The plus-one: good for business, bad for football

On my “About Me” page, I say “to paraphrase Churchill, the BCS is the worst form of deciding a national football champion except for all those others that have been tried”.

If college football’s movers and shakers wind up adopting a plus-one postseason format to replace the BCS, that comment still stands.

For all the lip service about listening to the fans, the reason the plus-one has traction is solely because of its virtues to the commissioners and presidents.  It gives them another postseason game to bid out to the networks, it preserves the significance of the major bowls – in the case of the Rose Bowl, you could argue it does more than that – and it provides a cease-fire, albeit a temporary one, to the Delany-Slive trench warfare.

But, as Matt Hinton argues, it doesn’t do a damned thing to address what fans want.

A plus-one would entrench the status quo. In fact, it’s a conscious rejection of the playoff push, the whole point of which is demand for a system that judges aspiring champions by actually having them compete against one another – you know, the basic premise of the sport, and of competition in general as practiced by virtually every other competitive entity in the world. Plus-one proposals default to what we have now: A random cabal of pollsters, coaches, computer programmers and whoever else they can graft on to anoint contenders by fiat. (Among the proponents of a plus-one, for example, are a couple of Texas businessmen – fans – who have pitched a proprietary plan to BCS honchos on multiple occasions.) Nothing changes except that the music stops in early January instead of early December.

Consider a scenario where Southern Cal, LSU and FSU all finish the regular season with identical 13-0 records and then go on in a plus-one world to win their respective bowl games.  How would you like to be on that selection committee?  It would be Auburn 2004 on steroids.

What makes this worse than what we’ve got now is that this whole fiasco will be sold to college football fans as an improvement over the status quo (from the standpoint of conference bank accounts, it would be).  When reality hits, the anger and frustration will be even more palpable than it already is.  And that’s not a good thing.  It’ll likely force these guys back to the table to scramble to come up with yet another fix.  It’s pretty clear already that knee-jerk reactions to short-term problems aren’t their strong suit.

As I’ve repeatedly said, I’m largely agnostic about a playoff.  I can see a benefit to a four-team scenario with little downside, so I’m okay with it, but what I really want to come out of this round of negotiations more than anything is a format with enough stability to withstand a push in the near term to go to a larger postseason field.  And a plus-one clearly ain’t that.

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46 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

46 responses to “The plus-one: good for business, bad for football

  1. Well said, Senator. Wait until the bowl executives have a lot of empty seats and the schools have a large unused ticket allocations because people make the decision not to attend the bowl game in the hopes of using their hard-earned cash to attend the “championship” game. Oh, yeah, it’s not about the fans anyway.

    • MGW

      When undefeated FSU only has to beat 8-4 UConn in the Orange bowl to advance to the championship game, how many people do you think are going to actually go to that first game?

      Plus we’re going to get back into the whole “style points” thing when there are three undefeateds in different bowls. “Poorest sport with most overmatched opponent advances.” Fantastic.

  2. Always Someone Else's Fault

    I have a plan.

    1) Fake a natural gas leak on Arroyo Blvd., requiring the evacuation of a 12 block area.
    2) Blow up Rose Bowl Stadium.
    3) Blame it on the gas leak.

    There, problem solved.

  3. X-Dawg

    A plus-one would have come in handy in 2007 & possibly in 2002 – just sayin’. :)

    • That’s the problem. It’ll work in some years, but not others. Pretty much all proposed formats have been reactionary, in that they’d fix this year or that year, but another plan would be better for other years, and a third style better for another set of years.

    • Again; Out of all of the possibilities, the nly one tht I am in favor of is the PLUS ONE. that one always works for me.

      • How would a +1 have worked in 2001, when Miami was clearly the best. Or last year, do we get LSU/Bama part 3? When Auburn was clearly the best last year, why do they have to play another? Who does 09 Bama have to beat? Or 99 FSU?

        A +1 works great in some years, not so much in others.

