Playoffs as chicken soup for the college football fan’s soul

There’s a BCS post up at The Wiz of Odds that I’m half-in and half-out with.  I can only marvel along with the Wiz as the BCS surrounds itself with former Bush administration communication hacks like Ari Fleischer and Trent Duffy.

On the other hand, I don’t get his logic behind questioning the Fiesta Bowl matchup (and in his defense, he’s far from alone in expressing that).

Instead of having David vs. Goliath matchups involving say, Boise State-Iowa and TCU-Georgia Tech, the BCS decided to go for a David vs. David matchup of the Horned Frogs and Broncos.

This, of course, was a way to sidestep controversy should the Davids beat the Goliaths.

What controversy?  Who’s the David here anyway?  Boise and TCU are both higher ranked than Georgia Tech and Iowa. The Fiesta is a better matchup than the alternatives he’s proposing.  And, as we’ve been reminded plenty of times in the debate, it’s not like mid-majors haven’t won BCS games before.  So what’s to be gained exactly by swapping the players around like that?

If we’re going to play the controversy game, what should we expect to hear from people if the Fiesta turns out to be a disappointing draw (something I don’t expect, at least on television, by the way)?  Part of me thinks this is what much of the complaining is about, that the BCS is calling the “fairness” bluff made by people like Orrin Hatch.  To me, that misses the point about what an opportunity this can be for the mid-majors.  If the Fiesta winds up being a great game that draws well, I suspect it will catapult the winner into serious consideration for a national title shot next season.  And that will be great.

But that’s not the strangest point made in his post.  This is:

… The Florida-Cincinnati matchup in the Sugar Bowl lost its luster Thursday when Brian Kelly decided to become Notre Dame’s coach. He won’t be around for the bowl, meaning he values his new gig more than coaching an undefeated team in a lousy BCS game.

One has to wonder if Kelly would have coached the Bearcats if they were playing in the BCS title game.

I’m not sure if the argument there is whether Cinci got screwed with its Sugar Bowl invite, or that if there were playoffs, coaches wouldn’t leave their programs in the lurch during the postseason.  The former’s a matter of opinion, of course (I think TCU’s better than Cincinnati, if we’re going down that road), but the latter point I don’t get at all.  Does anyone really think that an upwardly mobile coach like Brian Kelly, who gets offered the best job of his life, refuses to take it so he can get ready to play a, say, number fourteen seed in a sixteen-team tournament?  (That’s not to say he might not ask for a delay, but Notre Dame’s not a place that’s going to wait for an answer.)

Like I said, maybe I misunderstand his point, but it really seems like sometimes people see a playoff as being the solution to everything.

34 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness, The Blogosphere

34 responses to “Playoffs as chicken soup for the college football fan’s soul

  1. “David and Goliath” match-ups are great only when you are not Goliath, and David makes it interesting.

    Hawaii was a joke…. TCU & Utah, not so much.

    A playoff is the only way to decide a champion.

    It is understood a true “Champion” is not everybody’s goal. No arguing today

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  2. sorry, I meant Boise and Utah, in reference to their victories over Oklahoma and Alabama.

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  3. Hogbody Spradlin

    Off topic but . . . Sugar Bowl ticket sales will be a nice yardstick of Florida fans’ loyalty/fickleness. Are they like Tennessee (regardless the importance or location, those orange blobs show up), or will they decide they have better things to do since the team was less than perfect?

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  4. Macallanlover

    I respectfully disagree with your take on both excerpts:

    1. The Wiz is dead on, this David vs David (while a very good matchup) is the BCS’s way of dumping the party crashers into the same crapper so as not to soil the bluebloods. I think America would prefer to see those teams against BCS champions but that would risk granting them additional credibility which threatens the staus quo. Utah and Boise’s past BCS success can be viewed as “flukey”, but two more wins in the same bowl season could be more than even Ari can beat back.

    2. You really think Brian Kelly would walk away from a team that was alive in a true playoff? I don’t think there is a 2% chance of that but if he would have, Notre Dame may have made their worst hire ever. Who would want to hire a person so devoid of character, and then turnaround and charge that person with instilling pride and character into a program that seems to have lost both? I know some classless people win ocasionally, but Kelly strikes me as being better than that. (But I will have to admit, I was startled this morning to hear him say he thought everyone had some love for ND. I don’t accuse him of lying right out of the box, but he may be a bit naive after living so long in Big 10 country. I know more people why hate ND 100% than I do who like them even a smidge,)

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    • With regard to your points:

      1. How exactly did the BCS dump “the party crashers into the same crapper so as not to soil the bluebloods”? Did the conferences dictate to the bowls which in turn dictated to the Fiesta?

