Column: why College Football should embrace a playoff
September 8, 2011
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As I watched my beloved Stanford Cardinal hoist the Orange Bowl trophy high into the sky of South Beach, I felt a maelstrom of mixed emotions. I was thrilled to see the Cardinal thrash the Virginia Tech Hokies by an astounding score of 40-12, and even more jubilant that I could harass my Uncle, a diehard Hokie fan, about this beat down for many years to come.
However as I watched Andrew Luck and Paly grad Jim Harbaugh finish their final game together, I felt that they deserved more. I felt that Oregon got lucky. I felt that something was wrong with the system. I knew that Andrew Luck should have been hoisting the National Championship Trophy instead of mere fruit.
While I felt my pain in Palo Alto, millions of fans across the nation had their hearts torn out by a single play, which in turn prevented their team from competing for the BCS National Championship. Boise fans turned blue as they watched what appeared to be a routine kick turn into Kyle Brotzman’s worst nightmare. Sooner Nation watched in disbelief as the Missouri Tigers reeled off the improbable upset over the freshly ranked #1 Oklahama Sooners. Stanford fans across the Bay Area had their BCS dreams crushed as they were forced to watch a commanding 21-3 lead against Oregon evaporate before their very eyes. This all gets me wondering, should a single hiccup in a tough schedule really take a quality team out of championship contention?
The answer is simply no.
The Seattle Seahawks are a prime example of the necessity of a playoff in College Football. Although finishing at an underwhelming 7-9, the Seahawks won the NFC West and came into the first round of the playoffs as serious underdogs. However, the reigning Super Bowl champions New Orleans Saints were stunned by the Seahawks after a 41-36 shootout in Seattle. While the Seahawks proved they belonged, the undefeated TCU Horned Frogs were barred from the BCS National Championship and not even given a chance to prove themselves, even though they had fought through a flawless 13-0 season.
Now as the 2011 season rolls around, the Horned Frogs can kiss their BCS dreams goodbye. TCU was stunned Saturday, as the Baylor Bears methodically picked apart the Horned Frogs usually stingy defense as they won a thriller with a score of 50-48. Reigning Pac 12 champion Oregon Ducks have similarly seen their BCS hopes crushed as the depleted LSU Tigers stopped the prolific Oregon offense in their tracks as they held Heisman hopeful LaMichael James to a meager 54 yards rushing. Despite the season merely getting under way, we can all cross off some BCS hopefuls from our list.
As much as I enjoyed seeing Stanford’s Pac 12 foe go down early, I know that it is simply unjust that Oregon’s high flying offense will now have a one in a million chance at returning to the National Championship.
As the list of injustices of the BCS system grows to astronomical proportions, it becomes more and more evident that something has to change. A common proposal, which is fair, profitable, and popular, has risen to the top of the BCS argument. A proposed eight-team playoff would both determine the true champion of College Football, but also be just as profitable as the current BCS system. Despite all the upsides, many a college football analyst has condemned even the thought of a playoff. Through claims that it wouldn’t be as profitable, would take too long and would be too complicated, a playoff for College Football has been long overdue.
The 2010-2011 Bowl Season lasted a grand total of 24 days between the opening New Mexico Bowl and the final Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. The proposed playoff would last only three rounds and with a week’s rest in between each game. The playoff would be sitting pretty at 15 days in total, which is a full nine days less than the duration of the regular Bowl season. Not only would it fit nicely into the Bowl season, it would also heighten the interest throughout it. I can’t tell you the number of times I was watching a terrible bowl just waiting for the BCS games to get under way. In all seriousness, who is itching to watch the Meineke Car Care Bowl or the New Era Pinstripe Bowl?
In addition to the feasibility of a playoff, it would also be significantly more profitable than the BCS system in place. As it stands now, there are five BCS Bowls which are the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and the BCS National Championship. With the new playoff system there would be seven of these caliber games. Not only would the ratings be higher because there are more games, but the NCAA could still sell the advertising rights to the playoffs. These BCS bowls make up a vast majority of the profit pulled in off of the Bowl Season, so essentially adding an additional two games to the melting pot would significantly raise profits.
However none of these reasons would matter if it weren’t popular among both players and fans. According to a 2010 ESPN poll, 62.2% of players would be in complete support of a playoff. An end of the year Bowl can be one of the most exciting moments of a player’s life and I fully recognize the importance of these games. That being said, we don’t have to throw out the Bowls altogether. In fact, we can keep the Bowl system the way it is, minus the eight top teams for the playoffs. There would still be intrigue in the other 17 ranked teams fighting for Bowl wins, and there would still be massive fan support in whatever Bowl their respective favorite team made it to. There is no reason we have to take away Bowls altogether.
Despite all of the upsides, despite how the players might want it, despite how the fans might crave it, some are still fervently opposed to a playoff. These ‘traditionalists’ usually fall back on money being the key issue. Not only would a playoff be more profitable than the current system, but when did collegiate athletics become about the money? When did it stop being about who was the best and who worked the hardest for his teammates, coach and school? When did it start to become a corporate advertising fest where everyone needs a brand name on every game, jersey, and piece of equipment? When did it become about schools exploiting their star players for ticket and jersey sales? When did College Football stop being about the Football?
As I watched the Stanford Cardinal stomp the San Jose Spartans Saturday by a score of 57-3, I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw from Coach Shaw and the rest of the Cardinal. But I am fully aware that however unfair it may be, the Cardinal are one loss away from playing for second place.