With friends like these…

There’s a thoughtful comment to my post about Joe Barton’s efforts to legislate a D-1 football playoff that I wanted to respond to in a little more depth than a comment of my own.  Here ’tis:

I know a lot of you guys and gals would rather not have a playoff system and you’ve stated your cases intelligently, but I hope we get at least a plus one. That would basically leave the regular season intact and would not screw up the bowl system. And I’ve heard the –somebody will still feel that they got left out argument too.

These posts of mine about the political/legal efforts to amend or replace the BCS aren’t out there for the purpose of arguing against a playoff.  Rather, they should serve as a reminder that in the chorus of voices for a playoff, there are many different agendas being sung.  And it’s not always the same tune being warbled.

Take the plus one as an example.  It’s a reasonable proposition, albeit one that doesn’t accomplish as much as its proponents allege (for every 2004 that it helps, there’s a 2005 that it hurts and a 2008 that leaves as many arguments as it settles), that I don’t think does much damage to the regular season.

I’ve got no idea whether Rep. Barton would be satisfied with it, though, mainly because his argument is so incoherent.  But for the folks like Hatch and Shurtleff, the plus one does nothing.  As much as they’ll give lip service about the fans, their primary goal is economic.  That’s what the purpose of antitrust law is, after all – to compensate and restructure a market that’s damaged certain entities through trade restraints.

These guys aren’t thinking about you and me.  They’re thinking about BYU, a school that draws like a Pac-10 institution, but doesn’t get paid like one, merely because of conference affiliation.  They’re thinking about Utah, that has to fight its way to a big paycheck every three years or so and comparing its situation to a Mississippi State which gets a big check every year despite its mediocrity – again, because of conference affiliation.

In that context, a plus one actually makes things worse.  It’ll generate a new revenue stream that will largely go to benefit the BCS conferences.  To reuse one of my favorite expressions, what most of us see as a feature is just another bug to them.

And don’t dismiss them as being clowns because they should be focusing on what we think are more important things.  We live in a world where the squeaky wheel gets greased.  Pols like Hatch and Barton who can impact sizeable purse strings directed to higher education can make some fairly loud noises if they try hard enough.  It’s up to us not to welcome our new college football playoff overlords without exercising a good deal of skepticism about their motives.

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14 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery

14 responses to “With friends like these…

  1. NebraskaDawg

    I don’t see what is unfair about the system. All schools in D1 (excuse me the FCS?) are ranked with the same criteria which rewards wins and playing tough schedules. WAC and Mountain West schools have already been apart of the BCS. I’m sorry kids, if you want more of the pie then become a bigger deal. (i.e. fan base, alumni donations, coaches pay, etc.)

  2. The Realist

    The conferences like the Sun Belt and MAC, etc. have wised up and are gouging the BCS conference teams when they resort to them for schedule fodder. That’s how a capitalist system works. BCS teams want a 1-A team to beat up on, and North Texas is willing to be that team, if you’re willing to pay. Pay for play. That’s how you make some money for your program. If you socialize, er, “forcibly even” the system to where the ne’er-do-wells get more of the BCS money despite being horrible programs, then the BCS teams will have less incentive to play along. They’ll take their balls and their millions and go home. And Congress won’t be able to do a damn thing about it.

    • And Congress won’t be able to do a damn thing about it.

      I don’t completely buy that. They’ve got a few levers to pull in DC. For one, they dispense a lot of money to higher education. For another, the NCAA is jonesing for an antitrust exemption.

      Would it be hamfisted? Sure. But they’ve done worse things.

  3. kckd

    “Take the plus one as an example. It’s a reasonable proposition, albeit one that doesn’t accomplish as much as its proponents allege (for every 2004 that it helps, there’s a 2005 that it hurts and a 2008 that leaves as many arguments as it settles), that I don’t think does much damage to the regular season.”

    This is really overdoing it here. How would it hurt 2005? It was a great NC game that if we’d had a plus one with seeding, wouldn’t have necessarily prevented us from seeing it. Another thing is that had #3 and #4 of that year been able to beat either of those teams and won it all. Who the hell could argue they weren’t the best. It’s not like the 10-6 Giants being the NE Pats.

    2008 would’ve left some arguments, but fewer than it did with just two teams. And this may be the only season that I can think of since I’ve been alive that a fifth team might’ve had a legit argument for playing for the NC than the top team.

    Remember this is not an argument about who should be fourth, but does my team actually have as good an argument to play for the title as any team that qualified. That’s how I look at it.

    • C’mon, man, you had two teams run #1 and #2 for the entire season – the first time in the history of the BCS that happened – and you still need a playoff to set a matchup between them?

      Hey, maybe we could have had them face off in the semis. That would have been terrific.

      • kckd

        You’re missing the point here and you do it quite often. You’re trying to say the extra game would’ve ruined it. No guarantee that would’ve happened.

        Also, neither of those two teams played a great schedule that year. For the most part, they were gigantic favorites in every regular season game they played. USC’s biggest scare came from ND (need I say more) and Fresno St. Should we just assume no one besides Texas could’ve beaten them? Do you honestly think those two teams played tougher schedule as no. 3 or 4 that year?

        And I’ve said this before, but using you’re argument, if there happens to be a very dominant team, clearly head and shoulders above everyone else, isn’t it just as wrong to ask them to play a bowl game to prove it?

        • I’ll skip past the irony of you accusing me of missing the point in a comment thread that’s tangential to the argument in my post to note that the real issue here is that you view the purpose of a playoff differently than I do.

          You see a playoff as a validation test for the regular season. Thus, if Texas and Southern Cal were as good as they appeared during the regular season, then playing an extra postseason game or two or four wouldn’t matter, since the cream would rise to the top anyway. And should either (or both) lose, then they weren’t as good as they were made to look in the first place.

