A Feasible Playoff System
By Jacob Shoor
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin. Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page
A four team playoff used in conjunction with the bowl system will not work, as bowls always die when playoffs are instituted.
It seems that conference commissioners have crossed the Rubicon. And once the Rubicon separating bowls from a playoff is crossed, there is no turning back: the revolution will not stop until it reigns solely.
Most fans of major college football seem ignorant of that fact. They fancy that we can have both a small playoff system and a bowls system operating simultaneously, thus granting seemingly everything to everyone, with 40 or more teams getting post-season play each year. But the reality is that bowls always die when playoffs are instituted. That is the reason that the Grantland Rice Bowl is no longer on the calendar. It is the reason that the Clinic Bowl, which once was a real high school bowl with invited participants, survived only as the name of the Tennessee high school state playoff championships.
Every bowl that is not part of the playoff system will be seen as a waste of time by fans, and therefore such bowls will die because TV will not pay much for them and team cannot afford to play in them. A few bowls will last longer than others, depending on location and numbers of local businessmen willing to keep them alive with the help of at least one Major conference. But the bowl system will die not long after after a playoff is implemented. That being the case, it is best that the crossing of Rubicon not be any halfway measure of only four teams: alea iacta est, and everyone needs to act like the die has been cast.
The now five Major conference commissioners should know that there is no way they can agree on which teams should get into a truncated four team playoff. Some of them will demand that the participants all be conference champions, and the SEC certainly will demand that the top four ranked teams make the playoffs regardless of conference affiliations. Those issues and the fact that every year two or three schools will be able to make easy cases why they belonged in the playoff before at least one of the participants will mean that the four team playoff will become an eight team playoff rather quickly.
That too will pass rather quickly, because it most likely would start with the champions of the five Major conferences, leaving only three at-large teams. And that will infuriate the SEC and perhaps another couple of Major conferences until we have a 16 team playoff. Yes, it will take four Saturdays, a full month, to complete. But it can begin right before Christmas when exams are over and end before the Super Bowl.
Before proceeding, I should note that I am opposed to any form of playoff. Any playoff will create new problems. The biggest is that after a few years, no more than four or five bowls not part of the playoffs will survive, which means that the number of schools with a postseason will be under 30. That will not be good for parity, with the SEC benefitting most and the non-Major conferences being in worse shape than they are now.
That said, here is my plan:
I say that the BCS should retain full control of this playoff, keeping it out of the hands of the NCAA and its unrelenting sense of socialist wealth redistribution that has spurred 50 or 60 teams to move up to D1 basketball that do not belong and thus making the 6 Major basketball conferences pay for such moves. The champs of the five Major conferences should be automatically included as long as they have at least nine wins. The remaining 11 teams would be the other 11 highest ranking teams in whatever system is used to rank and seed, with no more than four schools from any conference.
The first round would be played at the Home stadiums of the Top 8 seeds, and the champs of the five Major conferences would be granted a Top 8 seed and thus a Home game in the first round. That is necessary to underscore that the 5 Major conferences, along with Notre Dame, are THE reason that the game is so profitable. And it will take all of them, representing all regions of the country, representing all major media centers, to make certain that the early rounds of the playoffs are not duds in terms of TV audience and national interest.
The second, third, and fourth rounds would need to be played at neutral sites primarily to make certain that each venue could handle all logistics. That is where some bowls come in. The oldest and most profitable and best run bowls should be the neutral sites. Seven of them are required to take care of the national quarter-finals, semi-finals, and championship game. They should be divided into two groups, which will help keep a century of football history as a key part of the new playoff college football.
The more important group would be the trio that rotate the National Championship Game and the two semi-finals. That group should be the Rose, the Sugar, and the Orange. The locations and the histories of those bowls should make them ideal to host the playoff semi-finals and final.
Two bowls seem givens to be part of the quarter-finals: the Fiesta and the Cotton. Four bowls I see as roughly equal, based on geography (the seven neutral playoff sites need to be in as many states as possible) and the area's status for business as well as football and decent weather, to claim the final two slots. They are Chick-Fil-A, Belk, Music City, and Gator.
Even with a 16 team playoff, each year we will have endless rows about teams left out. We also will see truly dominant teams lose the playoff because of serious injury in an early round. But the die has been cast, and we are now entering the playoff age. It needs to be done correctly, with half measures discarded, and as many bowls protected as possible. The system needs to facilitate parity among the Major conferences as much as possible, while also leaving potential openings for teams from the non-major conferences.