      2. I guess I’m not an American, because the Fiesta Bowl looks like the most interesting matchup to me outside of the title game. And it looks more compelling to me than the Wiz’ hypothetical. It sounds to me like you guys are more interested in scoring political points than entertaining football.

      3. If you really think that somebody grabbing a more prestigious job paying more money is devoid of character, all I can say is wow. I thought you were the thoughtful conservative here – when did climbing the job ladder become a sign of classlessness in your book?

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      • Macallanlover

        Interesting responses. “What we have here is a failure to communicate”, I apologize.

        1. No, the conferences do not dictate optional selections to the bowls. Perhaps this puts me in the “conspiracy” group but I do feel the BCS bowls, conferences, and officials have a vested interest in protecting the status quo which definitely could prefer to isolate the upstarts into a single bowl game. Why give them additional credibility/status by allowing them to potentially beat two BCS conference representatives and throw fuel on the fire? With the exception of the Rose’s historical ties, I believe all other bowls have complete flexibility with at least one the teams that play in their game.

        2. I happen to agree with you, the Fiesta bowl is a very intriquing match-up, and better than at least three of the other BCS bowls, imo. In no way did I say it was “un-American” to like this match-up, I said America (the public) would like to see the David/Goliath situations play out. I would prefer to see TCU face GT, Iowa, or Florida, and would like to see Boise play Cincy, Florida, Ohio State, or Iowa. Just an opinion that I feel would facilitate several good match-ups versus the 1-2 we currently have in the five BCS bowls.

        3. Nothing in my remarks was about denying Brian Kelly to move up to a better situation. I think he would be nuts to turn down ND to remain at Cincy. My response was to your comment that you had no doubt he would refuse to take the ND job over coaching Cincy in a playoff situation. (I admit I missed the “delay” qualifier you included). I feel someone that would abandon his team BEFORE completing the job he was contractually bound to would lack the conservative values I adhere to.

        I don’t think placing his honor to finish the job above a job hop is wrong, in fact, I would turn down the job if ND wanted to make that an eithor/or decsion. You may very well feel that way yourself, I just didn’t read your comment thoroughly. I was replying as if you said he would leave them high and dry to take the ND job I don’t believe he would, nor do I think ND would want someone like that to run their program. As much as I dislike ND football, the school does seem to adhere to strong values and character.

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        • Serious question: should it be a goal in designing a better college football postseason that we come up with a format that discourages the Brian Kellys of the world from jumping ship before the season ends? I can’t figure out why I should care about that. And, at least in Kelly’s case, judging from what I’ve heard from him in several interviews now, I’m not sure there’s any way to come up with something that would have slowed his departure.

          The real issue you’ve got here is the short window between now and national signing day. Kelly’s got less than two months to get Notre Dame’s 2010 class locked down as it is. If he waits until after the bowl games, it’s less than a month. That’s tough.

          Don’t just take my word for that. Mark Richt has said more than once that if he had to do things over again, he never would have stayed at FSU for the title game after he took the Georgia job. And he was only the OC in Tallahassee.

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          • Macallanlover

            I think we should all care, very much, about this issue. It is disruptive to the sport we all love so much and while none of us would dare call CFB “pure”, we all should strive for it to operate within the framework of the standards we live by. Walking out on contracts you have agreed to is bad enough to me, but leaving before the season has played out is particularly distasteful.

            There are no easy answers to this, but implementing the early signing period allowing 75% of the available schollys to be signed by early November would reduce the workload that has to be done between New Years and February would help some with the urgency of early commitments. It would also keep coaches focused on what they should be doing during the “quiet period”. Making contact between schools, agents, and coaches a probation offense for the hiring school if it occurs from Thanksgiving until the bowls are over might help.

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            • It depends on which side of the issue you lie on. Cinci supporters aren’t happy today; Notre Dame is.

              How do you think most visitors to this board would react if Georgia announced Kirby Smart as the new DC tomorrow?

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              • Macallanlover

                Your comments are within the context of how the rules are today, so I agree there are problems with coaching chages made prior to the bowls. I stand by my preference to”finish the season first” as that is a commitment that should be honored.

