For Tommy Tuberville, Madness is good.

I’m convinced that the 2004 season is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Instead of having to play the USC juggernaut that beat Oklahoma 55-19, Tommy’s team wound up playing in the Sugar Bowl, where the Tigers destroyed overwhelmed soundly defeated won got by Virginia Tech, 16-13. That’s left Tuberville able to play the “woulda, coulda, shouda” game as long as he has a tongue in his head and a gullible reporter to repeat it to. Never mind that Southern Cal would have had the same month to prepare for his team that it had for Stoops’ squad. All that matters is that Auburn went undefeated and didn’t get that chance.

Now, Tuberville gets to be a crusader. He’s on a mission to have college football establish a four team playoff. And of course he wants you to believe that this is a truly selfless quest he’s on. After all, it’s obvious that the SEC will never have a national champion without a football playoff.

Er… um… never mind about that.

Because, you see, it’s really about what the fans want.

“March Madness is what people live for,” said Tuberville, while wrapping up preparations for the annual “A-Day” game that marks the approximate end of spring football at Auburn.

“It’s great for basketball. Look at the excitement that goes on all over the country. If they did it like we do it (in football), they’d stop after the conference tournaments, wait a month for the championship game, and lose all this momentum that everyone loves being a part of…”

…What Tuberville hopes is that more of the people who run college football look at the excitement of basketball in March and realize there is plenty more sports “madness” to spread around.

He wants more madness, does he? Well, here’s some:

… People who don’t bet on the Super Bowl bet on this tournament. People who don’t watch basketball bet on it. My friend Mark’s daughter did two brackets from Florence, where she was on spring break from college, despite the complete irrelevance of the game in her life.

Consider Samantha, a bright young Bostonian who has done the brackets since she was a kid. She doesn’t follow basketball but claims to have won her father’s office pool when she was about 10. “I never have a clue what I’m doing,” she explains. “I go on what the names sound like. It’s more fun that way.”

Yahoo! Personals offers a column by Liz Kelly, identified as a dating coach with a “proactive dating strategy.” “How to Score More ‘Love Hoops’ During March Madness.” was the headline on the column. (You can’t make this up.) Second on her list of suggestions is, you guessed it, create your own pool: “You can create your own pool of bachelors or bachelorettes online.”

At the very least, she urges, “Enter a basketball pool at the office so you can throw out team names. If you don’t know anything about b-ball, pick teams based on your favorite colors.”

How mad is that?

For Tuberville, this is why he’s on that high horse he rides:

While Tuberville is a basketball fan, he’s an even bigger fan of deciding championships on the field. And yes, he’s still motivated by his Auburn team going 13-0 two years ago and not getting the chance to play for a national championship.

Until you get left out like we did, you don’t realize all the implications,” Tuberville said. [Emphasis added.]

But for the average person who follows the basketball tourney, I suspect this is more the case:

At the end of the day, March Madness is not about basketball, anyway. It’s about gambling. The tournament is the ultimate pool event. Office pools, on line pools, bar pools all flourish like Delta kudzu. If it’s huge in Vegas, it’s huge around the water cooler, too.

My point here isn’t that playoffs in college football or basketball may be good, bad or indifferent as far as determining an ultimate winner – just that the rationales offered for playoffs may be.

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