  4. The larger push is inevitable. We all know that. The question is does it stop at 16 when it gets there in 10-20 years, or does it push through to 24 or 32 eventually.

    • As Keynes once famously said, in the long run, we’re all dead. All I’m hoping for is that they can keep from mucking CFB up for a couple of decades. ;)

      • Not so good for those of us that have at least 4-5 decades remaining, maybe more if life expectancy continues to go up. ;)

      • Kyle

        It’s funny you mention Keynes–this whole reactionary PR stunt the NCAA is whipping up reminds me very much of our current Keynesian policies on the Federal level. Being someone who leans towards the Austrian school I’m all for a 16-team playoff. Or why not just 8?

      • Jim

        Senator, i agree with your sentiment i saw a few weeks ago – at least i think it was you – which is to say i will be surprised if i still give a darn about college football in 5 years.

        • Always Someone Else's Fault

          We’re headed the CBB route – we’ll keep caring about our team, but we won’t be watching Oklahoma-Oklahoma State or USC-Oregon. In other words, I like my team, but I’m not so enamored with the sport of CBB itself anymore.

          Those are two different things, and I wonder if the people making these decisions understand that. They walk across campus on a Saturday and see all the revelry. But, do they get the fact that it’s those same people who are watching games in other parts of the country that are really putting the dollars into the TV contracts?

          I just don’t think the P12 and B1G want to compete in big games or for national viewers on a consistent basis with the SEC and B12. They are going to sabotage this thing the entire way.

          It’s a losing strategy long-term, IMO, but no one ever worries about that anymore. Maximize now, hope you’re not just taking an extra $1 now at the expense of $10 down the road. But if you are, it’s the next guy’s problem, anyway. Win-win, from a really perverse point of view – unfortunately, the one dominating management culture right now.

  5. tludlam

    One problem I see with the bowl system is that, aside from the teams in the championship game or the Davids facing Goliaths (Boise, Utah, TCU, etc.), players often recognize that bowls are simply exhibition games with no real prize for winning. They (rightly, perhaps) treat bowl week as a vacation, a bonus for all their hard work during the season, and accordingly, they don’t seriously prepare for the game. Whether we go to a plus-one or a four team playoff, you are going to see at least a couple more holiday-time games where top level teams have something to play for. A 4-team playoff would cap that number of additional meaningful bowl games at 2. Plus-one might mean 3 or 4 extra bowl games that matter. I don’t prefer a plus-one to a playoff (I could go for 4- or 6-team playoff, but I fear bracket creep beyond that). I do, however, think plus-one would be an improvement over the current system.

  6. paul

    As you have said often over the past year or so, and many of us have agreed, good for business but bad for football is the crux of the problem. The longer this goes on, the worse the likely outcome seems. It appears that in the short term what we’ll actually get is nothing more than making a bad situation worse. Then, in a year or two, they’ll pretty much kill the goose. Legacy. Yeah.

  7. “Consider a scenario where Southern Cal, LSU and FSU all finish the regular season with identical 13-0 records”…

    Now consider a more likely scenario where these teams finish with a 12-1 record, along with 1 or 2 mid-majors… Fu*kapalooza!

  8. Slaw Dawg

    I’ve never, ever understood why it’s so darn important to have some pristine, objective process for determining an unchallenged nat’l CFB champ every year. Division I CFB uniquely prioritizes the significance of each individual game because that’s how it grew up. The pageantry, local flavor and history of each gladiatorial spectacle has its own singular flavor, seasoned and marinated over the decades, sometimes before the first game was ever played. It’s a rare bowl game that can match the encapsulated mythos of the Cocktail Bowl, or the South’s Oldest Rivalry, or the Red River Shootout, the Third Saturday in October, the Iron Bowl, “the Game,” the Civil War, or even the Egg Bowl. i wish somebody could explain convincingly to me how exactly the sport has been improved by dispensing with “OU-Nebraska,” Pitt v Penn State, the Lone Star Showdown, or the Border War. Not for the fans!

