The downside to a tournament…

can be that it warps your perception of what sort of progress a program is making under its head coach.

Case in point:  Texas A & M Corpus Christi 80, Georgia 79.  You think Damon Evans doesn’t see that SEC basketball championship from last year as little more than a mirage right now?

And before anyone gets started with “that can’t happen with an eight-team football playoff”, you’re right.  But what happens as the coaches put more and more pressure to expand the postseason?  And they will, because a bigger tourney means more cover for mediocre coaches.  An early round playoff upset can cover a lot of regular season ills in the minds of many.  It may be pernicious, but it’s also human nature.

In the end, they’ll likely get their way, too.  After all, that’s been the history with any other American sport with a tournament.



Filed under BCS/Playoffs

20 responses to “The downside to a tournament…

  1. peacedog

    Anyone who didn’t view the tournament win last year for UGA as a mirage was kidding themselves. Anyone who had high hopes for this season was forgetting that the tournament was a mirage and then not factoring in what the loss of Billy Humphrey meant. And possibly not considering who the Head Coach is. I have no beef with Felton as a person, but I think it’s pretty clear that despite all the wreckage he had to clear when he got here, he’s in over his head. There does appear to be some talent on the team right now, but we remain a rather peculiar (non) offense (we tend to only get good point totals in games against the TAMCC’s of the world). Defensively we tend to get after it but we haven’t had a ton of talent, and the team has mailed in a few efforts.

    Again, I have no personal beef with Felton. But I’m not expecting him to last past this year, especially given the new facilities and upgrades that are being planned.

    Also, stretching un-related issues into anti-football-playoff points just sort of hurts the overall argument in the long run, IMO.


  2. pd, the bottom line here is that the college basketball regular season is little more these days than a delivery system for postseason seeding. It wasn’t always like that – at least not in the late 60’s/early 70’s when it was my favorite sport.

    I’m not anti-football playoff, just anti-extended playoff. And I think Felton’s situation is a good illustration of one thing I would expect we’d see plenty of once a football playoff is formalized. It makes perfect sense for coaches to favor bigger postseasons; I don’t see any reason why D-1 would be exempt from that mindset.


  3. Well, to be fair, that particular Georgia team was the worst team ever (by seeding) from a major conference to reach the NCAAs.


  4. Joe

    I do not see any difference between Felton’s miracle run and Ray Goff’s annual beating of Gtu.

    We knew what we had with Ray and hated watching his mediocre coaching efforts against SEC foes. Yet, around Thanksgiving, he would always manage to beat Gtu and stick around for another season, driving the pr0gram further towards oblivion.

    I understand your argument about the tournament’s affect on a program’s psyche, but I think that we have seen the same thing happen under the current system.


  5. Brian

    A 12 game SEC tournament is equivalent to a 120 game Division IA tournament.


  6. Brian

    Make that team not game.


  7. “I do not see any difference between Felton’s miracle run and Ray Goff’s annual beating of Gtu. ”

    Degree of difficulty. If anyone, anywhere does what Felton did in the next, oh, 30 years, I’d be shocked.


  8. Joe, I don’t think Goff survived the down years because his teams beat Tech.

    I think he survived because Dooley couldn’t bring himself to make the tough call.

    And I’m not talking about the team’s psyche here. I’m just saying that a playoff win or two becomes a cheap crutch for an AD and a favorable argument for a coach whose program’s weaknesses were clearly exposed over the long haul of the regular season. It lets both mask the bigger problem.


  9. I think Evans is playing it OK. Felton needed a miracle to stick around, and he got it…but Evans didn’t turn around and sign him to a multi-year extension, either.

    Unless this team makes the NIT *and* signs Derek Favors, Felton will be shown the exit. He’ll also leave with half of Georgia’s all-time SEC tournament championships.


  10. Macallanlover

    What prevents the huge expansion of a football playoff that we saw in the basketball tourney is the logistics of moving large fanbases, and the economics of taking games away from the home stadiums, and bowls. Eight is large as it can get, or needs to get, imo.


  11. I think the Senator hits the nail on the head here. If there ever is a playoff in football, we can’t allow it to expand to the point where just making it is easily rewarded. Last year is a prime example. Felton was on his way out the door with no one trying to shut it for him. He makes it to the NCAA tourney based on some of the weirdest circumstances to ever effect a basketball tournament, (seriously, a tornado touched down in an urban area), and all is forgiven and forgotten when there was a proven track record of averageness to mediocrity. Granted, Evans was smart by not automatically granting Felton some huge extension, but some schools would in that situation. In that case, we’ve devalued the regular season as long as you make the playoffs.


  12. I’m not sure if I’m following the comparison to basketball so forgive me if I’m way off here. What Felton did last year was highly unlikely vs. getting into the playoffs and squeaking out a win. I think it was just more of the ‘perfect storm’ that has cursed our basketball program over the past several years. A football team of the same caliber wouldn’t even get into the playoffs for that opportunity. And I think you would have to really expand the tourney to something ridiculous for that to factor in. But I admit that push would be there.

    I would ague that the basketball regular season is far more than a delivery system for the tournament. Rivalries, conference standings, and close victories mean a lot more to a lot of people than just knowing they may get into the tournament. For example, beating Florida in football (under a playoff scenario) would mean more than just helping our cause for a championship.


