For some reason, it struck me the other day that it had been a while since I’d seen a post at one of my favorite blogs, The National Championship Issue. It turns out that Ed Gunther hadn’t retired from the fray, but instead was working on his magnum opus, an eight part (!) post entitled The Arguments For & Against a DI-A College Football Playoff.
Nothing like being a little ambitious.
But give credit where credit’s due here – Ed does one helluva job laying out all the arguments on both sides of the fray. In fact, I’d say that his post ought to be required reading for anyone who wants to engage in the debate.
If I had to nitpick – and since this is a blog, nitpicking comes with the territory – there are a few things I’d question in what he wrote.
- “If there’s one thing in this playoff issue that the vast majority of fans on both sides agree on, it’s that the BCS sucks.” I think that’s an overstatement to some extent. I’m sure that many who favor a playoff feel passionately about replacing the BCS, but as Michael Elkon pointed out the other day, in one area at least, the BCS has been a raging success in that it’s prevented a 1984 BYU – MNC scenario from occurring again. Are there flaws in the BCS that could stand fixing? Sure. But it’s still the best thing college football’s come up with to determine a #1 at the end of the year that we’ve seen.
- “We’ve mentioned this before, that getting rid of the rankings aren’t an option, even if a playoff is instituted.” I’m a little surprised that Ed completely dismisses a purely objective playoff comprised solely of conference champs. To me, that’s the strongest position the pro-playoff folks can take. It’s what I’d like to see happen. And with all of the antitrust threats being tossed around these days, the possibility that D-1 fractures into a power conferences arrangement seems more likely than it did a couple of seasons ago.
- “But nobody on the pro-playoff side is saying that we need a 64 team tournament. The most they claim is a 16-team, which would take four weekends, or maybe an 8-team, which would take three weekends.” Not true. Mike Leach argued for just that the other day. And if you want to dismiss that because it’s Mike Leach, fine – but go check out some of the comments made at the Congressional hearings about the BCS last week. The fact is that for those who see a playoff as a means of addressing economic fairness (whatever the hell that is) in D-1 athletics, an extended playoff is a virtual necessity to spread the wealth.
But like I said, that’s nitpicking. There’s a lot of good stuff there. Take some time and go through it.
6 responses to “Mr. Gunther’s Opus”
Hey there Senator, thanks for the pub. And I appreciate the nitpicking too – always helpful.
Yeah, #1 was worded a little strongly. There are some folks who like the BCS, or at least don’t mind it. But from a pure competition point of view, I’d say there’s only a handful of people who say it’s their preferred system – most others around (as far as I can gauge) either want a playoff or to go back to the bowls. That’s more along the lines of what I was getting at.
I stand behind #2 fully, mainly because people on both sides understand that we need the rankings to make competition fair. Even if we have a playoff and give spots to the conference champs, there’s still going to be more spots that need filled, and they’re going to go the rankings to fill them. And how are you going to seed the teams and decide matchups for the playoff without the rankings? A committee? I guess, but why formulate a whole new system when we’ve got one in place? Even the lower college football divisions use rankings to set up their playoff. My point is that if a playoff happens, it’ll be more like March Madness than the NFL playoff.
I didn’t see Leach’s comments – that’s kinda funny. Again, wouldn’t you agree that the vast majority of pro-playoff theories stop at 16? I saw some of the congressional stuff, but I can’t say that I put much stock in those statements – hearings like those are made up of too much posturing and one-sided attacks. We know that in order for a playoff to happen, in reality, there’s going to have to be compromise, and those guys don’t show any signs of wanting to do that. Anything bigger than 16 teams would really push some of the other aspects of the issue around too much, whether it’s bowls, the regular season, tradition, competition – you name it. (Plus, does anybody really focus on the teams outside the top 16 or so? No. Once you get past them, the rankings become even more subjective.) So yes, even though a few might talk about 32 or 64 teams, I just can’t see college football changing that much.
