“Every other sport does it.”

I know, I know, it’s Stewart Mandel, but still, he stumbles onto a key point with this observation:

… Much of the angst directed toward the BCS is not about the format as much as the selection process, which puts teams’ fates in the hands of sportswriters, coaches and computers. While no postseason format will ever be controversy-free, the proposed “plus-one” — a four-team playoff using the bowls as semifinals — would widen the pool of contenders without devaluing the regular season.

However, at the BCS meetings in Hollywood, Fla., last spring, several conference commissioners expressed their reservation that a plus-one would be the first step down an inevitable path toward an eight- or, eventually, 16-team playoff. And that’s when the college regular season as we know it goes kaput.

Which leads me to this question:  why are those of you who are playoff proponents so much more sanguine about the prospects for avoiding an expanded postseason than are the conference commissioners – you know, the ones who will actually be making the decisions?  What do you guys know that they don’t?


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Media Punditry/Foibles

24 responses to ““Every other sport does it.”

  1. “And that’s when the college regular season as we know it goes kaput.”

    This is not an assumption on which we all agree. I do not believe a playoff would devalue the regular season in any meaningful way.


    • Seriously, Pete, no matter how large a playoff gets? So in your mind Arizona playing in the Super Bowl doesn’t lessen the impact of the NFL’s regular season?

      Why do you think the college basketball regular season is widely perceived as being less significant than D-1 football’s is?


  2. sUGArdaddy

    The problem is that even now there are some problems w/ the regular season. LSU’s “last game of the season” loss to rival Arkansas in ’07 meant nothing. Nebraska’s devasting blowout loss to Colorado in ’01 meant nothing. OU’s crippling Big 12 championship game loss meant nothing. The problem now is that the regular season is becoming more meaningless unless you are a few select teams or in a few select conferences and it’s getting harder and harder to compare conferences. USC was at the mercy of the computers because of their conference, and I have no idea if their 11-1 was better or worse than Florida and Oklahoma’s 11-1. And just saying, oh well you should have won your games isn’t good enough anymore. Their in a BCS conference and they won as many games as anyone else. It’s not their fault that no team in the state of Washington can play football.

    I certainly don’t want to lose the regular season. A 16 team playoff would crush a regular season. But almost every year a 4 team would work well. Even when there are 2 undefeated teams and it all seems to work out perfect. I used to think that. But I don’t think 12-0 in the Big 10 or Pac 10 is necessarily better than 11-1 or 10-2 in the SEC or Big 12. It’s just not apples and apples any more. I, for one, would risk a 4-team semis and final to fix this very bad problem we’ve got right now w/ the disparity of conferences. And if we can keep playoffs out for 100+ years, maybe we can keep it at 4 for 100 more and I’ll die happy.


  3. Dog in Fla

    With a playoff being tournament ball, regular season only seems to matter re the team’s seeding slot in the tournament. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, it’s very important when you think about home and away games

    With the system as it presently is, a team is recognized, as some coaches like to say, on its entire body of work but mostly on conference ties to various bowl games.

    As this evolves, and I think it will as financial concerns are being addressed, SEC fans probably are not going to be as content as we are now about our conference’s shot of having an entrant into the championship game.


  4. This topic is going to take more time and thought than I have at the moment.

    What I think we trade for the “value” of the regular season is the complete and utter devaluation of the post season – such that it is – in college football. I’ve found the older I get the less I care about any bowl other than the BCS games, or the BCS title game. When Florida played Michigan last year I could barely even muster the will to watch the game – it didn’t mean a thing to me. (Part of this may admittedly be the let down compared to the year before).

    And now with the ever expanding bowl schedule I care even less. Why not just send every team to a bowl game? We are certainly headed that way.

    At least in the past, pre-BCS days several bowls mattered to the debate as to who was number 1. Now we have a 2 team playoff, which just sucks.

    I would not be a advocate of a 16 team playoff via rankings or really anything resembling the NCAA tourney. What I would like to see is a system of “super conferences” (say 8) that had the conference champions go to an 8 team playoff that could be seeded by rankings. With 8 conferences of 12 teams we could include 96 total teams of the 120 now in the FBS. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 are already set up perfectly for this.