    Bowls are fun holiday season get togethers with good teams not usually played, and that’s fine and dandy. But as glorious as beating ND in the Sugar Bowl for the ’80 title was, is any play from that game as famous as “Run Lindsay!”? Does any Georgia fan sport a bumper sticker saying “Nuck Fotre Dame?” And play off games won’t even have the fun, holiday party feel of the bowls. Will they all be in New Orleans on New Year’s? Who needs ‘em?

    To quote the late Bill Buckley, it’s past time to stand athwart this history and shout “Enough!”

    • SCDawg

      Those are my fellings exactly. The bowl games are just glorified exhibition games between teams from different parts of the country who don’t play each other very often. They are supposed to be played in a place where the weather is pretty decent during a cold time of the year. I am just fine with that, so long as we get to play Auburn every year.

      My new worry about this whole playoff thing is how badly the powers that be are going to muck it up. In my view, the worse job they do, the more likely we are to have a 24-32 team playoff in 10 years. It took two SEC teams playing a rematch game to get us where we are now. Imagine if we have 3-4 undefeated teams after the bowls end and we have to put them in the plus one game?

  9. Cojones

    For consistencies sake, I’ll propose the logical scenario-again. The teams in the 8 top bowl games are paired/seeded by computers and the winners line up for a playoff. That makes the bowl games meaningful and matches teams from one conference to another, not from the same conference.

    Fans would gladly go to games that are meaningful toward a natl. champ. How these games take away from the importance of our regular season game is beyond my focus although that’s the same reason given by many not to have a playoff. I don’t buy into that and the “slippery slope” that is being set up so that self-proclaimed gurus can say, “I told you so”. If you don’t start at a playoff number, of course it will keep changing to a better playoff setup! Duh! This old draggin’ the foot crap is only planting unexplainable memes in some minds who will defend intangible reasoning like Tea Partiers do with their lost “freedoms”.

    If the Dawgs went to a BCS Bowl that was used to better define who will be grinding for NC, we couldn’t wait for that game. And each following matchup scenario giving us an extended season to watch UGA gain natl prominence on a weekly basis for two weeks before playing in the NC game would be a plus.

    Playing anything but an even number of games divisible by 2; i.e., 3,6, is folly looking for more shit to happen. Not playing over 4 teams will keep the same judging/team placement in sway that we use now. The same arguments won’t be swayed until you get to 8 teams that have accomplished validation of their projected standings in the polls by winning a bowl game. It’s win-win using the current bowl system to help decide by validating their right to be playing for the NC.

    Does anyone for an instant believe that, if we are ranked 5th and not chosen, we won’t feel like we can beat 1-4 ? Think about it and the solution that could excite us all; a playoff.

    • Patrick

      I’ll do my best to put it in focus…

      You just put Cam Newton on the bench for the Iron Bowl for fear of getting injured.
      You just decided to rest Knowshon against Auburn, because all we have to do is beat Tech to make a Top 8 bowl.

      ANY playoff system shifts importance to those playoff games and making whatever decisions are necessary to get to those playoff games.
      And it takes that importance squarely away from the games that SHOULD matter for CFB……beating the tar out of your rivals.

      It’s that simple.

      • joe p

        I see your point, but should a coach have the balls to bench a Newton or Knowshon and drop that game….I would never forgive. Regardless of our standing in a national playoff picture, I would hope CMR cares more about beating Auburn or Tech than Belichick cares about beating the Bills.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          Here’s the problem though. CMR plays Knowshon in the Tech game and wins but Knowshon gets injured and misses the bowl/first playoff game. UGA loses that first game to a team it was expected to beat–perhaps Rutgers or South Florida. Half of the alums would be wanting to run CMR out of town.

          • Patrick

            Ding ding ding.

            Once making the playoff becomes the gold standard, it’s all that would matter to the fans and to Richt (job security). Richt would need balls to PLAY Knowshon, not to sit him.