          Me? I thought the whole reason for this exercise was to unravel a knotty problem that the regular season gave birth to – a situation where there were more than two clear cut schools with a claim to playing for the MNC. So, yeah, I can see the point to a playoff to culminate the 2004 season and still think one for 2005 would have been counterproductive.

          As for your last question, substitute the word “pointless” for “wrong” and I wouldn’t argue with you. That’s exactly how I feel about the Giants’ Super Bowl win over the Patriots.

          • kckd

            “I’ll skip past the irony of you accusing me of missing the point in a comment thread that’s tangential to the argument in my post to note that the real issue here is that you view the purpose of a playoff differently than I do.”

            I’m saying you’re missing my point. As far as the whole, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying about those complaining about the system. But you completely overstate again and again how a four team playoff would ruin seasons like 2005 or 2002. No. 3 and No. 4 in both of those years never got to play the no. 1 and no. 2 teams and played very different schedules. In fact, OSU played the lightest schedule of the four in 2002, found their way to the game and then were able to upend Miami. Of those four teams in 2002, Ohio St. would’ve been thought of as the team least likely to beat Miami.

            You see a playoff as a validation test for the regular season. Thus, if Texas and Southern Cal were as good as they appeared during the regular season, then playing an extra postseason game or two or four wouldn’t matter, since the cream would rise to the top anyway. And should either (or both) lose, then they weren’t as good as they were made to look in the first place.

            I’m saying years like 2005 are so rare nowadays, that it’d make more sense to try and clear up what we’ve seen in 2000,2002,2003,2004,2006,2007,2008 etc. etc. etc. than to worry about the one year when we do have two clear cut teams. And exactly how clear cut is it, when you have teams playing different teams, in different conferences and not really knowing how good they are because there aren’t enough games to show that.

            Me? I thought the whole reason for this exercise was to unravel a knotty problem that the regular season gave birth to – a situation where there were more than two clear cut schools with a claim to playing for the MNC. So, yeah, I can see the point to a playoff to culminate the 2004 season and still think one for 2005 would have been counterproductive.

            See my point above. Which is occurring more often these days? And remember, the four team playoff doesn’t mean we completely obliterate the opportunity for 1 and 2 to meet. But the two team playoff certainly continues to leave some out that have just as good a claim as anyone the two teams in the game.

            As for your last question, substitute the word “pointless” for “wrong” and I wouldn’t argue with you. That’s exactly how I feel about the Giants’ Super Bowl win over the Patriots.

            And my point on that is, I’ve never seen one big conference team ranked fourth since I’ve been alive, that I’d compare to the Giants vs. Pats when looking at them playing the number one ranked team.

            If the NFL took the four best records every year, you wouldn’t have a Giants vs. Pats Super Bowl.

  4. MacAttack

    There is no 100% fair system. But there is a much better system and that is an 8-Team playoff

    I say we cut the Big East from the BCS and have 5-Conference Winners in the BCS playoff and 3 At-Large bids with the highest BCS ranking. Hell, keep the Big East in and allow 2 At-Large bids then.

    The regular season is still INCREDIBLY important as you will need to be as HIGH as possible if you don’t win the conference AND we will never have an Auburn ’04 incident happen again

    Some will say the Mid-Major teams aren’t going to be represented. Fair enough. They may not in this system. I don’t really have strong argument against that.

    Some will say that a 4-loss LSU team in ’01 winning the SEC would be a disgrace. I don’t really see it as a disgrace. I see it as a surprise team going on a hot run that will probably be an under-dog in their games. I could not care less if a 2-3 loss team won it one year. At the end of EVERY YEAR we say that certain teams are better than others who have less losses

    It isn’t perfect. You could probably find holes in my argument. But it is much better than the current system

    And will people please stop using the argument that “Well, someone will still complain about being #9!”

    So what? What happens in the NCAA Basketball tournament with #66 being left, would be exactly what happens in that instance. ESPN would have a few days of bitching and then when the playoff begins, it will go away because in the end, #9 will not be felt that sorry for.

    • DawgBiscuit

      I agree with Mac, I’m all for the 8 team format. The #9 team wouldn’t have much of an argument for deserving a shot at the national championship. There could also be a BCS-like provision that would let an undefeated mid-major like Utah (or Boise St. or whoever it may be) in to shut up the Congressmen. In 2008 it would have gone something like this:

      #19 Virginia Tech (ACC champion)
      #1 Florida (SEC champion)

      #6 Utah (at-large, BCS style provision)
      #5 USC (Pac-10 champion)

      #8 Penn State (Big 10 champion)
      #3 Texas (at-large, highest ranked non-conf. champion.)

      #12 Cincinnati (Big East champion)
      #2 Oklahoma (Big XII champion)

      We could have possibly seen a Florida/USC matchup and a Texas/Oklahoma rematch in the second round! Maybe one day the college football gods will pull their heads out of their rectums and make this happen.

  5. S.E. Dawg

    Senator, I may have missed the whole ball of wax here but it’s hard for me to see my/our team at the mercy of how someone votes. I know it goes a lot deeper than that but for me it’s just that simple. I know that with a plus one it will be the same voters who determines the top four but at least we would have some form of determining it on the field. I’m not disagreeing with anything you or anyone else has said but I wish we could find something a little better.

    • S.E., reasonable minds can differ on what sort of form a D-1 postseason should take.

      All I’m trying to do is point out that what folks like Senator Hatch and Attorney General Shurtleff seek to accomplish is likely to be different than what the average college football fan like me or you is hoping for and to warn against embracing their crusades without some careful consideration first.