Well, the meta-news in college football is that finally there is a system roughed out for a four-team playoff beginning for the 2014 season — two years away. And by roughed out, I mean roughed out. There are still a lot of details that are unknown with regards to how the selection will occur. Here are the basics:
— This plan is going to run for 12 years.
— There will be a selection committee tasked with choosing the best four teams. The size, composition, level of transparency all TBD (To Be Determined).
— Ranking the four playoff teams will be based on win-loss record, strength of schedule (SOS), head-to-head record, and whether a team is a conference champion. Conference champion status is supposed to be of extra-emphasis. How much extra emphasis is placed on being a conference champion and how they determine SOS are still TBD.
— Playoffs will be held within the current bowl structure. The two annual semifinal games will be rotated between six bowls — Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange and two others TBD (though, the Cotton is believed to be one of them). One semifinal will be held on December 31 and the other on January 1. Non-college football watching significant others will hate a New Years Eve game.
— The Championship game will be bid out to a host city/stadium annually. Actual name, TBD.
— The way the money will be divided, TBD.
As usual, the devil will be in the details.
The cynical view is that this will not go for 12 years. That within 5-8 years or so, there will be an adjustment to eight-teams. Would not be surprising, and would be best for the ACC and probably the Big East. The wider the field the better the access for conference champions — especially if the issue of SOS becomes the headache I expect. With only a small number of non-con games each year — and even fewer games that cross conference lines — it is still difficult to compare conferences without a lot of bias involved.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the 4-team playoff system won’t last the full 12 years. Part of the appeal to the new playoff system is that it will increase the access. Well, at least it may increase the chances of increased access.
“Will the Cinderella team, will the next Boise State fare better or worse with a selection committee vs. computers and polls?” one commissioner said Tuesday.
The fact that we don’t know that answer yet is unsettling. I keep coming back to the 2008 season. The only two major-college undefeated teams that season were Utah and Boise State. Boise State was ninth in the BCS. Utah finished sixth behind three conference champions (Oklahoma, Florida, USC), a conference championship game loser (Alabama) and a division runner-up (Texas). All five had one loss.
A selection committee would have had to supplant at least one of those top four (Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, Alabama). Those four just happen to be owners of six of the past 12 national championships. Considering strength of schedule is going to be considered heavily in the future, has anything really changed?
I don’t think anyone is particularly surprised to understand that the new system will still favor the big boys.
Eagle in Atlanta has a breakdown of what the playoff system means for BC. It applies to Pitt and the rest of the ACC as well, so it is well worth the entire read.
It wouldn’t be college football without some backroom dealing, without a monumental payout to a bunch of bowl directors whose usefulness has been in question since about 1972. Or at least since ESPN made the game explode in popularity.
Oh, the SEC, Big 12 and Conference USA reportedly tried to push a plan that would stage the game outside of the bowl system, but the others wouldn’t have it. The Big Ten once expressed interest in on-campus games, but soon decided it would rather play in Florida or California, not Madison or Columbus, and certainly not at neutral sites such as Detroit or Indianapolis, two cities that apparently don’t need any positive economic impact.
Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman, whose dedication to the ugly blazer set is so supreme he deserves a lifetime supply of free Orange Bowl Coco Loco rum drinks even though no one else takes him seriously, actually argued for a system that would enrich these third-party groups even more.
Yes, third-party groups. That’s what bowls are. They’re just a different kind of “third-party group” than AAU coaches, which the suits want to eradicate because since when has anyone from DC Assault ever bought them an aged single malt?
So, in the end, the bowls survived. Heck, they will thrive. They get to run the semifinals, which will be even more profitable than the current title game. They get to print their millions (tax-free, of course). They get to maintain a lifestyle that pays the CEOs at least 700K, their assistants $350K, and offers perks like those of John Junker, the former Fiesta Bowl chief who had a $2,250-a-month car allowance. Seriously, that’s how much he got just for his car.
This will remain the most illogical deal in sports (and, yes, I know Hasheem Thabeet was paid $5.1 million last year). It’s akin to a promoter walking into Roger Goodell’s office and telling him that rather than the NFL fully owning and operating the NFC and AFC Championship games, the league should instead outsource them, allowing the promoter to take half the money and stick the league with the travel expenses while inconveniencing fans who have to travel to some far-off antiseptic stadium.
Jonathan Vilma would get a warmer reception.
In college athletics, this is called “tradition.” A tradition of fleecing, but a tradition nonetheless and, darn it, don’t we value tradition?
Well, at least Dan Wetzel will still have something to go after now that the BCS is dead. But beyond the hyperbolic rant, there is a valid question as to why the college presidents, athletic directors and conference commissioners don’t just run their own system. Bowl people better be ready. There’s going to be a lot more sunlight shined on their operations in the coming years.
The mix of broad details and so much undetermined information regarding the playoffs, has predictably resulted in a severe reduction in expansiopocolypse rumors. Now it is no longer clear what is in the best interests fiscally or on-the-field for FSU, Clemson, Texas, Oklahoma, etc.
The path for Clemson and FSU to the playoffs sure looks better going through the ACC than the Big 12. Texas and Oklahoma may be thinking how badly a conference championship game upset can screw-up a season — and making the playoffs. And thus hurt the entire conference if they don’t place a team in the 4-team playoff.
I don’t think expansiopocolypse is dead. Just back in hibernation until the system and the details are more firmly fleshed out. Late September at the earliest, but more likely next summer.