            Tech/UGA would be equivalent of Bills/Pats in week 17.
            Auburn/UGA would be Dolphins/Pats in week 13.
            Sometimes relevant, often not.

            Not what CFB should be striving for.

            • Cojones

              Din, ding, dong! Patrick, your statements about what you would do with players in projecting unknown playing situations doesn’t begin to answer any questions, much less those being invented against a true playoff position. Bringing in an anti-Richt flavor says a great deal about your reasoning.

              • Patrick

                I’m not anti-Richt. Was just using him as an example.

                And yes, with an 8-team playoff in place, i believe you will absolutely care less about beating Auburn and Georgia Tech. All fans will. All that will matter is how many times each program has made the playoffs under the respective coaching regimes.

                You knew offhand that we’ve beaten Tech 10 out of 11 years.
                What’s the Falcons record against the Saints in the last 11 tries?

                Arguing that an 8-team playoff would fundamentally change the sport for the better is one thing. I don’t agree with it, but i can respect the argument.

                But arguing that an 8-team playoff would not fundamentally change the sport……that’s different. And a nonstarter for me.

                • Cojones

                  The Playoff will fundamentally change the sport, not the number. How can having an 8-team playoff change your view of beating the hell out of Auburn and Tech? You may have such a fragile opinion about those games, but I don’t and never will. I’ve been watching UGA beat/play Tech since the early 60s, but my ardor grows all the more before every yearly game.

                  I haven’t been an NFL fan seriously ever except with the Bears. It’s the fundamental game with no excitement, unlike what you get from some kid out of nowhere suddenly projecting himself into your psyche on the college gridiron. I would appreciate a discussion, not your projecting things that I don’t think or feel. That’s insincere in any discussion. Are you aware that the NFL is organized differently and has no play in the conversation? I could care less since their playoffs have no model that fits CFB.

    • Slaw Dawg

      Cojones, this may be one of the few times that my opinion (respectfully) parts ways with yours. I don’t ever want college football to become about the playoffs. I want the most important games to be those played during the season. In the NFL, it’s all about the playoffs–will you make it, will you be a wild card, will you have home field advantage, etc. Regular season games matter only insofar as they are relevant to making the playoff. Not a fate I want for my favorite sport–just about the only sport above the HS level I have any real passion for these days and I’d like to keep enjoying it for some while to come, if the powers that be will permit that.

      • Cojones

        If you are saying your take on a playoff is that it lessens our seasonal games( I say “Not in the SEC”), and no reason is given why I won’t continue to enjoy the SC, FU, Aub and Tech games, you are not speaking for me. My position is stated as to what we finally will arrive to and is a refutation against those reasons stated by some as to what the affect will be on fans and our seasonal scheduled games. I’m really not against any type playoff scenario, but rather am trying to state the logic for 8 teams before we all argue from more entrenched subjective grounds why that shouldn’t be. I’m not upset by any other scenario, rather I’m trying to get a widened viewing audience as to what is an objective end to all this broo-ha-ha over invented reasons that don’t apply to everyone’s thinking as we have been led to believe for the last several months.

        If we have an 8-game playoff does that mean you won’t enjoy kicking Franklin’s sorry Vandy ass this year and wait anxiously for the end of the game to see the Grantham/Franklin reaction? Yep, and will it take away from the great significance of the Kentucky game? Would we want to take it easy on SOD because we have a playoff? Certainly pounding Tech for 10 out of 11 years will be diminished! We wouldn’t do anything but yawn through that game because we have an 8-team playoff? Which games would it lessen? None of the above. What about the SECCG? Nope, I’ll get even more pleasure beating the crap out of a West Div team for the champ’s accolades. If we went to 9 SEC opponents, it would downright enhance the importance of other SEC games. Strength of schedule would play right into our SEC hands and enhance the ability for two teams to be in playoffs each year. Go to 8 playoff teams and it practically cries for three SEC teams.

