It’s got a good beat; you can dance to it. I give it an 80.

This may surprise some of you, but I think I’ve come across another playoff proposal I could live with.

It’s not as good a solution as my favorite concept – an eight-team, conference-champ-only tourney – but it has the virtue of being a practical, yet minimally disruptive postseason format.  You can read about it at the fine blog BCS Guru, in a post modestly titled “The Only ‘Playoff’ That Works”.   It’s pretty simple.

1. Add two games to the current format – national semifinal games played on campus sites the week after the last regular-season games are played and BCS standings are released.

2. The semifinalists will be the four teams meeting the following criteria -

  • a) The four highest-ranked conference champions, provided that they’re in the top six of the final BCS standings.*

  • b) Any team that finished in the top two but failed to win its conference.

  • c) In case of a conflict between a) and b), b) takes precedence over the lowest-ranked conference champion.

* Conference champion may be from any conference, regardless of BCS affiliation. In the case of conferences without a championship game, a co-champion is accepted and no tiebreaker needs to be applied. Notre Dame belongs in this group as well.

3. The higher seeds host the lower seeds on campus sites, with the winner advancing to the national championship game, to be played one week after New Year’s Day.

4. All bowl games and their affiliations stay in tact (sic). The losing semifinalists are guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS bowls, in accordance with their conference affiliations. Second-place teams may be invited in place of the semifinal winners, as it is the case now with the top two teams.

Like I said, pretty simple, no?  The beauty of it is what it doesn’t do.  It doesn’t screw over the bowls.  It doesn’t deprive the kids of a bowl experience.  It doesn’t lengthen the season, so there’s no negative impact on academics.  It doesn’t force large numbers of fans to plan for trips to multiple postseason venues.  And it doesn’t look to impact the regular season in a negative way, at least any more than any of the other four-team playoff formats do.

It’s superior to Mike Slive’s proposal, in that it doesn’t extend the season, it doesn’t treat the bowls as feeders to the title game and it doesn’t penalize the fans with an additional, really expensive postseason venue that will be a hardship for many to afford and attend.  And it’s better than the other plus-one plan for all of those reasons, plus it does a much better job of tamping down the arguments when the dust settles and the final two teams are picked.

And, of course, by its nature it’s better than any rankings-based format involving more than four schools.

Any negatives?  Of course there are.  If you believe that an objective format is inherently superior to any subjective format, you won’t get an argument from me.  So you’ve still got all the issues with the polls and the computers that you have now.  And that means there are going to be years when the screeching and moaning about #4 and #5 will be loud.  But that old saw about “the perfect being the enemy of the good” seems appropriate to keep in mind here.  It may not be a better way of deciding a MNC than what we’ve got now, but it’s likely not worse.  And in terms of the relative levels of controversy and argument, it’s clearly an improvement.

That’s the best part about this proposal to me.  It should satisfy many playoff proponents.  And because it treads on few toes, it’s a playoff format that doesn’t require too much in the way of compromise from the entrenched powers.  That makes it easy to defend as part of the status quo if it were adopted.  Jim Delany would have a field day snarling at anyone who had the temerity to criticize the BCS with a playoff.  I’m not saying it would be impossible to expand a playoff arrangement like this, but it would be extremely difficult to generate a consensus of decision makers who would be willing to do so.

That means there’s one other hole, though.  If the powers-that-be remain happy, that can’t be good news for the redistributionists who want economic fairness to be addressed with a D-1 football playoff.  Looking back, even though Utah would have broken through with a couple of appearances in the playoffs under Guru’s arrangement, which presumably would have sent a little more money to the non-BCS conferences in those years, there’s nothing structural offered with this to make a San Diego State or Idaho more satisfied over the long haul.  I’m guessing there would be enough in this format to reduce the heat on the BCS suits so that the money complaints could be ignored, but you never know what Congress might do.

But overall, it’s a tolerable set up for me.  What do you think?

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15 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, The Blogosphere

15 responses to “It’s got a good beat; you can dance to it. I give it an 80.

  1. Macallanlover

    It is twice as good as the current system (which is good), but I do not believe anything short of eight will satisfy enough to make the controversy go away. Six BCS champs, and 2 wild cards will make this acceptable. Why solve half the problem, when you can have one more pound and get 98% agreement that all reasonable contenders were included.

    The idea of highest seeds hosting the first round is definitely the best way to handle this, but we need four games, not two. Second round to be played in two of the existing bowl games, then the title game in mid-January at a neutral, centrally located dome.

    • Why solve half the problem, when you can have one more pound and get 98% agreement that all reasonable contenders were included.

      Because there are a number of years when there aren’t that many reasonable contenders to include.

      • Macallanlover

        While I agree, by including representatives of the six BCS conferences, and allowing a way for another two, you take away any legit concerns. Some of the conference champions may not be elite that year, but there is no way to resolve the inevitable (subjective) discussions of conference strength. I would rather include them, get them eliminated, and shut down any arguments that their area of the country wasn’t included. It is worth neutering them since they had a representative chosen by their conference, not some poll.