  13. @PNW

    I do agree with your points about the rivarlies and conference standings and such. The way to compare it to football is to look at the current bowl climate in which 6 wins gets you into a bowl game. Now imagine, the playoff had expanded to the point where just becoming what is now considered “bowl-eligible” is playoff-eligible. Unless there were some mechanism to prevent such, you would see schools loading up on the UT-Chatanoogas of the world instead of other out-of-conference matchups in order to meet the minimum win standard to reach the playoffs. Coaches get fired now for going 6-6/7-5 consistently and reaching lower tier bowls. If a coach does that in this extended playoff scenario I present, it does become like basketball in that teams can go 6-6/7-5, but as long as they’re making the post-season the regular season results will be overlooked when evaluating the state of the program. Maybe that’s too much slippery-slope, but essentially in basketball a successful season is considered making the NCAA tourney. I don’t want to see the day where a successful football season is making the field of 64 in the playoffs rather than trying to beat Auburn, Florida, and GA Tech in the same season. Perhaps that sentiment would never sweep over and rivalry games will always be that important, but you can certainly see the potential for schools to reward coaches based on reaching the “second season” rather than what they did in the “first season”.


  14. That’s why you see coaches like Boeheim arguing for an expansion of March Madness to at least 96 teams.

    There’s always room for more mediocre coaches at the table.


  15. I just don’t see football playoffs reaching 64 teams. Therefore, I still see the merits of avoiding a weak schedule to strengthen your ranking allowing yourself to get into a more workable playoff (say 8-teams). So if you do get into the playoffs it’s because you won your conference or had a really good season. At that point I believe a team that got there actually has a reasonable shot of winning. So it’s less of a feeling of we’re just happy we got there. As for the push, which I totally agree would happen, we can continue to reward them with our wonderful system of bowls. Then the BCS could be football’s answer to the NIT post-season tourney.


  16. PNW, you should read this “post”: over at Saurian Sagacity. The logistics of actually accomplishing it are pretty far-fetched, as he states, but it does seem to accomplish the goal of limiting the playoff within a reasonable measure.


  17. Thanks for that link, Audit. I have to say he thought this out pretty well and deserves credit for a worthy attempt. But, alas, you’re all correct the logistics pose a nightmare. Even under simpler scenarios (that don’t involve large-scale re-alignment of conferences, etc.) there is the obvious issue of defeating current powers (conference commissioners, bowl committees, networks…). How do you convince them their bank accounts will not suffer. Or better yet, who’s paying who what and how much? I still haven’t figured that one out.


  18. PNW, that is the multi-billion dollar question that causes CBS and ESPN to pay billions of dollars to the rights of SEC games. The powers that be know that the BCS is what is best for them. The fans have all the leverage, but would never exercise it. For change to happen, those that make the decisions have to be hit where it counts, in their wallets. As long as we keep going to the games and watching them on TV, they have absolutely no incentive because ESPN and CBS are willing to pay billions of dollars to broadcast the current product. The only way the change ever happens is if the fans collectively stop watching. I’ll also let you know when monkeys start flying out of my butt.


  19. ArchDawg

    An eight-team playoff would not stay that way for long–I see it going to 16 and then 32 teams within ten years, if it happens at all. Why? The 6 BCS champs are automatically in–this would never happen otherwise. That leaves two teams: one of those will perhaps be the top mid-major champ, the other an at-large. It doesn’t matter who the last two teams are though, because several other teams are going to be complaining: teams like Texas, Michigan, Southern Cal, Ohio State, and down the list…because they aren’t in. Forget the bowls, those won’t exist if college football goes to a dedicated postseason playoff. And thus, the expansion.

    That’s not even getting into the problem of where these games would be held/fan travel considerations, or even when these games would be held. And you can’t compare it to lower division college football, because FBS football is a whole different beast when it comes to media/fan/coverage than those are.


    US Ranked 4th

    After determining the Big-12 championship game participants the BCS computers were put to work on other major contests and today the BCS declared Germany to be the winner of World War II.

    “Germany put together an incredible number of victories beginning with the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland and continuing on into conference play with defeats of Poland, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands. Their only losses came against the US and Russia; however considering their entire body of work–including an incredibly tough Strength of Schedule–our computers deemed them worthy of the #1 ranking.”

    Questioned about the #4 ranking of the United States the BCS commissioner stated “The US only had two major victories–Japan and Germany. The computer models, unlike humans, aren’t influenced by head-to-head contests–they consider each contest to be only a single, equally-weighted event.”

    German Chancellor Adolph Hiter said “Yes, we lost to the US; but we defeated #2 ranked France in only 6 weeks.” Herr Hitler has been criticized for seeking dramatic victories to earn ‘style points’ to enhance Germany’s rankings. Hitler protested “Our contest with Poland was in doubt until the final day and the conditions in Norway were incredibly challenging and demanded the application of additional forces.”

    The French ranking has also come under scrutiny. The BCS commented ” France had a single loss against Germany and following a preseason #1 ranking they only fell to #2.”

    Japan was ranked #3 with victories including Manchuria, Borneo and the Philippines.