                If UGA and KS had reached an agreement, I would hope it would be kept quiet until after the Alabama game is played. That would be less beneficial to Georgia, but that would be the right way for KS to make that move, imo.

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      • rbubp

        Speaking of entertaining football, I watched some today. Appalachian State-Montana, in the snow, last second win. How about you all ? Catch any good BCS games today? What? No? There weren’t any?

        Ahhh….playoffs. We talkin’ bout playoffs.

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    • Puffdawg

      How can they be “David” when yall are pissed that they were left out of the game which attempts to determine the best team in America? Speaking out of both sides of your mouth to, as SB said, satisfy a political agenda. Boo-yah!

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      • They are “David” bases upon size. The size of their enrollment and athletic budgets.

        After the slingshot felled the great beast, David did not change his name.

        Oklahoma was still ahead of Boise in the pre-season polls following their Fiesta Bowl triumph.

        Alabama was still ahead of Utah.

        There is not a BCS champ in the land disappointed they are not playing TCU or Boise. It is a no win for them.

        Defending the BCS pageant is akin to defending the “establishment.”

        Defending the BCS is pragmatism at its worst.

        In all my time reading the Senators’s great blog, it is my opinion that pragmatism is the foundation of his post-season beliefs.

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  5. 69Dawg

    For what it’s worth the Cinci players didn’t seem too happy. It’s good thing Kelly got the job because he lost the team by looking.

    Let’s not forget that Vince went shopping in 80 and was going to Auburn until the UGA players voted him out as coach if he took the job. He had the choice of a once in a lifetime shot at the MNC or leaving for the new job, he took the game and the rest is history. We lost Erk to GSU as a result of Vince changing his mind.

    Coaching changes are always messy and are a prime example of “Be careful what you wish for”.

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    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      No disrespect intended to VD but have you ever stopped to consider where UGA football would have been if VD had taken the Auburn job and Erk had become HC of the Dawgs? If they had agreed to let VD coach the bowl game he would have done so and then left. It was already a done deal for Erk to be UGA HC if VD left. We now know by hindsight that Erk was a great HC because of what he did at GSU. There would have been no drop in the program in the late 80’s-90’s. There would have been no Ray Goff and probably no Jim Donnan. Erk was born in 1926 and probably would have coached UGA until 1998-2000 or so. He had a winning percentage of .788 for his years at Ga Southern. Who knows how many more SEC and National Championships UGA would have won.

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  6. MJ

    All the philosophical arguments are irrelevant. The root question is, “Who would own the tournament?” It certainly won’t be the NCAA. That’s why the Oklahoma Board of Regents took the NCAA all the way to the Supreme Court in 1984… and won. None of the schools or conferences who enjoy TV revenues from the current arrangement will hand it back to the NCAA.

    The NCAA can’t even brand major college football as “NCAA Football” any more, even in the regular season. It is branded “College Football”.

    So while all the “fairness” arguments sound nice, all are non sequiter. Legal arguments have been made- and settled- in the SCOTUS. Until someone can trump those arguments, all the rest is fluff.

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    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Who owns the D-IAA, D-II and D-III tournaments? I haven’t read the OK/UGA v. NCAA case but my understanding is that it was about revenue, not who is the overall head of college football. The courts found that the NCAA was restraining trade by limiting the amount of college football on TV. A tournament like the BB playoff system should pass muster.

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  7. NM

    The phrase “Michigan man” comes from a coach announcing before the NCAA b-ball tournament that he was taking another job after the tournament. Schembechler fired him. Not saying Cincy would do the same in a football tournament, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented.

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  8. I think the Sugar Bowl got more compelling the minute BK left for ND. All the assistants are left so coaching SHOULD not be a problem and the players are hyped to a hotness of a million hot suns to win the game and show their former coach what he left on the table. Or so it seems to me. Not that I want to watch the gayturds do anything but lose, but I’m tuning in to see if my thinking is anywhere near right on this. And of course I’m nothing but a Cincy fan for that brief shining moment of time. Go Bearcats!

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  9. Sorry, I forgot-not a fan of playoffs either Senator. Nothing I’ve seen yet has shown it will improve what we have.

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  10. wheaton4prez

    You’ve mis-characterized the statement you’re criticizing. How Ari Fleischer.

