Opinions about how major college football runs its postseason have always been about a dime a dozen and maybe, this season, are –– like the dollar –– worth less and less.
It’s been accepted as fact, by and large, that the 2007 college football season could be the craziest on record. The lack of reason evident in outcome of most games this season has done nothing to help a traditionally senseless sport.
See, the facts of life in college football make the least sense of those in any collegiate sport:
- There are only 12 games in a regular season. Losses early in the season carry far less weight than those in the year’s closing weeks –– every game is more important than the previous one.
- Some conferences have championship games, some do not; some teams are not affiliated with a conference.
- There is no traditional playoff system or Final Four setup to determine the champion like nearly every other team sport. This last game of the year for most teams can take place anywhere from three to six weeks after the end of the regular season.
- The two teams that get to play in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national championship game are decided upon by a complex computer formula that incorporates limited human voting. This year, the only remaining undefeated team, Hawaii, is not one of these two teams. Rather, two-loss LSU of the SEC got the nod to play one-loss Ohio State of the Big Ten.
- At the individual level, the Heisman trophy, which is awarded to college football’s best player, is presented before teams play their final game.
- The current system is so steeped in tradition and so lucrative for the schools, especially those in the six biggest conferences that dominate the BCS, it is a nearly impassable barrier to change. A single BCS game earns the schools and conferences millions and millions of dollars just for participating.
And, it seems everyone has an opinion about these issues.
Here are a few ideas that I think are worth considering, especially after this year:
- Eliminating conference championship games or making them mandatory for every conference. This would help to avoid the irrational situation that developed within the BCS’s top 10 during the last two ranking periods. We would not be arguing about teams who didn’t play in a game that week vs. teams that did. We would not hear about teams backing into BCS bowls. We would not be reasoning among teams that played 12 games and teams that played an additional 13th game. The playing field would be leveled, to a degree.
- Eliminate the strength of schedule factor in the BCS formula. As we’ve seen this year, anyone can lose to anyone on any given day. Michigan can lose to I-AA Appalachian State in its first game of the year, #2 West Virginia choke against a four-touchdown underdog like Pittsburgh, and, oh yeah, in the final two weeks of the regular season two different #1 and #2 teams lost. If anything, this increasing level of chaos merits a reappraisal of the talent level across the board and a more apt respect for teams that were once thought to be “mid-major.” Coming from a traditional non-power conference should be a non-factor, by now they have proved themselves worthy. If we don’t think teams “fear the WAC” then go figure out why Michigan took now-undefeated Hawaii off their schedule and replaced them with I-AA Appalachian State –– worked wonders for their record.
- Turn each BCS bowl game into a quarterfinal game. Four play-down games with title sponsors and traditional names. The two semifinals can have a title sponsor, and the ultimate national championship game can have its own too. This system will maintain tradition, create a more fair championship test (rather than a computer formula for a single game), increase revenue (which can be shared among the 8 competitors in the BCS playoff) and make for a gripping three weeks of football.
- DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT eliminate the bowl system entirely. The simple question you have to ask yourself –– and “fairness” flies out the window for this –– what would college football be without the Rose Bowl? The “Grandaddy of them all” is as much a staple of Americana as it is a marker of college football’s endearing lack of sensibility.
Those are some ideas. I think it’s something worth looking into. What’s your take? I know you have one.