A mock-free Mandel Mailbag

There’s something vaguely disappointing about a Mandel Mailbag in which I can’t find a comment or two to mock, but it happens now and then.

In today’s Mailbag, he makes two valid points about fan attitudes regarding the BCS/playoff debate. First,

What drives me absolutely bonkers, however, is that no matter how many articles (or books) have written about this subject, no matter how detailed an explanation we provide, there is still a large segment of the public that continues to make blanket assumptions about what’s best for the sport without taking the time to truly digest the issues behind this “rediculosity.”

To which he adds…

If I had any pull with the folks at Gallup (and if they weren’t so preoccupied with this whole election thing), there’s a public-opinion survey I’d love to see them undertake. A whole host of largely unscientific polls have shown there’s about a 70-30 split among sports fans between those who want to see college football go to a playoff and those who don’t. I don’t doubt that to be the case.

But what I want to know is, among that 70 percent, how many are diehard college football fans, and how many are more general sports fans who follow college football no more closely, if not less, than they do baseball, the NFL or the NBA? My entirely unfounded theory is that it would be much closer to 50-50 among the diehards because they’re more apt to recognize exactly what I described above.

Mandel isn’t arguing against a four team playoff here – quite the contrary, he states that he favors it – nor demeaning its proponents. What he’s complaining about is how easily those folks are willing to dismiss the motives behind an opposing viewpoint. And while he quickly acknowledges that some of the reasons don’t hold much water, he notes one serious argument that shouldn’t be easily dismissed.

… Quite simply, college football’s leaders universally believe that the regular season is more important than the postseason.

When the commissioners spoke last week of the BCS’ “good health,” they did so in the context that it’s been an immeasurable boon to the season as a whole, as evidenced by rising attendance and TV ratings. If there’s one thing the commissioners made abundantly clear last week, it’s their belief that a gripping, 12-week regular season with an often-unsatisfying finish is still preferable to a fool-proof postseason that risks devaluing the 12 weeks before it.

I know a lot of people don’t buy that argument, but look at college basketball. Each year, at the beginning of the season, many of the best teams in the country square off in various preseason tourneys (the NIT, the Maui Invitational, etc.) — and only the most diehard fans pay any attention to it.

Meanwhile, on Sept. 13, USC will play Ohio State in football, and the entire country will be watching. The same game would take on far less significance were there to be a full-on playoff. As long as both teams ended up winning their conference (or finishing high enough in the rankings), the result would have no effect on anything. And remember, most major athletic departments are funded primarily by football revenue, chiefly home ticket sales. As soon as fans start tuning out those early-season games (and they would), there goes the cross-country team. [Emphasis added.]

Take note, John Feinstein.

Mandel doesn’t think the plus-one would cause that kind of damage, but is willing to concede that the “camel’s nose in the tent” argument about expanded playoffs is credible.

Hard to argue with that…


UPDATE: Well, not if you’re Matt Zemek, who poses this question to college football fans in urging a BCS boycott: Do you really want your sport to become healthy…

By “health”, he means “national championship playoff”. He grudgingly concedes that there might be another way to look at the well-being of the BCS, though.

… When Swofford proclaimed the patient to be healthy, he was right in a certain, narrow sense. The BCS, after all, is indeed filling the coffers of the conferences with loads of cash. The bowls are lucrative. TV eats them up. Profits are being made in the current setup. So yes, in that sense, the BCS is healthier than ever.

Yeah, there is that.


UPDATE #2: A summary of the cons to both sides of the argument is laid out at Garnet and Black Attack.  I could pick nits with a few of his points (the NCAA has had a D-1 basketball tourney since 1939, which I wouldn’t call a recent development, for what it’s worth), but overall it’s pretty well done.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Media Punditry/Foibles

3 responses to “A mock-free Mandel Mailbag

  1. Maybe the Cross-Country programs could put together an eight team playoff system and generate some revenue for themselves. It could be required viewing at sleep labs across the nation.

    Welfare hounds. That’s all they are. Sucking off of the nip of the world’s greatest sport.


  2. Hobnail_Boot

    Mandel nailed it.

    I don’t want a playoff because frankly, I don’t compare college football to other sports. The 13-week drama of a season in the SEC is the best thing in sports, and while determining a national champion is certainly important, it’s not nearly as important as the 3 months before it.


  3. dean

    As much as I hate to admit it, Stewie makes a very good point. The last paragraph you copied is my worst fear when it comes to a playoff. Well that and the playoff brackets would never stop expanding.