    But it isn’t going to happen. The bowls will continue to expand, and with the exception of the BCS games, sit witness to empty stadiums. And I’ll continue to care far more about games against conference opponents – and the real championship that is the SEC – than any meaningless games against some Big 10 opponent in Orlando.

    So it is.


  5. I have no idea why that sunglassed smiley face appeared in my last post. I think I meant to type 8 )


  6. Dog in Fla


    8 does flow better but after seeing sunglassed smiley, I felt more content…


  7. Travis Fain

    You’re generally against college football playoffs, correct?

    I forget, and need to be reminded, because you so seldom write about it.


  8. “why are those of you who are playoff proponents so much more sanguine about the prospects for avoiding an expanded postseason than are the conference commissioners – you know, the ones who will actually be making the decisions? What do you guys know that they don’t?”

    Because conference commissioners are invested in the status quo, and skilled in the art of total bullshit. You don’t actually think these guys believe the stuff they say, right? I mean: finals week?


    • Because conference commissioners are invested in the status quo, and skilled in the art of total bullshit. You don’t actually think these guys believe the stuff they say, right?

      Yet you still trust these same guys to fashion a reasonable playoff format? Sheesh.

      Lock these guys in a room with ESPN to design a new postseason and what’ll emerge will have all the structural stability of the Versailles Treaty.


  9. To answer your question, Senator: yes, I would be worried about post-bowl bracket expansion. But if you squeeze in a tiny bracket between the end of the regular season and the bowls, there’s nowhere for it to expand, logistically, without pushing back the beginning of the regular season … which seems pretty well fixed because of the end of summer semesters, heat conditions, etc., right? No one’s going to play college football the first weekend of August.


  10. NM

    Brian — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, whatever people think the motivations are of conference commissioners, they must be invested in the status quo for a reason. One would presume that the reason is either the good of the sport (go ahead, laugh) or cold hard cash (which actually often coincides with the first). They know they lose money with playoffs, though they could make it back with a big playoff, but then that hurts the season which they don’t want.

    JCCW — if we go to playoffs, the bowls would become subservient to the playoff or eliminated altogether. If the Playoff Bracket wants New Orleans to move its game to late January or early February, it will come to pass. And we discussed not long ago on here how even a 5-week playoff (the length the NFL uses) gives room for 32 teams.


  11. Sparrow

    That’s a straw man, Senator. No one here is saying we trust them to do it right.


  12. Bob

    The difference, I think between college football and pro football is this. The cream of college football quickly falls off were as pro football has many more teams that can make it to the big game if just given the chance, see the Cardinals this year and the Giants last year. The reason most of us want some form of playoff is that there is almost always an argument for the first 4-5 teams being #1. We end up with a lot of 0, and 1 loss teams up there who play in completely different conference and you can’t really say who’s the best. Just look at how the SEC has manhandled the Big10/Big12 teams they have played. What we, the people who actually pay the money to follow these teams, want is just some semblance of confidence that the team crowned #1 is #1.

    I’ve always liked the 8 team format, just because I think 8 is more than plenty. I’d be happy with a 6 team with 1 and 2 getting a pass in the first round. People argue that ‘there is always someone who feels left out’ as their argument against the playoff system, but I’d much rather have 9 and 10 complaining than 3 and 4. As stated before, if you look at 6,7,8 most years there is quite a gap between them and 1,2,3. With that, I don’t think any reasonable person can make an argument for 9 and 10. Take a look at 3 and 4 on any given year and it is very difficult to distinguish them from 1 and 2.

    So, 4, 6, or 8 teams will get it done 9 times out of 10. Right now, how often is the BCS getting it right?



  13. Hackerdog

    Those who complain about the SEC’s treatment in the BCS formula should check out the results. The SEC has 5 championship game appearances, which is second only to the Big 12’s 6 appearances. The SEC has won all 5 appearances for 5 championships. The Big 12 has 2 championships. All other BCS conferences have 1 championship apiece.

    As an SEC fan, I’m satisfied with any formula that produces those results.