    In a play-off, Kelly wouldn’t just be giving up some low-tier seed. He would be giving up a chance to play into the NC game. Additionally, his team made the top 8. To say that he would be giving up a 14 seed is to assume that a 16 team play-off is the only other option in consideration.

    Regarding the David vs. Goliath matches, if you read the entire article and not just the quotes you cherry picked, you can understand his actual point. That the BCS doesn’t want mid-major’s beating big conference teams because it gives legitimacy to the mid-major’s contention that they can compete at that level and are being excluded for non-football-ability reasons.

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    • How do you know how big a playoff’s going to wind up being?

      And exactly how did the BCS arrange this Fiesta Bowl matchup?

      I understand you want a playoff, friend. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon all reason when you argue for one.

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      • wheaton4prez

        I’m not the one who made a statement assuming how big a play-off would be.

        Boise State, Florida and Iowa are at-large teams. How do you think the match-ups involving those teams were not arranged?

        I understand that you don’t want a play-off. That doesn’t mean you have to mis-characterize peoples arguments or make ad hominem statements to defend your position.

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        • That doesn’t mean you have to… make ad hominem statements to defend your position.

          For somebody who started off his last comment to me with a provocative “How Ari Fleischer.”, that’s pretty good.

          I know I’m not going to change your mind on this subject, but since you misconstrue my statements, let me briefly set the record straight.

          I’m not anti-playoff. There are at least two playoff formats I’ve mentioned at my blog that I could support and one of those – an eight-team playoff comprised solely of conference champs in a power division of college football – is in my mind clearly better than what we’ve got now.

          What I am fervently opposed to is an extended playoff. My question to you was rhetorical in that nobody knows how big a playoff we might wind up with once things head down that road. To the extent that anyone is willing to suggest that a four-team or eight-team arrangement is as far as it would go simply as a matter of logic or reason, I think it’s legitimate on my part to question that. Feel free to disagree, but my position doesn’t amount to mischaracterizing anything. Given that every other playoff format we’ve seen in the past half-century has morphed into something bigger, I do expect people to defend a position like that with more than “it wouldn’t make sense”.

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          • wheaton4prez

            Provocative is not ad hominem. “Ari Fleischer” is not an insult. Though, I can see how many people might take it that way.

            Thank you for setting the record straight about what you might support. If that is the case, what is your motivation for constantly dismissing and/or criticizing those who support a play-off? It would be one thing if you framed your position as intended to sway like-minded efforts toward a more effective approach. However, you post on the subject frequently and the tone isn’t what I would call constructive.

            In my view, if you think a play-off would be an improvement, pointing out a flaw someone has in that effort is worthy of a reasonable side-note. Not months of blog posts about how stupid the people on that side of the argument are.

            I think that it’s quite a leap to go from observing that other play-off schemes have expanded to using the assumption that this one would also to criticize other peoples general references to a play-off system.

            Whether or not the play-offs should extend is an argument for another day, imo. It’s like saying that we shouldn’t repair a car because someone might later crash it. It is only guaranteed to extend if we assume that everyone involved will be somehow rendered powerless without the current BCS system.

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            • Again, you mischaracterize, this time by overly simplifying my position. I don’t “support a play-off” like some sort of blank check. Out of the many playoff format permutations I’ve seen, there are two that I’ve found acceptable. That isn’t close to the same thing.

              As for how I present my objections, we’ll just have to disagree. I’ll just mention, though, that the endless complaints that appear at this time of the year especially about how the BCS has ruined the entire season, the heartfelt wishes we see frequently expressed about how it would be great if the regular season results would create a train wreck for the BCS and, hell, any article on the subject at any time by John Feinstein never seem to appear as “reasonable side-notes”. I’m not sure why you think I deserve to be held to a different standard – other than the fact that you don’t like the position I take, of course.

              As for your point about stupidity, there’s plenty of that going around on both sides. And I’ve posted about that. There’s a reason for that, too. Contrary to the sentiment you express in your last paragraph, I wouldn’t trust any of the players who will have input into postseason format changes that may get made to do the right thing. If you want to jump off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings who blithely assume that the politicians and the greedy conference commissioners and the networks (the latter two are responsible for all the playoff expansion in the other NCAA sports that you dismiss as irrelevant, by the way) are all going to get together and produce something wonderful for us fans, be my guest. I feel that I have a responsibility to remind everyone out there, as loudly and as often as a lowly blogger can, what these people are really like.

