Playoffs? Building the perfect football system

  • Follow Scott Michaux

For as long as most of us can remember, the Rose Bowl has been calling itself "the Granddaddy of them all." It's a cute little self-aggrandizing slogan coined by Keith Jackson that would be harmless if old granddad wasn't ruining college football.

Photo illustration  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Photo illustration

The problem with the Rose Bowl is that it doesn't act like most grandfathers. It refuses to retire and reflect on a century of accomplishment while leaving the future to be run as its grandchildren see fit. The Rose Bowl and its lovely parade are holding progress hostage and standing in the way of what the vast majority of college football fans want -- a legitimate playoff.

The Rose Bowl and its anachronistic sibling -- Notre Dame -- are the primary reasons we will have to endure another unsatisfactory conclusion to the college season. They are the reasons that Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Virginia Tech, Hawaii, West Virginia and Georgia have been rendered irrelevant in the holiday bowl season. They are the reason that we still decide a national champion through a beauty pageant system.

The Rose and Irish hold unreasonable sway over the powers that wilt at the mention of a real postseason playoff system for the only significant sport that doesn't have one. The Big Ten and Pac-10 prefer to perpetuate the myth that they alone belong in the "grandest" game when the fact is they prefer their little cabal instead of having to face sterner competition from Southeastern or Big 12 conference teams (see the past two title games for points of reference).

The BCS folks have been talking about a "plus-one" compromise that would only diminish the bleeding instead of offering a cure. Seasons such as this prove how even a four-team format isn't inclusive enough when so many two-loss teams are lined up with legitimate arguments of merit. A plus-one arrangement this year would likely have excluded Georgia and Southern Cal -- the two teams most people agree were the hottest two teams in the second half of the season and potentially the toughest postseason draws.

The current system has many fans peeved after a remarkable regular season of relative parity.

"When it comes to a totally unpredictable season where any team could win on any given Saturday, the 2007 season shines brighter than any other," said John York of Arab, Alabama, in an e-mail. "So why do we have only two teams that are not head and shoulders above some of the other top 10 teams competing for the national title following a season like this one?"

York started a Web site -- ItsTimeForAPlayoff.com -- to launch a petition drive for frustrated fans. He's not alone, as another on-line petition drive was generated at NoBCS.net.

That's the kind of movement that would appeal to Coleman Hatfield of Aiken, who refuses to watch the BCS Championship game until a legitimate playoff is created.

"If there is no playoff, just go back to the old system of the bowls," Hatfield wrote. "I refuse to be taken in by hearing the announcers continue to carry on about this being for the national championship."

With all this fan unrest, it's time once again to propose a real playoff alternative that would end the annual debate and provide the first legitimate national champion in more than 100 years. Since it seems clear that the collegiate decision makers aren't willing to make the most simple solution and create a 16-team playoff bracket just like they do in Divisions I-AA, II and III, something more complicated and less inclusive will have to suffice.

This is my proposed blueprint. If it seems complex, that's because the situation is complex. The more "i's" you dot and "t's" you cross the less room there is for stubborn naysayers to argue that it is simplistic reasoning. And wouldn't it be nice to stop complaining at the end of every college football season and let the teams decide a champion on the field?

All it would require was for the collegiate executives to be willing to accept gobs more money by standing up to Grandpa Roses and his old Dame and telling them to either join the future or live alone in the past.

GO BACK TO 11

The first thing that would have to be established is a return to an 11-game regular season which must be completed the weekend after Thanksgiving with any conference championship games to be played by the first Saturday in December.

Fans won't miss the lost September marshmallow roast.

PLAYOFF FIELD

With a minimum of eight teams and a maximum of 10, a playoff field would be established utilizing most of the same parameters of the current BCS system to determine automatic qualifiers and at-large inclusion.

No more than two teams from any one conference can qualify for the playoffs.

AUTOMATIC QUALIFIERS

- The champions of the six primary BCS conferences.

- A champion from one of the five non-BCS conferences will earn entry if it ranks in the top 12 of the final BCS standings.

- An independent team (i.e. Notre Dame) will earn an automatic invitation if it ranks in the top eight in the final BCS standings.

AT-LARGE PREREQUISITES

- Win at least nine regular-season games.

- Rank among the top 12 in the final BCS standings.

PLAY-IN GAMES

If more than eight teams fulfill these requirements, one or two play-in games would be held a week after the conference championships to set the quarterfinal bracket.

Primary BCS conference teams who qualified by winning a league title game would be exempt from any play-in game regardless of final BCS ranking. The at-large teams and lowest-ranking qualifiers would be seeded based on final BCS standings, with the highest ranked team (or teams) playing host to the play-in game.

If this system were in place this year, Georgia would play host to Arizona State and Missouri would take on Hawaii in the play-in games.

PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Teams would be seeded after play-in games based on final BCS standings and the quarterfinals would be played the following weekend.

There would be one mandatory two-week gap after the quarterfinal games to allow time for exams. Semifinal games would not interfere with the New Year's Eve and New Year's Day bowl schedules.

The national championship game could not be played later than Jan. 15.

VENUES

Promise the traditional big four bowl locales (New Orleans, Miami, Pasadena, Calif., and Glendale, Ariz.) that they will play host to a semifinal and quarterfinal game in alternate years).