Hey, Ed. A couple of points in response.
You can design a playoff without resorting to rankings. That’s what the pros do. Base it on W/L records, arbitrarily match up certain conferences (that’s what the bowls do, anyway) etc. … there are plenty of ways to skin the postseason cat without rankings, if you’re so inclined. The big issue will be restructuring the conferences so that they’re perceived as being relatively equal in strength.
As for the ultimate size of a playoff, that’s my big bugaboo right now. If the issue is solely one of fostering better competition, I would agree with you that there’s little need, really, for anything more than an 8-team arrangement. But like I said, if this is about redistribution of the wealth – which is where I’m afraid the playoff debate may be headed – the bigger the playoff, the better. Plus, there are a lot of really stupid people that think March Madness would make a terrific template for a D-1 football playoff. 1-AA is currently headed towards a 24-school team tourney. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss this possibility.
You’re right that a playoff CAN be designed without the rankings, but the question is will people let it be? Yes, restructuring the conferences would be a huge, earth-moving event for the sport, and if that happens, all bets are off – anything, including a playoff, is on the table. But I don’t think that any of the current BCS conferences has any desire or intent whatsoever to reconfigure and form superconferences – why would they? There’s too much history, too much money, and they get too many advantages from the current conference setup. Could they be forced to change, either by the NCAA or congress? Possibly, but unlikely – if that happened there’d be all out wars between factions and it would have a ripple effect that touches all of collegiate sports.
The BCS conferences don’t want to have equal relative strength, either among themselves or with the non-BCS conferences. Does the SEC want to give up it’s status as the top dog? No. Does the ACC or Big Ten want to give up their spot in the heirarchy? No. They don’t want to be seen as equal with the MAC, WAC, or SunBelt. They want their elite status and you’ll have to pry it out of their fists with a crowbar. The BCS schools know they can hold this position because the public at large sees them as more powerful than the non-BCS conferences in most facets but especially on the field. Is it circular logic and patently unfair competition-wise? Definitely. But that’s how people see it right now.
As far as the distribution of wealth goes, that’s the best argument the non-BCS schools can make – tying the competition to the money. Everybody knows the competition is unfair to them, but they don’t bring in nearly the amount of money that the BCS schools do. They don’t want to mention that part. But the BCS conferences will, and it’ll be interesting to see how congress and the powers that be decide to proceed after they stop all their grandstanding and realize what they’re up against.
I agree with you that there’s no desire on the part of the BCS conferences to reconfigure. Why should they want to? Life is damned good for them right now. The matter to follow is how big a nuisance the antitrust claims turn out to be for them.
I phrased my comment about “relatively equal strength” poorly. For purposes of the BCS, the Big 6 are perceived as being equals, even though nobody in his or her right mind would actually rank the SEC and the Big East, for example, on the same level currently. But everybody would also agree that the Sun Belt wouldn’t be on the same level as the weakest of the Big 6. I’m just saying that whatever new conferences might emerge if everything were to be rejiggered, they would have to be perceived as being on the same plateau as the Big 6.
I completely agree with your last point. The issue, as I’ve pointed out in a few recent posts, is whether the Feds care enough about this to offer a combination of carrots and sticks sufficient to move the D-1 schools to embrace an expanded playoff.
A worthy effort, no doubt. Including that attempt, I still haven’t seen a credible argument aginst a playoff….not one. I know many feel differently, and I respect their right, but I continue to be amazed how anyone that loves CFB can oppose having a climax.
I love all the games, the colors, the sounds, the traditions, etc., but it is like going to see a good mystery/thriller movie and leaving 10 minutes before the end. You have all the ingredients at that point, you have an educated guess about the ending, but you never get to see if you were right. Even sex would be less appealing if we approached it the same way.
Actually, it’s just the opposite. There is no good argument for a playoff.
“Because we want one” seems to be the only argument presented (from armchair fans with nothing at stake, no less).