Around the blogosphere: playoff fever, catch it!

For what it’s worth, I’m not the only blogger obsessing over the BCS/playoff debate. Kyle’s been plugging away about it lately (lots of links, too!), as has Paul Westerdawg. And Doug gets his two cents in, as well.

But I really wanted to spend a minute responding to this post of TH’s over at Carolina March. First of all, because it makes me recognize that I am a mere amateur when it comes to sarcasm – I can get it out in occasional dribs and drabs – who cannot help but acknowledge when I am in the presence of a pro.

But I also think he’s dead wrong about something when he posts,

Oh, and while I’m at it, that whole problem of mission creep? Yeah, that’s a concern. After all, it would be horrible for the postseason to expand to sixty-eight teams. That would just suck.

Face it, the bowl system is just like the NCAA basketball tournament. Except where there’s one meaningless Tuesday game in March, there’s thirty-three in December.

Sorry, but that does not compute. In the context of mission creep, bowl games and March Madness could not have less in common. Bowl games, except for the BCS title game, are nothing but glorified exhibition games. Well paying ones, with better TV ratings than most regular season college basketball games, but exhibition games nevertheless. If you feel a need to analogize them to a basketball tourney, the NIT would be a better place to start.

D-1 football isn’t a tournament sport at present. College basketball is. And it’s real easy to spot the difference. All you have to do is go try to find the football equivalent of ESPNU’s Bracketology. Let me know when you hear Herbie and the other talking heads arguing over who got screwed over not getting a Las Vegas Bowl invite.

Or when you can find a regular season Washington-Hawaii basketball game that draws as much attention as a Washington-Hawaii football game:

On the final weekend of the season, Washington at Hawaii received a 2.0 TV rating. An estimated 1.96 million households saw the game, even though it ended a 3:14 a.m., ET because the Warriors’ victory all but assured them of an at-large berth in one of the five BCS games.

There is one regular season basketball rivalry that draws national attention year in and year out, TH’s North Carolina and Duke. How many D-1 football rivalries are compelling nationally? And how many D-1 regular season football games are there every year like Washington-Hawaii or West Virginia-Pitt that draw our attention, compared to college basketball? If it’s not because of the differing postseason formats, what is it?

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UPDATE: In the “give credit where credit is due” department, TH responds to my post here. I don’t want to spend too much time in my response to his response, mainly because it’s apparent that there’s a yawning gap between our opinions on this subject that I don’t think can be bridged. However, there are a couple of rebuttals to his post I want to make.

First, I think he’s being just a wee bit disingenuous with his “a scrappy team from a minor conference” comment. Memphis vs. Tennessee was a meeting between the top two basketball teams in the country that wasn’t played at three in the morning, East Coast time. The caliber of teams in the Hawai’i-Washington game wasn’t anywhere in the same vicinity.  Neither was the setting.

Second, he misinterprets the point I raised in the last paragraph of my post. I’m not asking why from an overall standpoint college football is more popular than college basketball. I’m asking why there are so many more compelling regular season college football games than there are regular season basketball games.

3 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, The Blogosphere

3 responses to “Around the blogosphere: playoff fever, catch it!

  1. All you have to do is go try to find the football equivalent of ESPNU’s Bracketology.

    You mean something like a ridiculously premature over-detailed postseason prediction?

    I agree that thirty-three bowl games are essentially exhibitions, which is one of the reasons the bowl system irritates me so. Ohio State had something like 41 days between the end of the regular season and ther one and only postseason game. That’s just asinine. Corso and company aren’t tlking about who’s getting screwed out of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia because they’re busy filling a month of airtime Talking. About. The. Same. Damn. Game. Good teams could be playing footbal, and I’m stuck listening to this?

  2. T.H. – your link doesn’t work.

    BTW, I agree with your point that the bowl season has found itself stretched out to a ridiculous length. Then, again, that does shorten the offseason. ;)

  3. MJ

    T.H. is correct to point out that Bowl games are the result of a popular sport and not the cause of popularity. Cities have capitalized on the popularity of college football and created games to attract tourism and spur economic activity. An example is the Mid-Winter Athletic Club which started the Sugar Bowl by selling bonds (and limiting bonds to 2 per investor). The game was a nice boost during the Great Depression era.

    Yet playoff advocates like T.H. refuse to acknowledge many important stakeholders in the debate. It’s as if they think fans are at the top of the list when, in fact, “fans”cannot answer the fundamental question of how any of this relates to the universities’ core mission. I’ll cite two examples here as they relate to his post.

    First, the successful Bowls have taken advantage of tax rules and morphed into powerful 501c3 corporations. Like any corporation, they scan the environment for threats and opportunities and they will fight against any entity just as any good corporation would do because they have a moral obligation to their stakeholders. The BCS has already thrown holiday tourism out-of-whack. A playoff system worsens the problem. While playoff advocates continue to claim a playoff would be “good for the game”, the corporations probably ask, “Whose game?” They take real financial risks each year to pull an event together while the couch potato at home whines about a playoff and accuses THEM of arrogance.

    Since the Rose Bowl seems to be criticized the most, the nature of the Rose Bowl Operating Company deserves to be mentioned here. The RBOC was formed by the Pasadena City Council and answers to the taxpayers for the purpose of economic development. Although the RBOC was not formed until 1993, public ownership stems from the donation of the original stadium (Tournament Stadium) to the city decades ago. The taxpayers of Pasadena have no interest in paying the $5 million BCS entry fee just as your city would balk at taxpayer money being spent for frivolous purposes. The taxpayers also have no interest in the possibility of a Boston College vs. Rutgers match up for the sake of a playoff. If playoff advocates were in their shoes, they wouldn’t give the idea the time of day either.

    Second, the fundamental question to the entire debate is, “Given the immense popularity of the sport, to what extent should others be allowed to capitalize of the efforts of unpaid performers for economic gain?”

    I note that the NCAA made its decision for men’s basketball by signing a $6 billion contract with CBS to broadcast March Madness. The decision promptly earned Myles Brand a seat in front of the U.S. House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees. The issue is still open in both committees and will likely remain open.

    Given the popularity of D1-A football compared to basketball and the revenues a playoff could generate through television, what are the ethics of forging ahead with a playoff? Playoff advocates completely ignore this. They seem oblivious to the fact that others see ethical problems with the current money grab through the use of unpaid athletes for something that already has nothing to do with the educational mission of universities.

    Of course, if playoff advocates actually researched the issue, they would know this (or maybe they do know yet they just want to push their agenda anyway).

    The attitude seems to be, “We’re already doing it, so let’s do it some more.” They sound like a bunch of frat brothers egging on a pledge to take one more drink since he’s already smashed, or like a shopaholic who doesn’t understand Mommy and Daddy’s credit card is already maxed out.

    It’s fine to have an opinion. However, the debate has dragged out long enough to start calling out playoff advocates. Sooner or later, one must present INFORMED opinions by looking at the matter from all sides rather than regurgitating personal preferences.