  14. Hackerdog


    Your argument for a 4-8 team playoff settling the question decidedly (or more decidedly) ignores the realities of conference winners. An 8 team playoff this year would have included ACC winner Virginia Tech (9-4, AP #21) and Big East winner Cincinnati (11-2, AP #12). For anti-trust issues, you have to take an undefeated team from a non-BCS conference, which this year would have been Utah (12-0, AP #7), leaving Boise State (12-0, AP #9) out. And leaves one spot for an at-large team from a BCS conference. The three main contenders for that spot would have been Texas (11-1, AP #3), Alabama (12-1, AP #4), and Texas Tech (11-1, AP #8).

    So, under this college football utopia, an undefeated Boise State, and two of the three candidates for the BCS conference at-large bid would be left out. And each team would have legitimate complaints about the selection process. I don’t see that as any improvement over the current system.

    Now those that argue that we should simply have a playoff for the 8 highest ranked teams, regardless of conference, are living in fantasy land. Why not just see which head coach can pull the magical BCS sword from the stone?


  15. Macallanlover

    This is such a tired argument at this point. No one, I mean no one, is in favor of devaluing the regular season. Eight teams of 119 is enough to prove EVERY game is important. Lastly, the assumption it has to grow, is a scare tactic. It doesn’t HAVE to grow. If we are so scared to add one game, why does it inevitably fall that we will end up with a 16, or 32 team tournament? Don’t point point to other NCAA sports where teams can every day, or even 2-3 times a day of necessary. CFB and the logistics problems protect this. Eight teams is plenty. Set the standard at 8 and agree it will take a 90% vote to ever increase the number.


  16. Bob

    HackerDawg, You’ll note that my entire argument was based on a ranking based system not a conference based system. Fantasy land or not, it gives the top ranked teams a chance to prove that they are the best. I know that it will not make the big 6 happy and there would be arguments about how to split the money. I wasn’t arguing that point. I was simply stating that the system would produce a true top team more often than the current system would.


  17. HackerDog


    I suspect the only reason that you ignore the fact that every other sport which has instituted a playoff has subsequently expanded that playoff is that it harms your current pro-playoff stance.

    However, if you want to look at only football, look at the NFL. The post merger playoffs in 1970 contained 8 teams. They then expended it to 10 teams, and then again to 12 teams.

    You could also look at current college playoffs. Div II has a 24-team bracket. FCS is expanding from 16 teams to 20 teams in 2010 and most people expect them to also get to 24 teams. Division III has a 32-team bracket.

    Are really sure that a FBS playoff would NEVER expand to as many at 16 teams? I don’t see how you could be.


  18. HackerDog

    “Eight teams of 119 is enough to prove EVERY game is important.”

    That sounds correct until you think about it.

    An 8-team playoff would include the conference champions of the 6 BCS conferences and 2 at-large teams. 6 automatic bids means the most important games are conference games. If UGA had locked up the SEC East, we could rest starters against Tech to prepare for the SECCG. Taking a loss in the Tech game would mean absolutely nothing to us. If we win the SECCG, we’re in the playoff.

    However, under the current system, an undefeated UGA in the last week of the season would almost certainly be #1 or #2 in the BCS standings. But a loss to Tech would almost certainly knock us out of the top two and cost us a shot at the championship game.

    See how one devalues the regular season and the other doesn’t?


  19. Macallanlover

    Hacker dog, I am not a “pro playoff” proponent, I don’t know where you got there, and see no pro connection. Clearly the 8 team playoff I support would be MUCH more selective than the system used by the pros. Season is not devalued, nada, 8 of 119 is damned difficult to achieve. How many years in it’s entire existance has UGA attained this, and we are pretty high up the pecking order as the 12th winningest program of all time?

    Accepting an “automatic” expansion is unacceptable to me. Set the rules, play by them. Everything else is just BS rationale to find a reason to not do what is desired. Anyone can expend energy being negative, I believe you find ways to make something work. It will work, but it is much easier for some to resist change even when change is needed.


  20. Hackerdog

    I meant you were pro-playoff, as opposed to being anti-playoff.

    As for the expansion, I guess you have a lot more faith than I do. The NFL playoffs have been expanded. The FCS playoffs have been expanded. The Div II playoffs have been expanded. The Div III playoffs have been expanded. I don’t know how you can argue that there is no chance that FBS playoffs would be expanded.