This may surprise some of you, but I think I’ve come across another playoff proposal I could live with.
It’s not as good a solution as my favorite concept – an eight-team, conference-champ-only tourney – but it has the virtue of being a practical, yet minimally disruptive postseason format. You can read about it at the fine blog BCS Guru, in a post modestly titled “The Only ‘Playoff’ That Works”. It’s pretty simple.
1. Add two games to the current format – national semifinal games played on campus sites the week after the last regular-season games are played and BCS standings are released.
2. The semifinalists will be the four teams meeting the following criteria –
a) The four highest-ranked conference champions, provided that they’re in the top six of the final BCS standings.*
b) Any team that finished in the top two but failed to win its conference.
c) In case of a conflict between a) and b), b) takes precedence over the lowest-ranked conference champion.
* Conference champion may be from any conference, regardless of BCS affiliation. In the case of conferences without a championship game, a co-champion is accepted and no tiebreaker needs to be applied. Notre Dame belongs in this group as well.
3. The higher seeds host the lower seeds on campus sites, with the winner advancing to the national championship game, to be played one week after New Year’s Day.
4. All bowl games and their affiliations stay in tact (sic). The losing semifinalists are guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS bowls, in accordance with their conference affiliations. Second-place teams may be invited in place of the semifinal winners, as it is the case now with the top two teams.
Like I said, pretty simple, no? The beauty of it is what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t screw over the bowls. It doesn’t deprive the kids of a bowl experience. It doesn’t lengthen the season, so there’s no negative impact on academics. It doesn’t force large numbers of fans to plan for trips to multiple postseason venues. And it doesn’t look to impact the regular season in a negative way, at least any more than any of the other four-team playoff formats do.
It’s superior to Mike Slive’s proposal, in that it doesn’t extend the season, it doesn’t treat the bowls as feeders to the title game and it doesn’t penalize the fans with an additional, really expensive postseason venue that will be a hardship for many to afford and attend. And it’s better than the other plus-one plan for all of those reasons, plus it does a much better job of tamping down the arguments when the dust settles and the final two teams are picked.
And, of course, by its nature it’s better than any rankings-based format involving more than four schools.
Any negatives? Of course there are. If you believe that an objective format is inherently superior to any subjective format, you won’t get an argument from me. So you’ve still got all the issues with the polls and the computers that you have now. And that means there are going to be years when the screeching and moaning about #4 and #5 will be loud. But that old saw about “the perfect being the enemy of the good” seems appropriate to keep in mind here. It may not be a better way of deciding a MNC than what we’ve got now, but it’s likely not worse. And in terms of the relative levels of controversy and argument, it’s clearly an improvement.
That’s the best part about this proposal to me. It should satisfy many playoff proponents. And because it treads on few toes, it’s a playoff format that doesn’t require too much in the way of compromise from the entrenched powers. That makes it easy to defend as part of the status quo if it were adopted. Jim Delany would have a field day snarling at anyone who had the temerity to criticize the BCS with a playoff. I’m not saying it would be impossible to expand a playoff arrangement like this, but it would be extremely difficult to generate a consensus of decision makers who would be willing to do so.
That means there’s one other hole, though. If the powers-that-be remain happy, that can’t be good news for the redistributionists who want economic fairness to be addressed with a D-1 football playoff. Looking back, even though Utah would have broken through with a couple of appearances in the playoffs under Guru’s arrangement, which presumably would have sent a little more money to the non-BCS conferences in those years, there’s nothing structural offered with this to make a San Diego State or Idaho more satisfied over the long haul. I’m guessing there would be enough in this format to reduce the heat on the BCS suits so that the money complaints could be ignored, but you never know what Congress might do.
But overall, it’s a tolerable set up for me. What do you think?