This is one of the most depressing posts I’ve read in some time, and that it comes from someone who I’ve always respected as being one of the most rational proponents of a D-1 football playoff (read his comments about what a travesty the New York Giants winning the Super Bowl was, if you don’t believe me) makes it even sadder.
It’s not the playoffs per se that SMQ sees as a problem (although I strongly believe he’s overly optimistic about keeping the size of the postseason under control). It’s all of these business and commercial elements intertwined with the move to a playoff that he believes risks driving college football into becoming some sort of soulless NFL replicant.
… The point is, as the stakes and rewards increase — and, as opposed to a decade ago, a playoff is now widely regarded as an unquestioned fount of lucre — the number of legitimate aspirants inevitably shrinks. The college game can never compete with the NFL without retaining the elements that mark it as a unique animal. A playoff is not a threat to that distinction, as the huge swatch of sports on all levels thriving with a postseason tournament can attest (personally, I associate the exhilirating, unifying experience of advancing through a playoff with high school, not the pros, and this is a very key difference). But some of the trends that accompany the road to a bracket — the growth and increased autonomy of athletic departments headed by sugar daddies/surrogate “owners” like Phil Knight and T. Boone Pickens; the overwhelming media saturation, corporatization, and unstoppable commercial/logo creep; the never-ending facilities race and the further separation of the haves and have-nots — do threaten the distinction. Progress on one front (a playoff) also requires deliberation and foresight to fend off the creeping corruption of the board rooms and marketing departments. They portend the wholescale commodification of tradition, and for a sport that thrives on organic loyalties, the shared experience of the campus, and simple, common bloodlust, nothing could be more fatal.
I have a very hard time arguing with any of that. Regardless of which side you take in the playoffs/BCS debate, do you see many – or any – figures on a national stage with the prestige, the common sense and the wisdom to forge a path that avoids the road towards NFL lite? I sure don’t.