One DJ’s College Playoff Proposal
College football bowl season begins today. While diehard football fans will take the opportunity to sit on the sofa and crack open a few beers, I'm wondering to myself why all of these bowl games matter. I know that the American Standard Toilet Bowl matters to the athletes playing in it, the students who attend the participating institutions, and the parents of all of the above. However, for the fans who shell out money on tickets and/or the products advertised during the games, it is one of many meaningless games at the end of the year. With 35 bowl games in Division I-A, many mediocre teams find their way into the postseason, diluting the value of bowl bids. The NCAA, to its credit, will implement a four-team playoff next year. It's a move in the right direction. However, if I were running college sports, this is how I would have set up the playoff system.
16 TEAM PLAYOFF SYSTEM
That's right. Sixteen teams. Conference champions (of which, there are currently 11) would receive automatic bids into the tournament. Independent schools and at-large teams would comprise the remainder of the field. A selection committee similar to the one in college basketball would determine what at-large schools get into the tournament and how the teams are seeded. High seeds would host home games until the championship game. The field would be announced the day after the conference championship games are decided. The first round would be played the following weekend.
Players would benefit by having a few extra opportunities to prove themselves to pro scouts. Coaches looking to make their next big move have a chance to flaunt their abilities. Both get more opportunities to have one or more shining moments and pull off improbable upsets. It also gives a mid-major school a shot of winning a national championship, something that has not happened since Brigham Young University took home the title in 1984. If any of this sounds familiar, it's because it works on a grander scale in college basketball.
Keep the Bowl Games and Integrate Them into the Playoffs
Fans of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl need not worry. Your favorite school would still be able to go to a bowl if it didn't make this playoffs. Any school finishing at or above .500 would be eligible to go to a bowl game. Really, the bowl system as it is now would remain the same for the most part. The only change would be integrating the bowls into the playoffs. Teams knocked out before the championship game would fall into Chik-Fil-A, Capital One, Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Sugar, and Rose Bowls. This way, the schools can get huge payouts despite not reaching the championship game and players still get an opportunity to close the year on one of the grandest stages of college football. You may be asking yourself why those games wouldn't be played inside the tournament. The answer: This would allow those games to be played as close to New Year's Day as possible and prevent bowls from moving away from their traditional dates.
I understand no system is perfect and no system will ever eliminate debate over who should be considered for the national championship, but at least a tournament gives all teams in all conferences an opportunity to fight each other for the national championship. The postseason will finally have some meaning once the decision-makers in college football take the fate of the national championship out of the hands of pollsters who don't play the game.