Originally created 12/12/04

Close your eyes, think of playoffs



If you're anything like me - and feedback reveals that many of you are - Saturday was exquisitely exhausting. It was back-to-back-to-back-to-back the most meaningful day in college football history. It was December Delirium.

First of all, Virginia Tech needing to block that field goal to knock the glass slipper off Toledo's foot was amazing. Then that Texas comeback to clip Michigan was an instant classic. Louisville proved its mettle by sending a message to Pitt that there'll be a new beast of the Big East in 2005. In the nightcap, only adrenaline kept my eyes open for the overtime shootout between Cal and Boise State.

And then I woke up.

None of it was real. Just another mirage for us fantasy football junkies still waiting for the day when all the current idiots who control college football die off and more sensible leadership finally installs a Division I-A college playoff system. In the meantime, we must debate a few weeks before crowning another illegitimate collegiate king.

How many more Auburns and Southern Cals and Oregons and Miamis need to be sacrificed by the BCS system before the collegiate powers-that-be wake up? How many more campaign speeches from head coaches will we have to endure so anonymous poll voters can be swayed to rig the final results of the electoral college? How many more computer malfunctions must be reprogrammed before the moronic software is booted and terminated?

When can mythical national championships become a must-see reality TV series?

Every year the BCS process coughs up another glitch that begs for the whole thing to be scrapped and sold for parts. Every year the idiots in charge rebuild the engine and drive the jalopy to another inevitable crash.

While controversies of the recent past should be enough firepower to take down the BCS system, playoff revolutionaries - like most of the respondents to The Augusta Chronicle query - have

been waiting for the cache of munitions provided this season to launch a populist coup d'etat. Five undefeated teams all ranked in the top 10 of the BCS standings, including one from the mighty Southeastern Conference that was too arrogant to believe it could ever be bypassed in the system Roy Kramer helped concoct.

The delicious irony of this perfect storm should be enough to bring down the house of cards that rewards preseason popularity and encourages anonymous vote-stacking by biased coaches and sports writers.

Alas, reason is not a part of this process. Never has been.

The spin doctors for the status quo have more nauseating talking points than political pundits. An "NFL-style" playoff will destroy the bowl system, they say. It will keep "student-athletes" out of class too long. It will butcher the cash cow that the bowls provide. It will dilute the value of the regular season.

The first thing everyone needs to understand is all of those talking points are LIES! Let's explain.

A real playoff - be it eight, 10, 12 or 16 teams - would actually enhance the bowl system. No reason the Independence, Continental Tire and Music City bowls can't peacefully coexist in the same meaningless way they always have.

As for distracting student-athletes, the hypocrisy reeks from presidents who approved permanently expanding the regular season to 12 games. Football players - even the ones at Division I-AA, II and III schools that have 16-team playoff systems - miss less class time than any other collegiate athletes. And just how many classes do schools hold during the Christmas through New Year's holidays?

Also, has anyone seen how much revenue the NFL and its postseason TV rights generate? A collegiate playoff and Mega Bowl would be among the richest properties on the sports landscape - in the neighborhood with the Super Bowl, Olympics and World Cup.

The best argument BCS conservationists make has to do with built-in urgency and relevance of the regular season. However, exactly how would, say, a 12-team seeded playoff that invited 10 conference champions and only two at large teams (this year presumably Texas and Cal) detract from the importance of any one fall Saturday? I didn't think so.

I used to a be proponent of the 16-team format, and it wouldn't take much to get back on board that bandwagon.

But I've cottoned to the idea of a more cozy, 12-game system that would still include automatic qualifiers from the 10 most significant conferences (sorry Sun Belt) and leave room for two formidable wildcards.

While no system will ever be foolproof, this format provides fundamental fairness while reducing the arguments of which two-loss team is more worthy than another for those last slots.

Some people don't like the idea of MAC or WAC teams taking up such significant place instead of another SEC or Big Ten team that could probably wax the others nine times out of every 10 they met.

But the Coppin States and St. Bonaventures have made March Madness, not ruined it. If you want to prove you belong in the playoff hunt, win your conference like they had to do in the old days in basketball.

In my 12-team fantasy bracket for 2004, first-round games would have been played Saturday, with the winners advancing to face the four unbeaten top seeds - Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Auburn and Utah - in another all-day smorgasbord on Dec. 18.

A week off to rest up over Christmas would prepare the slate for a New Year's Day semifinal ballot.

Then on Jan. 8 - a Super Saturday only four days later than the 2003 Sugar Bowl finale - would be the ultimate and indisputable title tilt that would crown the first legitimate national champion in collegiate football history.

We're probably all just howling at the moon.

Fans and their universal disgust of the current illogical system don't count. College administrators don't listen to reason like that offered by Mike Gastelle of Evans.

"Polls, points and votes should only serve one purpose - shape the landscape of the teams who are proving their mettle on the field so there can be a playoff," Gastelle wrote.

If you close your eyes, Mike, you can almost picture it.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.