As I sat down to watch the BCS National Championship between Ohio State and LSU last night, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that no matter how great the outcome, the result would still leave me unsatisfied.
Does anyone in the country – fans and so-called experts (based on the analysts’ predictions of bowl games this year, their knowledge has been seriously called into question – pardon me for digressing) alike – think that these were the two best teams in the country? I don’t think so, especially not in certain parts of California, Georgia and West Virginia.
And while debating the merits of each team’s case is entertaining, it dismisses the credo of competition that tells us the answer will eventually emerge from the field. Until the bowl system and athletic directors nationwide suck it up and change the current system, fans of college football will be left with a never-ending stream of hypothetical what-ifs.
So what is to be done? Everyone seems to have an opinion: the plus-one system, an eight-team playoff or, most infuriatingly, that the bowl system is so soaked with tradition that even though changes should be made, they won’t.
If this esteemed tradition is so sacred, then why has every bowl sold out to the sponsor phenomenon? How prestigious can a system that produces the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl really be?
But the best scenario I’ve heard during these debates is a 16-team playoff. I know it sounds shocking and impossible, but in actuality it’s the only viable solution.
Scrapping the BCS in favor of a playoff is not akin to tearing down the Berlin Wall, as the media leads us to believe. It’s more like changing the Electoral College, a daunting task that remains in spite of mounting evidence of how outdated the system is.
No, tradition is not the issue. The root of the problem is that the conferences, schools and bowl sponsors make a killing from the bowl system. Ultimately, we all are painfully aware of how strong the power of the almighty dollar is.
Only with a 16-team playoff will a champion be crowned the way every other team-sport champion in this country is, including those from over-40 slow-pitch softball leagues with playoffs. The best part about it is – and listen to this – it will make money, much more money than the current system is raking in.
The BCS bowls just signed a four-year deal with FOX worth $320 million. To compare, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s deal with CBS is 11 years, for $6 billion. There is money to be made with a playoff system in the TV deals alone because football is much more popular than basketball.
The 16 participants would be made up of the 11 Division I conference winners, plus five at-large teams to be determined by an expert panel, á la basketball. Rankings would be determined using the BCS formula.
This would assure that any undefeated school from a non-BCS conference would get a shot at the national championship. This year’s cast would have been Hawaii, BYU, Central Florida, Central Michigan and Troy State.
Part of the appeal of March Madness is the upset factor; the first weekend is my favorite time of the year. Now think of how cool it was to see Boise State win last year, and imagine how thrilling a first-round upset in the college football playoffs could be. Would any of those teams have done that this year? Maybe not, but I sure would have watched to find out.
If not, second-round dream match-ups could have been USC vs. LSU and Ohio State vs. West Virginia, among others. I don’t know who would continue on after that, but the beauty of the system is that in the end, the two best teams would be left standing without controversy.
Now, I don’t want to hear anything about players’ safety and education. If that’s a concern, shorten the season back to 11 games and then have the playoffs, the system currently used at the Championship Subdivision and Divisions II and III.
Players would still have two weeks off for finals at the beginning of December while still allowing the season to finish within the first couple of weeks of January. The lost revenue from home games for non-playoff teams could be made up in a shared-revenue deal from the lucrative TV deals.And you could still use the bowl games. There were 32 bowls this year, nearly all of which had zero relevance on the national title picture.
Nothing has to change. The first round of the playoffs could be home games for the top seed, which gives advantages to schools that succeeded with tougher schedules. The seven remaining games could be cycled between the BCS bowls and three other New Year’s Day games.
This appeases the top bowls because they still host great games and get a chance to make more money from the increase in interest. The rest of the bowls could still pick from the also-rans, with the only difference being that they serve as minor distractions until the college football playoffs resume each weekend. And if a few bowls fell by the wayside, would anyone notice?
This scenario is so appealing because it satisfies everybody: players, coaches, schools, the bowls and most importantly, the fans. The BCS National Championship is already the second most-watched sporting event in the country. Under this system, it would rival the Super Bowl because America can’t get enough football.
After this unprecedented season of upsets, I’d like to believe the college football chief honchos will come to their senses. Unfortunately, it seems change will only occur when the fans unite in their frustration and hit the powers that be where it hurts – in their wallets.
Until then, each college football season will end the same, with an anticlimactic “championship” leaving fans disappointed and wondering what could have been.
Kory Harbeck is a journalism junior and a Mustang Daily reporter.