        This is not an argument. I’m trying to get each fan to contemplate things individually by supplying reasons not generally viewed and that are given short shrift in the logic dept. Peace to all. :)

    • Dog in Fla

      The next 30 years of warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed among the deciders may produce something worthwhile

    • Hackerdog

      Spoken like a true liberal.

      “If my solution happens to create some unforeseen problems, well, I’ll just create a new, improved, solution. ‘Never stop improving college football.’ That’s my motto.”

      And you dismiss the slippery slope argument against expanding playoffs? Then how do you explain the expanding postseason of every sport that has a playoff?

      CFB would get it right just because? Mike Slive appreciates your confidence in him.

      • Cojones

        Weren’t some of these same reason’s used against the idea of a CCG? Where are those tired arguments used then against raising the competition barrier?

        The “slippery slope” argument is what I thought I was assailing. It predicts what will happen because it is logical, not bad, when you talk playoffs.You have assigned a “grinding halt” philosophy to a developing model, for now. You want to pile up the inequities in the coming years that will work against the SEC and the 4-game model before relegating the whole mess back to playoff demons rather than go ahead and put in the logical, pain-reducing model now? If you don’t have a legitimate argument against it, you dub it a “slippery slope”, a madeup term that you are trying to make reality rather than state the merits of a more complete, diminished-bitching true playoff system.

        Using other sports as reasons doesn’t jibe in my logic. Each sport has reasons for and against playoffs that don’t match reasoning for a college football playoff . Even the NFL playoffs don’t come close for a model until we establish a college football league. What were 85% of you thinking when asked if you want a college football playoff season? Don’t let people interject word-play that makes you back off what you were originally thinking when answering that question. D-1 college ball is different even from the rest of FBS. Others want to divert your attention and I don’t blame them. Where will blogging and college sports medias in general be if we don’t have something to rail mightily against? Job security is the only legitimate reason for introduction of a Barrister’s “slippery slope” warning to the jury.

        • Cojones

          As far as “unforseen problems”, that applied when we wanted a playoff. Now that we are in it, those “problems” cut both ways and inventing new problems that some sears think they have a handle on is pure balderdash.

  10. Mayor of Dawgtown

    The “Plus-One” concept originally floated around 4-5 years ago was really a 4 team playoff (they didn’t want to use that word) with #1 playing #4 and #2 playing #3 in existing bowls with the Plus-One game pitting the winners against each other in a BCSNCG.The new “Plus-One” format is a bastardization that is essentially “wait until after the bowls are over and pick the 2 top teams in the polls/BCS Rankings.” How is that really an improvement over what we have now. It just delays the decision about who gets picked for the BCSNCG until after the bowls are played.

    • Always Someone Else's Fault

      Which, if you have run projections that suggest you will make more money for your individual conference that way, makes perfect business sense in the moment.

      I think the P12 and B1G genuinely fear getting shut out of this thing enough that their brand becomes second-tier. Oregon could not get over the hump with what will likely be considered their program peak. hard to see them getting that much better. Ohio State has not shown the ability to compete consistently with SEC teams. Only Southern Cal has shown an ability to tee it up with SEC and B12 teams.

      I think they genuinely fear a four team playoff the more they think about it. “Defend the Rose Bowl” sounds much more pleasant than, “We just can’t compete with you guys.”

  11. watcher16

    Senator – Are you for or against an SOS component? It surely couldn’t hurt when McGarity is looking at home dates to fill…

    • With unbalanced schedules, I am very much for a SOS component.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        Well, if there is an SOS component it needs to be REAL, not that made-up BS where the Big-10 gets high marks for playing each other when we all know that 8-9 of their teams ain’t worth sh!t and would finish below Kentucky if they were in the SEC. Do it based on real Power Ratings or something like that. We don’t want to get “pencil-whipped.” If we leave it to a committee of ex-coaches or the like the SEC (and UGA in particular) will get screwed every time. The SOS thing opens the door to manipulation and abuse, IMHO.