Make Atlanta and Houston permanent quarterfinal sites so that no major southern rim state has more than one playoff game.

Bid out the national championship game every year like they do the Super Bowl.

THE BOWLS

While there is no doubt that 30 bowls are more than necessary and reward too much mediocrity, there would have been enough bowl-eligible teams this season to fill the lot in addition to the playoffs.

Attrition would be welcome after returning the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta to their historical New Year's Day positions and filling them with the best of the rest.

There could even be a marquee consolation holiday bowl for the play-in game losers. The non-BCS bowls would be no less diminished by a playoff system than the already are. They are simply the NIT of football, fostering incentive and allowing an extra month of practice.

NEW HUMAN POLL

Since the football coaches obviously can't be trusted to control their biases, the Harris Poll committee is uninformed riff-raff and The Associated Press refuses to let its media gallery play along, a new media poll should be commissioned to represent the human input that accounts for two-thirds of the BCS rankings.

Each state that has at least one Division I-A school would have three established media voters each. States with five or more top-level programs would get four voters. Each of the nine states plus Washington D.C. that have no Division I-A programs would get two voters. The poll would not start until halfway through the season and every voter's publicized ballot would be subject to annual review to make sure they are practicing reasonable standards of judgment.

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

Playoff proposal 2007

AUTOMATIC QUALIFIERS

(seeding numbers correspond to actual BCS ranking)

1. Ohio State 11-1

2. Louisiana State 11-2

3. Virginia Tech 11-2

4. Oklahoma 11-2

7. Southern Cal 10-2

9. West Virginia 10-2

10. Hawaii 12-0

AT-LARGE QUALIFIERS

5. Georgia 10-2

6. Missouri 11-2

11. Arizona State 10-2

PLAY-IN GAMES

Arizona State at Georgia

Hawaii at Missouri

OTHER BOWL GAMES

Rose Bowl

Illinois vs. Oregon State

Sugar Bowl

Tennessee vs. Wisconsin

Orange Bowl

Boston College vs. Texas

Fiesta Bowl

Kansas vs. BYU

Gator Bowl

Clemson vs. South Florida

Capital One Bowl

Florida vs. Michigan

Outback Bowl

Auburn vs. Penn State

Cotton Bowl

Arkansas vs. Texas Tech

Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Virginia vs. Kentucky

Sun Bowl

Connecticut vs. UCLA

Music City Bowl

Georgia Tech vs. Mississippi State

Insight Bowl

Purdue vs. Central Michigan

Humanitarian Bowl

Fresno State vs. Iowa

Independence Bowl

South Carolina vs. Colorado

Liberty Bowl

Central Florida vs. Alabama

Meineke Car Care Bowl

Wake Forest vs. Cincinnati

Champ Sports Bowl

Florida State vs. Michigan State

Alamo Bowl

Indiana vs. Oklahoma State

Armed Forces Bowl

Houston vs. Air Force

Holiday Bowl

Texas A&M vs. Oregon

Emerald Bowl

California vs. Maryland

Motor City Bowl

Northwestern v. Ball State

Texas Bowl

TCU vs. Louisville

Hawaii Bowl

East Carolina vs. Boise State

Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl

Utah vs. Louisiana-Monroe

New Mexico Bowl

Nevada vs. New Mexico

Papajohn's.com Bowl

Southern Miss vs. Rutgers

New Orleans Bowl

Memphis vs. Florida Atlantic

Poinsettia Bowl

Troy vs. Navy

GMAC Bowl

Bowling Green vs. Tulsa

How a few readers would fix the BSC

"Until a real fix is put in place, we should at least put a band aid on the problem. My band-aid remedy is this -- the No. 1 team does not go to a bowl game. The No. 2 and No. 3 teams play in a bowl game against each other to determine who plays No. 1 in the national championship game. That means only one extra game would be played." -- Phil from Bagdad

"I think that a year-end tournament that includes the champions of all 11 Division I conferences, plus the runners-up of five of the existing BCS conferences (excluding Big East) with four at-large berths given to the highest BCS ranked teams that were not their conference champion or runner-up. Teams would be seeded 1 to 20. The eight lowest seeded teams would play four games for the right to play the four highest seeded teams in the tournament." -- Tony Garren

"It's pretty simple really. Take the six BCS conference champions and two at-large teams. Eight-team playoff. One champ. No controversy." -- bp101

"Keep the bowls as is. The BCS bowls go to six major conference champs plus two at-large teams based on next two non-major conference teams with highest BCS average. Anyone who actually has a reason to even be considered to be playing for a national championship would be in these top eight teams." -- dhastings

"I kind of like the old bowl system where each bowl was independent and competed for teams. So, I say abolish the BCS committee and its rules and let the bowls and the teams slug it out." -- jbsills

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markxr7
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markxr7 12/30/07 - 12:29 pm
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Great conceptual system

Great conceptual system Scott. Now if it could only be sold to the real college powers that be. THE TV NETWORKS!

grangermd
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grangermd 12/31/07 - 01:02 pm
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Well written and thought out.

Well written and thought out. I am still confused as to why dvivision II and Division III can have a playoff and division I cannot. Yes! I know it's about the money but at least the so called "analysts' on the TV networks could at least mention it every once in awhile!! To say it cant be done at the divison I level when it is done in every other sport is ridiculous!

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