Ever since what looked to be an invincible Oklahoma Sooner team was run over by Kansas State, the entire college football world has been in an uproar over the BCS system. USC is No. 1 in the polls but will not be playing in the national championship game, and a significant segment of the population seems to think that an NCAA playoff system is the only way to settle this dispute. I’m sorry, but to borrow a line from my all-time favorite NFL coach Jim Mora, “Playoffs?! Don’t talk about playoffs!”
The USC Trojans have a beef — no doubt about it. I think it has been almost a consensus all year that they are at least the second best team in the country. Now I know somewhere there is a mob forming, ready to smash the BCS computers, but I’m not going to grab my pitchfork and torch just yet. The fact is: I am about as prepared to discuss the inner workings of the BCS computers and inadequacies of that particular formula as I am for my two finals on Sunday. And let me tell you, I am not prepared for those, thank you very much, Journalism 202.
What I am ready to say, however, is that a playoff system is not the answer to this problem. Bowl games are a college football tradition. Granted, there are too many of them — I cannot say I am a diehard fan of the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl or the Continental Tire Bowl — but that is college football. What makes bowl games great is that they pit conference versus conference, because, unlike the pros, these teams do not play each other during the regular season.
I hate what the BCS did to the Rose Bowl, but the proposed tournament would completely kill the Pasadena tradition. Were a playoff system to be implemented, those bowl games would lose all meaning. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just kidding himself. You might as well just call New Year’s Day “the consolation crap fest” if the national title is decided in a playoff.
Not only that, a playoff system presents numerous logistical problems. How many teams would make the playoffs? Most people are calling for an eight-team tournament, but what then about the ninth, tenth, or eleventh teams? Who is to say that they are not more deserving than the eighth? No matter how many teams are included, there will always be an argument for the teams left out. There are 117 Division I teams. How in the heck can eight teams decide the national championship?
And what makes the No. 8 team the No. 8 team? If the playoff seeds are determined by the pollsters, it seems a bit odd to me. After all, the rationale behind a playoff is that it allows the players, not the voters or a computer, to show who the better team is.
Another issue is just when this proposed playoff would take place. Unlike basketball, football games have to be spaced out due to the sheer physicality of the sport. Thus, even an eight team tournament would take at least three weeks to play.
Wisconsin did not play its final regular-season game until Nov. 22, and other conferences like the SEC and Big 12 just concluded their championship games last weekend. If the playoffs got underway the following week, that would put games smack dab in the middle of finals (pause for laughter).
I know that it might sound ridiculous, and I highly doubt that the NCAA values academics over money, but it is not fair to the student athletes to have games during finals. How easily we forget that for every Lee Evans or Anthony Davis, there is a Pat Ellestad or Matt Gajda who are not being scouted by the NFL and who will need their college educations when their Wisconsin careers are over.
Not only is it unfair to the participants, but it would also be unfair to the rest of the student population. If athletes get to sport those snazzy sweat suits, they should have to suffer through finals week with the rest of us.
The college football season is long enough as it is. Even though college football is played by great athletes and Scott Campbell, they are still college students. Most of us are worn down enough from school without throwing football into the mix.
Playoff proponents might argue that schools should just cut down on their non-conference schedules, because who wants to see Oklahoma or Miami play some small school? Well, for starters, those small schools do. Not only are they earning a nice paycheck, but they also get a chance to make a name for themselves by knocking off a team from one of the power conferences. The MAC certainly did not earn the respect it enjoys today from conference games. It was Marshall beating Kansas State and Bowling Green upsetting Purdue that put the MAC on the map.
Finally, it seems that most people have their undies in a bunch because the national championship is not between what they believe are the two best teams in the country. Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but a playoff system will not ensure that, either. If the top two teams in the country are upset in the first round of the tournament, what kind of national championship would that be? Instead of No. 1 versus No. 3 (or No. 2 versus No. 3, if that’s how you see things), it very well could be No. 3 versus No. 5.
The BCS may not be perfect, but it’s the best system available. If you don’t like the bowl system, then don’t watch college football. If you like playoffs, watch the NFL.