests. And for the love of puppies, please rename the coach's poll. The coaches don't actually vote themselves. Let's quit pretending they do. Who's up for introducing a blogger's poll into the BCS equation?

The computers are good at crunching the data, something the humans sometimes miss, and can show the real story that sometimes the headlines leave out. Face it. We're married to both for quite a while. Tweaking them will be about all we can do for the foreseeable future.

No oversight committee: What is this, college basketball and their 68 teams? There will be no grievances board for the mid-majors and NotreDame to go crying to. Having an appeals board for a four seed playoff just reeks of cronyism and could lead to corruption of the integrity of the playoff. Look, it'll never be an exact science. We'll just live with it like we always have. And complain about it.

Did I mention the TV revenue?~~