        • Maybe, but you open yourself up to a whole new argument about allowing clearly unqualified teams into the playoffs. That’s a road that would in my mind lead inevitably to an expanded playoff.

          If you look at Guru’s historical playback, no school with lower than a BCS ranking of 6 gets a shot at the MNC. That’s about as low as I want to see things go.

  2. Jim from Duluth

    One problem with this format. Item (c) leaves too much room for media chicanery and in fact replicates the situation UGA was in at the end of the 2007 season. The safe play would be that conference champs (or ND) in the top 6 get priority over high-ranked teams that did not win their conference or a non-BCS team who might qualify.

    But as with anything else, something is bound to happen to create a “fairness” outcry some season, and thereby start the slippery slope. I can vaguely recall when the NCAA basketball tournament was limited only to conference champs and maybe some independents. Then the NC State-Maryland ACC tourney title game in 1974 (when those teams were both ranked in the top 5) led to an outcry which began the expansion of that event over the next decade.

    SOMETHING will happen like that. It always does.

    Jim

    • Jim, your first point may be true, but how is that any worse than the current arrangement? And I think you could argue that with four schools to weigh in the balance rather than two, the voting in 2007 might have played out somewhat differently.

      By the way, that NC State/Maryland game is still the greatest college basketball game I’ve ever seen. If there’s ever a game where the cliche that “nobody deserved to lose” applied, that was it. And I hated both teams with a passion at the time.

      • Jim from Duluth

        My point is that any change should be (supposedly) for the better, not just for the sake of change. Given the mass shuffling in the rankings in 2007 once Herbstreit started running his mouth, I think it would be as bad or worse if trying to fill four slots instead of two.

        If the poll voters really wanted to “create” a rule in 2007 where one did not actually exist, it could have been done the week before the championship games. But we know how that turned out.

        Jim

  3. Castleberry

    Someone alert the president. I love it. Where do I sign up?

    How do you think we would have fared in a mid-December game in Columbus back in ’03? Even with a loss, we’d have been in the Sugar bowl with this format, right?

    How nice would it be to see USC and Florida go? For such a small change, this is a collosal improvement over the current format.

    My question is who gets the money for these semi-final home games? Probably wouldn’t matter too much. Nail down a massive tv contract and let the conferences split up the billions.

  4. Mike In Valdosta

    The Championship will always be mythical until it is awarded by the NCAA to the winner of a NCAA run post season tournament. The NCAA cannot run a championship in any classification without giving equal competitive opportunity to every confernce within the classification. With 120+ teams, 30+ post season games, and no champion, I believe our only hope is pairing of Division 1 to a more manageable number. Administrations will never go for that because they all need that game with NW Louisianna and Troy State to count in the computers. A very vicious circle shit.

  5. sUGArdaddy

    This is pretty much the system I myself have thought about. Except I would make it that you HAVE to win your conference. That would up the ante for conference games. Plus, if only 4 slots are allowed, it would up the ante for non-conference finales like UGA-Tech and Fla.-FSU.

    The semifinal home games are crucial, because what other incentive is there to going undefeated rather than pride. An undefeated season in a BCS conference would virtually guarantee you a home playoff game. Plus, this system is good because, as I’ve tried to argue with some, it makes no sense that an 11-1 team gets a pressure packed BCS playoff game while a 9-3 team gets a week of fun in the sun in Orlando. If you lose the semi, the consolation bowl really becomes about fun and getting some pride back, which is good for the kids.

    The biggest problem, still, is how the conferences determine their champion. I’m convinced that fixing this will fix most of our problems. What teams had 2 regular season conference losses in 2007? LSU, UGA, USC, Tennessee, Virginia Tech & Oklahoma. But how all those teams were viewed were drastically different. Had we been in the Big 10 or Pac-10, we’d have probably been in the MNC game because of our ranking. We signed on to be in the SEC, so that’s our deal, but we need to all be playing w/ the same deck of cards if we’re going after the same chips.

    • Two problems with insisting on a conference-champ only criteria in this environment: (1) you run the risk of excluding a clearly stronger participant from the semis and (2) Notre Dame.

      I don’t want to come off sounding like an apologist for a playoff proposal, but the strength of Guru’s format is that you give the playoff proponents something to make them happier without having to challenge all of the vested interests very much. Notre Dame isn’t interested in joining a conference right now and it seems pointless to force it to do so in the name of a four-team playoff.

  6. Barry

    I like the plan if, and only if, the conferences can agree on a uniform method to choose their champions.

    Under this format, USC and tOSU can sit back, enjoy a bye week and watch the SEC and Big 12 champions get pounded in championship games. At least under the current set-up, championship game winners chosen for the title game have weeks to recover.

    I think your original proposal has always been, and still is, the best choice.

  7. Cooler Czar

    Senator,

    Is that a Back to the Future reference in the post title?

  8. 8 team, conference champs only format is way better than this.

    This system still relies HEAVILY on rankings, and that’s where things go horribly wrong. Especially when you are talking about only 4 teams.