I thought Grapthar played third base for the Phillies.

Man, talk about throwing down the gauntlet.

I cannot possibly say this with as much emphasis as it deserves:

The only reason any given college football fan does not support the dissolution of the current system for selecting a national champion is because their team has not gone undefeated and been given no opportunity to become that champion.

(It is my firm belief that if Auburn 2004 had been Florida 2004 or Michigan 2004 or Ohio St. 2004, if Texas, USC, and Penn St. had all finished undefeated this season, the outcry would have been such that this would hardly even be a debate any longer. A part of me desperately wants to see Georgia go undefeated and finish outside the BCS top two, just to see what our anti-playoff Dawg friends would say.)

Now I’ll be the first to admit that my psyche has never been scarred in the way that every sentient being whose heart resided on the Plains for that 2004 season claims his or hers has been – although I’ll always believe that said beings are in a much better place now than they would have been had their team been on the butt-end of a 30+ point crushing by Southern Cal (a debate for another day, I’m afraid) – but I’ve gotta reiterate that when it comes to this whole BCS/playoffs debate, I absolutely hate the whole “end justifies the means” approach to a solution.

Because in this case, at least, the ends don’t justify it.  Nobody can sit here with a straight face and convince me that a sixty four-team tourney is going to make a better world for college football and us because, by God, Auburn 2004 will never happen again.  And Georgia going undefeated without playing for the MNC won’t change that.

I fear that Jerry misunderstands my position.  I’m not, as he asserts, anti-playoff.  It’s more accurate to describe me as indifferent to a national championship playoff.  What I’m strongly opposed to is an extended playoff.  There’s a big difference between the two, in my book.  I don’t want anyone messing with college football’s greatest asset, the regular season, and I don’t see how you can get to the realm of a ten, or twelve or more school-tourney without jeopardizing that.

And here’s the problem with proposals like Jerry’s (which is well-reasoned, not to take anything away from it) or the plus-one, for that matter.  They’re subjective.  You’ll still have poll voters and computers grinding away deciding which schools are worthy.  Which means in the end all you’ll do is modify the debate.  Which likely means more compromise, which will be easier to achieve once a formal playoff structure is in place.  Which means a larger tournament.  Which will feed the cycle all over again.  Can you say brackets?  I thought you could.

That’s why I like an eight-team conference champs-only tournament (my usual qualifier about tweaking the conferences applies, of course).  You get an objective standard that doesn’t diminish the import of the regular season and you end 99.9% of the bitching.  (John Feinstein will find something to complain about no matter what.)  You also come up with a format that will be much harder to expand than any based even partially on subjective factors.

But the thing is that it doesn’t matter what I or Jerry think.  This whole postseason retooling deal is going to be driven by two factors:  money and power.  Coincidently, those are items that are in exceedingly short supply for every college football blogger, commenter and pundit that I know of (including me, damnit).  Let me say that again.  We don’t matter. What any of us may think is a reasonable and satisfactory solution to this whole postseason debate is completely irrelevant to what the actual decision makers will weigh in fashioning their brave new world.

And that’s what really gets me the most.  All of those parties we rail against on a regular basis and maybe even despise a little – Jim Delany, ESPN, Michael Adams, moronic athletic directors, to name but a few – these are the same folks we’re putting our hopes in for something better for the postseason?  What in the hell are most of us thinking?

I’m sorry, that’s a leap of faith I can’t take.

Jerry wants to see what my take would be if Georgia got screwed after an undefeated regular season.  What I wouldn’t want to see is Jerry’s take on a regular season after a sixteen-team tourney was implemented.  Because I bet he’d agree with me more about that than he cares to admit today.

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33 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, The Blogosphere

33 responses to “I thought Grapthar played third base for the Phillies.

  1. Daniel

    Why again do you suspect a 64-team tourney is a possibility? A tournament that size takes log2(64) = 6 games to decide it. That, combined with a (shortened) 11-game regular season slate + conference championships would shake out to an 18-game season for the winner, 19 if we don’t shorten the regular season. Does anyone seriously think that’s a possibility? Are they holding the final on Valentine’s day?

    The ‘slippery slope’ argument against a plus-1 format works up to a point, but I think that point is an 8 game playoff. With a shortened regular season, the finalists end up playing 15-16 games. I think fears that it might extend beyond that are silly.

    Note that I’m not necessarily in favor of a playoff, I’m just sayin’….

    • Two things here:

      (1) Jerry’s argument is that any form of a playoff trumps all. So, 10, 12, 16, 32 or 64 shouldn’t make any difference to his point.