        • Always Someone Else's Fault

          +1

          Somehow they need to weight the team rankings that determine SOS. If CFB 1-150 was a yardstick, 1-30 would be the first foot, 31-80 would be the second foot, and 81-150 would be the last foot.

          But turning subjectivity into a number doesn’t make it any more “objective.” Just because something has been quantified does not mean it isn’t biased.

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            Yeah. And how do you say that UGA beating Arkansas State by 40 is not as good as or better than Ohio State beating Indiana by 10? If, for reasons of sportsmanship, the BCS doesn’t take victory margin into account how can an adjustment be made? Hell, UGA would have beaten Indiana by 35, maybe, but because Arkansas State is in an inferior conference, Ohio State gets a bump and UGA doesn’t.

  12. Cojones

    So Mayor and SEF, Looking at this thing again, wouldn’t you say that the 4-team model is loaded for that subjective objective shit? You both made a great case for the advent of an 8-team playoff. Let’s stop the angst early, stop the “grinding halt” philosophies and get on with what we set out to do: Have a D-1 college football playoff and increase the fun.

    • So we’re already seeing the inevitable bracket creep. First,we use to have no playoff…then the BCS made what was functionally a two team playoff …now the Presidents are going with a 4 team playoff….but wait Cojones says all the problems would clearly be solved with an 8 team playoff until the inevitable miscarriage of justice gets a deserving 7th or 8th rank team excluded and we cure that problem with a 16 team playoff. The Senator has been right all along, The regular season is the playoff ,make every game count and let us just relish the fact that some years several teams can legitimacy claim they are the best in the country. Personally I love the co-national champions of Colorado and Ga. Tech when any idiot knows neither one of those two teams were even close to No. 1. Life is unclear and unfair .Deal with it and most importantly Don’t F**k-up a good thing which we all agree NCAA football is.

      • Cojones

        The 8-team schedule would have the opposite affect that you claim from the way I view it. You reduce the griping by having more teams. The further down the list you go in numbers will get to that breakoff in argument (reduce it, not stop it) such that complaining about who gets into the lower positions for playoff is muted by evidence for and against a team. There’s more,”Well they selected against us, they had to pick one or the other” than there is ,”We were railroaded by the Big10 and Delany’s minions” when picking the last teams. Yes, it would be even less of a committee problem if they played 16 teams, but that approaches less return in angst prevention for the good of the game. My reasoning is for 8 teams in a CFB playoff discouraging any further “slippage”.

        Eight teams gives plenty of play toward the have-not conferences and is more inclusive toward keeping the enthusiasm across the panoply of teams involved. Or have many fans already excluded them in their haste to begin the 4-Team Wars? That won’t change, and soon everyone gripes that the 4-team selection committee is at fault and placed us on that old bugabear , “See. The slippery slope has already started”. No, folks, it started over two months ago when first projected into our minds and quickly used BBall playoffs in the reasoning. I disagree with both premises. Inventing a boogerbear initially of a slippery slope is a mind game used by many lawyers and politicians. You then get separated into two encampments about a term invented to stay the hand of a true playoff by those who never wanted one to begin with. By going to 8 teams later, the self-fulfilling prophecy becomes true, whereas, going to 8 teams to begin with would stop the falderall and make it plain to see that further movement to 16 teams would not add or detract more to the game. You would have the stopping point that some already predict where it will slide .

        No one is going to buy the predictors for other sports and their playoffs influencing what is good or bad for CFB. Soon the thinkers will come forward and see it for what it is; a stopgap ploy to not have a playoff and to get rid of the one we now contemplate at the first chance (two years away with the start of playoffs). Eight teams will settle the playoff questions once and for all. It could be advantageous for those against playoffs to embrace it first and prove their point, ….or not.

        Many minds already think CFB is fucked up just by having playoffs. Some felt the same weay toward a SECCG. I’m just advocating for a true playoff that emulates what most had in mind when we decided to have a playoff. And some started the “slippery slope” meme to discourage it.

        Whatever we end up with, I will be a happy Dawg because I think we can compete well in this milieu.