Tuck: College Football Playoffs
For the third time this calendar year, the 11 conference presidents and Notre Dame AD met to talk about changes to the college football postseason. They emerged from the latest meeting and issued a statement with the following questions:
For example, if we change the current format, would we play some games on campus or all games on neutral sites? If some games are on campus, is that too much of a competitive advantage? If all games are at neutral sites, would fans be able to travel to two games in a row? How would teams be selected? By a committee, by the current ranking formula, or by a different formula? When exactly would games be scheduled, considering finals, holidays and our desire to avoid mid-January games?
Allow me to answer those questions how I think they should be answered.
Q: Would we play some games on campus or all games on neutral sites?
A: Campus. The major reason, and most important is economics. Fan base(s), emphasizing the plural, cannot both be expected to take off and run across country without advance notice..twice. The semi-final games should be held at the high seeds home. Obviously they’d be well attended by that teams fans, and for those that can travel and get a ticket in, well, good luck. After that game, the four fan bases will be aware of where the neutral site title game will take place and can plan accordingly in advance of a win or after a win in the semi-final.
Q: If some games are on campus, is that too much of a competitive advantage?
A: If you are the #1 or #2 seed, you’ve earned the advantage. Of course there will be some debate over which team should be #2 and #3, but that is part of the process. In the old system, or current one, there is no chance at a title for the #3 seed, so consider that the alternative. Okay?
Q: If all games are at neutral sites, would fans be able to travel to two games in a row?
A: I am sure some would, but as I answered in the first question, to ensure great attendance you play it on the campus of the higher seed. That also eliminates the complaining of northern schools playing at warm, neutral sites and losing their “weather advantage.”
Q: How would teams be selected? By a committee, by the current ranking formula, or by a different formula?
A: Committee, please. Letting home-field or the decision of 4th and 5th come down to decimal points doesn’t seem right. Allow 5-10 well-informed and heavily involved people determine the teams and seeding. They will be able to discuss all the merits of the teams as we do on the radio: SOS, out-of-conference schedule, did they win their conference, margin of victories, margin of defeat(s), who, where, and how you lost, injuries, etc. Of course, like the RPI in basketball, the committee will have access to some of the computer formulas and also could consider the polls and their voting. I don’t think you can limit the field to just conference champions, as much as that makes sense. Unfortunately college football’s overexpansion gives less meaning to winning a conference where the schedules are unbalanced and often times unfair. It should be allowed for non-conference champions to have access as we’ve seen too many good teams (2011 Alabama, 2008 Texas, 2004 Oklahoma for examples) that would not have been allowed in. Let the committee debate (and the public) whether or not those teams are worthy of inclusion without conference titles.
Q: When exactly would games be scheduled, considering finals, holidays and our desire to avoid mid-January games?
A: I would play the semi-final games two weeks after the final Saturday of the regular season/conference title games. That would be a double-header, say 4pm and 8pm on a Saturday in mid-December. Then the title game could be played (ideally) on New Year’s Day at night or on the following Friday night. Why Friday? Because the NFL playoffs begin on that Saturday and you don’t want to go head-2-head, but also because its a failure to play the title game mid-week where fan interest dies down outside the die-hards. Having it Friday would allow for easier travel/vacation to the title city and also allow for parties and people staying up for the entire game on a Friday night with no work (for most people) the next day.
In the past, BCS leaders have agreed in principle to their next contract at their annual spring meetings, which includes not just the commissioners but athletic directors, bowl and television executives. This year’s take place April 24-26 in Hollywood, Fla. Asked whether any decisions will be made by then, BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock flatly said: “No.”
So we may have to wait a bit before a final decision, but it appears a 4-team playoff is on the horizon for 2014. How, who, when, why, where, and what just have to be answered first. Or they can just take my advice and be done with it.