      (2) You can get to 64 if you’re willing to trim the regular season back to ten games. And there’s a tipping point somewhere with the math when the postseason starts generating more dollars than the regular season does. Once that happens, they almost have no choice.

  2. Keith

    64 teams won’t ever happen. It would top off at 16. I do believe however that 8 teams from 8 super conferences would be best, if you were ranked in the top 8 that is. If you win your conference at 7-4 and you are ranked 20th, you don’t need to be there. Senator, that statement that the regular season would be diminished when you know you would have to win enough to be ranked in the top eight, is just ludicrous.

    • If you win your conference at 7-4 and you are ranked 20th, you don’t need to be there.

      That you can argue that on the one hand and still argue that pairing the two top ranked teams in the BCS title game isn’t credible is a most impressive feat of logic, sir.

  3. Daniel

    I’m really only interested in (2). It’s the fear of the 64-team playoff that really confounds me. I think it’s a clear cut case of inertia bias, made more interesting because no inertia is yet manifest :)

    To accept cutting back the regular season to 9 or 10 games, aren’t you having to accept the dissolution of almost all interesting out of conference scheduling? Possibly even historic rivalry games? My point is obviously not “It’s worse than we thought!”, but rather “How the hell would that ever happen?”.

    Also, even if they overall pot of money is larger with a 64-team playoff and 10-game regular season, don’t all or most interested parties have to benefit for an agreement to be reached? What’s the benefit for a school like South Carolina who reaps in tons of money from their home games, but might only rarely sniff a home playoff game?

    • I don’t just fear the 64-team playoff. I fear the 32, 24, 16 and 12-team versions, too. ;)

      As for your pot of money argument, there may be some traction there. But for most schools, TV money will vastly outweigh ticket receipts.

  4. Daniel

    If that is so, I’m curious how the UGA athletic dept. was 64 million or whatever in the black a year or so ago. I figured that was mostly due to football. Is that down to TV revenue?

    Home games are, of course, more than just ticket receipts. The ancillary business that goes on must be astounding for a town like Athens.

    • Daniel, I believe I said “most” schools. But Georgia derives a very significant amount of its revenue from football TV contracts. Go back in my archives and you can find the numbers on those.

      If your point is that Georgia’s just fine, thank you, OK. But what about all the schools on Georgia’s schedule, to start with? For every Florida, there’s a Central Michigan.

      That’s why I think that if outside parties (i.e., Congress, states’ Attorneys General) try to impose a playoff on D-1, you may see a complete break between college football’s haves and have-nots. Which I think would be a good thing, by the way.

  5. Steve Erwin

    No, Pedro Feliz plays third base for the World F*&^ing Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

  6. NM

    Sorry Senator, I don’t think it’s true that a conference champs only playoff will be that hard to constrain. Sure, it might take awhile, but think about the MLB — it used to be just the league winners, then each league split into divisions for playoffs, and now you don’t have to win your division to make the playoffs. And baseball may be the only sport that has “respect for tradition” to rival college football.

    Keith, the “top 8″ plan is absurd — in what world would it ever work out that the 8 conference winners would be the top 8 teams? Even if you designed super conferences from scratch, there will always be inequalities or down/up years. So if you have a conference winner at #20, do you just take the top 8 teams regardless of conference? And how is that going to prevent expansion to 12 or 16?

    “64 teams won’t ever happen” — I’d like to go back to the beginnings of the basketball tournament and see if someone said that…

  7. Daniel

    “I’d like to go back to the beginnings of the basketball tournament and see if someone said that…”

    That sentiment illustrates perfectly the particular bee in my bonnet. Basketball is a different game – last year UGA played two playoff games on the same freaking day! That type of flexibility enables a a densely packed 64-team tournament, but noone plays football games less than 5 days apart.

    Further, when you only need 5 players to field a team, you have the possibility of the type of extreme wide-spread parity to justify a tournament that size. Do you foresee Gonzaga, Davidson, and Xavier making legitimate cases for inclusion in a football playoff?

    The point is that no 13-seed in a 64-team football playoff would ever make the final four. It’s just not happening. And such a tournament is just not tenable.

    I believe that what the senator is actually afraid of is a 16-team tournament. That’s fine, and I’m in agreement with him, but to even acknowledge such unlikely scenarios as 32- and 64-team playoffs as realistic only serves to undermine that position.

    • Do you foresee Gonzaga, Davidson, and Xavier making legitimate cases for inclusion in a football playoff?

