Solving The College Football Championship Problem
The debate over how college football should handle crowning its national champion has reached new heights. As Congress mulls over whether or not to debate the use of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), I have taken it upon myself to fix the system on my own. That’s right. I’m making a command decision to fix college football’s championship. No committees, no congress, and definitely no computers. The answer is to incorporate the best aspects of traditional college football with the excitement and finality of the professional game. Here is my recipe for success:
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) would hold a sixteen team championship single elimination tournament to determine the national champion. The eleven conference champions from the current Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) as well as the top 5 wild-card schools would be invited to the tournament. The 16 teams would be seeded according to their placement within the BCS rankings and would play the first round in a #1 vs. #16, #2 vs. #15, #3 vs. #14, etc. format. First round games would be held on the campus of the lower seeded team with the winners advancing to the regional championship/quarter-final games to be held in the cities of the current BCS bowls: Orange Bowl/Miami, FL; Sugar Bowl/New Orleans, LA; Fiesta Bowl/Glendale, AZ; Rose Bowl/Pasadena, CA.
The ultimate winners of these bowl games would move on to the national semi-final games with the two remaining teams playing for the national championship the following week. Details concerning the location of the semi-final and final games could be determined at a later time. Would all three games be held in the same location? Would they be held in different locales? I feel that one city hosting these games would be the most beneficial as there would be less travel involved.
Based upon the BCS rankings entering the weekend of October 24th, here is how the tournament would play out. The conference championship designation is speculative based upon win-loss record or BCS ranking.
EAST REGIONAL/ORANGE BOWL
1 Florida Gators (SEC champions) vs. 16 Troy Trojans (Sun Belt champions)
8 TCU Horned Frogs (Mountain West champions) vs. 9 LSU Tigers (at large)
WEST REGIONAL/ROSE BOWL
4 Boise State Broncos (at-large, 2-0 currently in the WAC) vs. 13 Nevada Wolfpack (WAC champions, 3-0 currently in the WAC)
5 Cincinnati Bearcats (Big East Champions) vs. 12 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (ACC champions)
SOUTH REGIONAL/SUGAR BOWL
2 Alabama Crimson Tide (at-large) vs. 15 Central Michigan (MAC champions)
7 USC Trojans (Pac-10 champions) vs. 10 Miami Hurricanes (at-large)
MIDWEST REGIONAL/FIESTA BOWL
3 Texas Longhorns (Big XII champions) vs. 14 East Carolina Pirates (C-USA champions)
6 Iowa Hawkeyes (Big Ten champions) vs. 11 Oregon Ducks (at-large)
Again, the teams and seeding are completely speculative. But it does give an understanding to my system. Opponents to this will argue that it destroys the regular season. Does it? If you are LSU at number nine, would you like to play at TCU for the first round playoff game? It seems to me that you would want over 95,000 fans cheering you on in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Baton Rouge. This week, Miami’s overtime loss to Clemson at home will most certainly drop the Hurricanes, allowing Penn State or Virginia Tech into the mix. Certainly, the Nittany Lions and Hokies would want to win out to reinforce their tournament resume.
The NFL playoffs do not take anything away from the regular season. All too frequently, a New York Giants/Philadelphia Eagles or New England Patriots/Indianapolis Colts regular season contest decides a division title, a playoff spot, home-field advantage, or a first round bye. Why would the NCAA playoffs take away the importance of the regular season? With only five at-large spots, teams could not afford to drop a big time out of conference game (i.e. USC over Ohio State) nor would they want to lose a critical conference showdown (i.e. Florida over LSU, or Iowa over Penn State) that could cost them dearly at the end of the year.
What about the bowls? As explained earlier, the four current BCS bowls would continue on as the four quarter-final games and would be assigned to the lowest seeded team by geography. The remaining thirty some odd games would need to be adjusted. I’m certainly aware of the economics; that these games bring in revenue for the conferences and the schools. Having one half of your teams play in a season ending bowl game rewards mediocrity. Schools with 6-6 or 7-5 records shouldn’t be rewarded.
What we need is a total revamp of the bowl season as well as the playoffs. Having twelve or so post season bowls in addition to the championship tournament is sufficient to reward schools for outstanding play during the regular season. The six BCS conference would receive a bowl tie-in as follows with their opponent being at-large:
GATOR BOWL Big East Conference
CAPITAL ONE/CITRUS BOWL Big Ten Conference
OUTBACK BOWL SEC
HOLIDAY BOWL Pac-10 Conference
COTTON BOWL Big XII Conference
CHICK-FIL-A/PEACH BOWL ACC
Certain mid-major conferences would also receive bowl tie-ins with their opponents being at-large:
LIBERTY BOWL Conference USA
HAWAII/ALOHA BOWL WAC
LAS VEGAS BOWL Mountain West Conference
Three more bowl games for al-large schools would be added to the list. This would ensure that a team would need to place second or third in a major conference just to be considered for a bowl, making bowl matchups a contest between strong 10-2 or 9-3 schools rather than 8-4 vs. 7-5.
In the final analysis, this is probably one plan of many. I’m certain that it incorporates a lot of the same guidelines that others have brought forward already. It is clear the big money surrounding the current BCS and bowl system has a stranglehold on what could be outstanding for the NCAA, its teams, and its fans. No argument for the current system holds water. The playoffs would be too long. The NCAA basketball tournament lasts three weeks and follows conference tournaments that last a week. The season would cover two semesters. The basketball season starts in November and ends in early April, covering the fall and spring semesters. There is too much travel involved. Many of these teams would already be travelling to a neutral site for a bowl game anyway. Should they win, the team and their supporters would only need to travel to one more spot. Most of these fans do not seem to have any problems doing this. Have you seen the Irish, Buckeye, Longhorn, Sooner, or Gator nation?
The answer is clear; college football demands a playoff system to crown its national champion. No polls, no computers, no politics. Sixteen teams, one champion, settled on the gridiron.