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              • wheaton4prez

                “Again, you mischaracterize, this time by overly simplifying my position. I don’t “support a play-off” like some sort of blank check. Out of the many playoff format permutations I’ve seen, there are two that I’ve found acceptable. That isn’t close to the same thing.”

                You don’t support a play-off but there are two permutations of play-offs that you support? OK. Forgive me for making an accurate statement.

                “As for how I present my objections, we’ll just have to disagree. I’ll just mention, though, that the endless complaints that appear at this time of the year especially about how the BCS has ruined the entire season, the heartfelt wishes we see frequently expressed about how it would be great if the regular season results would create a train wreck for the BCS and, hell, any article on the subject at any time by John Feinstein never seem to appear as “reasonable side-notes”. I’m not sure why you think I deserve to be held to a different standard – other than the fact that you don’t like the position I take, of course.”

                If you are for some permutation of play-off, it would seem logical for you to, when criticizing other play-off minded people, to explain why the merits of the schemes you support are better than theirs. Thus, constructive criticism. Your criticism seems to be almost entirely destructive.

                And how do you know what my standard is for those others? Since I haven’t even read all of them, how could you know my position before I even do?

                As asked, what is your motivation? To improve the play-off message so that the scheme you think would be an improvement gets heard? To me, it looks more like tearing down every pro play-off statement you can find. And that does more for maintaining the current system than it does for improving it.

                “As for your point about stupidity, there’s plenty of that going around on both sides. And I’ve posted about that. There’s a reason for that, too. Contrary to the sentiment you express in your last paragraph, I wouldn’t trust any of the players who will have input into postseason format changes that may get made to do the right thing. If you want to jump off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings who blithely assume that the politicians and the greedy conference commissioners and the networks (the latter two are responsible for all the playoff expansion in the other NCAA sports that you dismiss as irrelevant, by the way) are all going to get together and produce something wonderful for us fans, be my guest. I feel that I have a responsibility to remind everyone out there, as loudly and as often as a lowly blogger can, what these people are really like.”

                That is a noble responsibility in my view. However, I don’t see you doing that much at all. It appears to me like you see a responsibility to tear down every pro play-off argument you can find.

                I don’t see where I said that I trust the players to do the right thing. I don’t. I expect that any move toward a play-off will be half-assed and still loaded. However, hopefully it will be some improvement and will most likely be a better position from which to make further improvements.

                Answer me this, given what drives their decisions, how do you think they will make a play-off system specifically that is worse than what we have now?

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                • How many different ways can I say that I am strongly opposed to an extended playoff? That’s my fear and that’s what I don’t trust those guys to avoid. And the thing is, they don’t trust themselves on that front, either.

                  The rest of your criticism I don’t get, quite frankly. I outlined many of my concerns about a playoff in a post I wrote a week after I started this blog, and I don’t think I’ve written anything since to contradict that. I also wrote favorably about a playoff proposal in this post from the spring.

                  When I read thoughtful playoff proposals that address my concerns, I respond in kind. I simply don’t see very many. Maybe you do – if so, bring them to my attention. I’d certainly like to see them.

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                • wheaton4prez

                  You often make the argument that an extended play-off would not be profitable (I agree).

                  Do you think that the players involved in the BCS would mess things up in the direction of not making things profitable enough?

                  If the extended play-off is your biggest fear, what makes you think that would be the mistake BCS players would make? In my view, that seems like the most remote of all possibilities. That we would want a reasonable play-off system but the BCS players would jump in and make it less profitable for themselves.

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    • rbubp

      Folks, the BCS “let” Utah beat Alabama last years and “let” us beat up on Hawaii the year before and “let” Boise beat Oklahoma the year before that. The BCS doesn’t control the bowl games; the bowls control the bowl games (the BCS lets them–no quotes this time).

      The BCS is not worried about sharing the competition. It is worried about not sharing the money.

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      • That’s it.

        Bowls are worried about matchups that generate the most money.

        Conferences are worried about who keeps the bowl money.

        Two very different things… which is what makes it hard to come up with a negative rationale for the Fiesta Bowl matchup that doesn’t come off sounding like a conspiracy theory.

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  11. Ben in Georgia

    I think you did misunderstand his latter point. I believe the Wiz was making a point outside the premise of the rest of his column. My interpretation was if Nebraska had beaten Texas and Cincy gets into the title game, there’s no way Brian Kelly would be leaving for Notre Dame.

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