      If the money’s there, I predict a number of 1-AA schools would make the jump to 1-A over time. That’s exactly what’s happened with the basketball tournament.

      The point is that no 13-seed in a 64-team football playoff would ever make the final four.

      Daniel, pardon my French, but those advocating a big playoff don’t give two shits about that. They just want to see a Cinderella win a game or two over the likes of a Southern Cal. And that’ll happen.

  8. Daniel

    In regards to your last point, Senator, I do sympathize with the notion that once the government decides it is the arbiter of college football fairness, anything goes. Perhaps I’m not educated enough about how realistic that possibility is.

  9. Daniel

    “They just want to see a Cinderella win a game or two over the likes of a Southern Cal. And that’ll happen.”

    Eh, I suppose, but with any degree of regularity? Playoffs are at the end of the season, when ranking (and seeding) actually means something, and the teams are comfortable with their playbooks. Appy state isn’t knocking off even a terrible Michigan in November. I think you’re right that it’ll happen, but not like we see in March.

    This isn’t a strong point, I realize, my main objections are still those mentioned earlier.

    Here’s another way of putting my incredulity. A 10 game regular season + conference championship + 6 game playoff means that 42% of the finalist’s total games are “the playoffs”. That type of thing is, as far as I know, unprecedented in any sport.

    • A 10 game regular season + conference championship + 6 game playoff means that 42% of the finalist’s total games are “the playoffs”. That type of thing is, as far as I know, unprecedented in any sport.

      Somebody like Muckbeast would claim that’s a feature, not a bug. :)

  10. Daniel

    You know, as I typed it I realized the irony that one of the oft-cited wonderful things about the current system is that 100% of games are a de facto playoff.

    Still, unprecedented is unprecedented.

  11. If you are so convinced it would become a 64 team playoff, why hasn’t the regular season turned into 30+ games?

    If you think the first will happen, then you have to assume the second would have already happened – especially since it is easier for teams/schools/conferences to add regular season games.

    The 64 team tournament is only possible because teams can play every other day. That is simply impossible for football.

    Nobody wants a 6 week long playoff. That wouldn’t even be marketable. It would be way too long to even be enjoyable.

    -Michael
    Muckbeast – Game Design and Online Worlds

    http://www.muckbeast.com

  12. > I do believe however that 8 teams from 8
    > super conferences would be best, if you
    > were ranked in the top 8 that is. If you
    > win your conference at 7-4 and you are
    > ranked 20th, you don’t need to be there.

    Bzzt. Now you are right back in BCS land with rankings and other BS deciding who makes the playoffs. Who cares if someone is 7-4 and wins their conference? They won their conference, let them play for the title. If they truly suck, they’ll get beaten – no harm no foul.

    Don’t let ESPN control your thinking. The whole reason for conferences is so winning them MATTERS.

  13. The Realist

    For a playoff to work, without the subjectivity that apparently plagues the system now, you absolutely have to remove one-third of the teams in 1-A. If you can cut the teams down from 120 to 80, and create 8 10-team conferences that play round robin schedules with conference champions getting automatic playoff spots, then you have yourselves a bona fide, legitimate playoff system. You can even improve non-conference scheduling by requiring non-conference games to be played among the playoff conferences.

    The 40 teams that get cut (or choose to leave… yeah, right) can form a new division with new conferences and allow certain 1-AA teams to “move up” and join this mid-major conference.

    I believe this type of complete overhaul would ultimately doom the sport because of the other issues that would naturally arise (like player compensation), but it’s the only way a playoff could solve what we have now.

  14. >> 42% of the finalist’s total games are
    >> “the playoffs”.
    >
    > Somebody like Muckbeast would claim
    > that’s a feature, not a bug

    I would? When have I ever espoused anything more than an 8 team playoff?

    I have spoke about the opposite – the fact that an 8 team playoff is an almost insignificant increase in the number of games played. It only adds 3 total games to a total of 1,500 games played.

    I agree with Daniel that the whole 32/64 team playoff thing is a canard. It is functionally impossible. Football is not basketball. You cannot play two games in the same day. You cannot play games every other day. You cannot play 4 games (or more!) on the same field in the same day.

    If there was a real correlation between basketball and football game scheduling, the football regular season would already be moving towards 30+ games.

    • I was teasing, brother.

      Look, we’ve already got 30+ bowl games (granted, those are all one shot exercises). And 1-AA is going to a 24-school tournament in another year or two. A 32 or 64-team postseason isn’t as farfetched as you argue.

      Besides, a 16-school tourney would be bad enough. And that’s certainly within everyone’s parameters of what’s feasible, right?

  15. Daniel

    “Besides, a 16-school tourney would be bad enough. And that’s certainly within everyone’s parameters of what’s feasible, right?”

    Yes.

  16. keith

    nm, where did I say that all 8 conferences winners would need to be ranked in the top 8? Read the post before you make comments like that. I said, if you were ranked in the top 8.

  17. NM

    Keith, I read what you wrote, but you said “8 teams from 8 super conferences would be best, if you were ranked in the top 8 that is” — so which is it? Eight teams from the eight conferences or just the top 8? If you mean the latter, then conference affiliations are meaningless, so no reason to even mention them.

  18. NM

    And in terms of size/length — the NFL playoffs could accommodate 16 teams in their current form (if you got rid of byes). There’s also that week break before the Super Bowl. In other words, you could have a 32-team playoff that lasts no longer than the current NFL playoffs, and nobody complains about how long they are.

    I’m not at all convinced that 32 is impossible, especially since (as noted) the FCS is expanding to a 5-round tournament, and 32 teams would only require five rounds.

  19. If 32 is possible, why isn’t the regular season up to 25 games yet?

    Why hasn’t the SEC championship game been turned into an 8 team tournament to be more like basketball?

    Seriously, this is why I have said before that the anti-playoff people are completely irrational. Figure out what your REAL problem is, because these arguments make absolutely no sense.

    There is absolutely no correlation between football and basketball here. The number of games played is not even moderately comparable. College basketball teams play 300% more regular season games.

    -Michael
    Muckbeast – Game Design and Online Worlds

    http://www.muckbeast.com

    • Unless I’m missing something here, a 32-team playoff would amount to five (actually four, since they were already playing in bowls) more games for two lucky teams.

      So how do you get to 25 regular season games?

  20. MJ

    The bottom line is, there is no way the major Bowls (who have an established business model of January 1 or after) will agree to have their dates moved by some outside entity with filing an antitrust lawsuit.

    The Tournament of Roses PARADE typically has more than one million people in attendance, with the game following two hours later. The PARADE was broadcast on TWO networks this year (ABC and NBC). This is for one simple- yet powerful- reason: the Tournament of Roses is established as quality brand that revolves around the January 1st date. As a corporation, they will sue the pants off of anyone (NCAA, BCS, etc.) who attempts to undermine them by requiring them to move their date.

    And they will win.

  21. MJ

    Blutarsky,

    With due respect to the Joe Cribbs Car Wash, the “fairness” and “injustice” arguments are a crock of shit.

    Fairness to whom?

    To the Orange Bowl who has had its date moved around so much by the BCS and its predecessors that it cancelled the Orange Bowl Parade in the mid-90’s? I’m sure the merchants and sponsors thought it “fair” when that happened after 60 years of supporting the event.

    How about “fairness” to players who would be asked to play in a series of high stakes games (instead of one game) with no additional benefit? The University of Pittsburgh players refused to play in a post-season game without pay in the early 1900’s.

    Or the “fairness” to ticket-paying fans who will spend more money to follow their teams (as opposed to the couch potatoes crying for a playoff)? Or the “fairness” of public universities using state and federal funds to travel to multiple sites?

    The philosophical counter argument to Joe Cribbs Car Wash is that college football is the only sport that accurately reflects life. In most cases, you get one chance to get things right. Even then, there are no guarantees that things will work out.

    There are no playoffs for job interviews, project management, marketing intiatives, raising your kids, working at your marriage, and making sure you keep the oil changed in your car.

    Further, the people who are in control of the situation are the decision makers, no matter how (allegedly) “unfair” or “unjust” others think it is.

    As the good Senator has pointed out, a stakeholder analysis of actual stakeholders reveals that ranting fans have no stake, and thus they do not matter.

    Everything else is moot.

  22. Hackerdog

    “I have spoke about the opposite – the fact that an 8 team playoff is an almost insignificant increase in the number of games played. It only adds 3 total games to a total of 1,500 games played.”

    Muckbeast, your comment is still nonsensical. You are trying to add the additional games of the championship team (3) to the total for all teams (1,500). An 8 game tournament would add 7 total games to the 1,500 game total. It will also add 3 games to the championship team’s schedule of 11 or 12 games. So some kids will play an additional 25% in their schedule.

    Trying to use the 1,500 games of all of football is like my saying that Muckbeast should pay an additional $1,000,000 in income tax. But it won’t be any burden because we all pay $1 trillion in income taxes, so we’re talking about a tiny fraction of 1% increase. I’m guessing you would object to your own logic used in that context.