But they’re settling it on the (expanded) field!, 96 Tears edition

As part of the spirited commentary we’ve had this week on the playoffs/BCS debate, it was suggested that rather than looking at the 1-AA football playoffs for insight, I would do better to look to March Madness for a playoff template.

So let’s do that.  This Wall Street Journal article is chock full of goodness.  The title, “Why March Madness Needs 96 Teams”, ought to tip you off to what you’re about to read.  Here’s why it needs to expand:

Coaches’ welfare. Jim Boeheim has been a shameless whore for expanding the tournament for a long as I can remember, so his quote that “It’s an easy decision” comes as no surprise.  It’s a way for more mediocre head coaches to justify their existence – because their teams made the NCAA playoffs.  The best part is that with this concern in mind, there’s no reason to stop at 96.  Just ask Baylor coach Scott Drew.

“I think we should expand even more,” says Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team narrowly missed out on the NCAA tournament last season and lost to Penn State in the final of the consolation National Invitation Tournament. “Go up to 128. I’ve thought that for several years. There’s that many good teams, and it gives everybody one more game.

“To everyone who says, ‘What about a missed class?’—trust me, those players would trade a day of class for a chance to play in this tournament any day,” Mr. Drew says.

Do it for the coach, kids!

The bullshit excuses. These are from the people who don’t want to admit what the real reason for considering expansion is.  So you get silly comments from conference commissioners like this:

“I’m a proponent of the tournament expanding,” says Bernadette McGlade, commissioner of the Atlantic 10 Conference. “There’s so much parity in the game today, it’s become necessary.”

In other words, we’ve watered the game down so much that we need to water it down even more.

Then there’s this convoluted line of reasoning.

“The early rounds are the riveting part of the tournament,” says Doug Elgin, the commissioner of the Missouri Valley Conference. “If we had an expansion, it would deepen the tournament in the middle. You’re going to see much more balance and maybe more upsets in these first and second round games.”

Translation:  getting more mediocre teams in the tournament can only be a good thing for mid-major conferences.

Top it off by tossing in a little Enron-styled accounting.

While many of the newest teams in Division I aren’t exactly championship-caliber, the fact remains that this sport, compared to others, is relatively stingy with postseason play. More than half of all major college-football programs get to extend the season by going to a bowl game… Then there’s the men’s NCAA college basketball tournament’s figure—19.5%. “That’s among the perspectives that we’ve heard,” says NCAA senior vice president Greg Shaheen.

Mr. Shaheen must not be aware of the difference between apples and oranges, if he seriously considers that argument.  Or he’s totally shameless.  Because college basketball has its own versions of bowls; they’re called the NIT and the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.  (I don’t suppose any of you folks who bitch about the antitrust implications of the BCS care about that in this context.  Of course, since the NCAA owns the NIT outright, it probably doesn’t matter much anyway.)

The money. Like you didn’t know we were gonna end up here.  Here’s the real meat of the deal:

The NCAA has the right to opt out of its 11-year, $6 billion contract with CBS at the end of this season, which is the impetus for considering to expand the tournament and perhaps move it to cable. “We have an opt-out provision at the end of this contract year, so we’re simply doing due diligence on all aspects of that contract,” Mr. Shaheen says.

An ESPN spokesman said that if the tournament became available to the cable provider, “we would be interested if it made good business sense.” A CBS spokeswoman declined to comment.

TV experts say that the value in expanding the tournament is mainly in the ability to sell it to more than one network. “They could legitimately bring in two networks, saying it’s too much for one network,” says Rick Gentile, a former executive producer at CBS Sports. “I personally wouldn’t like to see it. There is an issue of diluting it. But if you get two networks involved, they’ll both pay a premium to be a part of it.”

For the smaller schools and conferences, the revenue the tournament can generate for schools is no minor issue—especially as some schools drop expensive sports like football. “It’s not about the rich getting richer,” says Mr. Elgin of the Missouri Valley Conference. “It’s about staying afloat and not dropping baseball programs and wrestling programs.”

There’s the scary part.  What they’re telling us is that they’ve maxed out the revenue stream from college basketball.  There are no regular season TV deals for basketball coming like SEC football just obtained.  And CBS won’t pay anymore for the tournament broadcast rights than it’s already committed.  All that’s left is new product to peddle to another network to raise additional revenue.  If it means a further dilution of the quality of the product, that’s life.

Of course, we would get bigger brackets to fill out, so we’ve got that going for us as fans.

No doubt my post will generate a series of comments about how none of this is applicable to college football (never mind that it involves the same frickin’ set of decision makers), because there’s something unique about college football that renders it immune from this problem.  Which is my point exactly – when you start down the extended playoff road, you rob the sport of that uniqueness.  Immunity becomes a moot point.

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59 Comments

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59 responses to “But they’re settling it on the (expanded) field!, 96 Tears edition

  1. FisheriesDawg

    “There are no regular season TV deals for basketball coming like SEC football just obtained.”

    That’s because 65 teams get a shot to play for the national championship. In the leagues that could really draw such a TV deal (e.g., ACC and Big East), the top half of the leagues are virtually guaranteed bids to the tournament. Therefore, the biggest games of the season (UNC/Duke, Syracuse/Georgetown) are only for seeding in the tournament and don’t have the kind of importance that, for instance, Florida/LSU or Texas/Oklahoma do in college football. It is more important that Syracuse beat Notre Dame and USF to get enough wins to get into the tournament than it is for them to beat Georgetown and prove themselves the best in the league. The fact that a 6th-place team from the Big East (Syracuse) recently won a national title proves that. To continue this analogy, if such were the case in college football, Ole Miss-LSU would be a more important game this year than Florida-Alabama…that’s not a good way to draw television interest.

    I’d argue that if you really want TV money, contract the NCAA tournament down to 48 or 32 and give the regular season conference games more importance.

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    • The problem is that they’re past the tipping point on that. The mid-majors would never agree to shrink the tournament.

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      • Kevin

        exactly. as soon as you add a +1 in football the same will happen.

        the first time a “#4” seed wins, the argument will be about who the #4 team should be. As soon as you move to 8 seeds and the 8 seed wins, the argument will be who’s 7,8,9,10…. the SAME argument we have for who is number 2 now.. just with more mediocre teams involved thus making it harder to choose.

        Try to pick a top 8 for CF this season after the 5 undefeateds and UF you have:
        7 Oregon 10-2
        8 Ohio State 10-2
        9 Georgia Tech 11-2
        10 Iowa 10-2
        11 Virginia Tech 9-3
        12 LSU 9-3
        13 Penn State 10-2
        14 Brigham Young

        all 8 of those teams would be vying for 2 spots. As it is now, the BCS usually only screws ONE team over at the end, this year you could say 2. Imagine if they were ‘screwing’ 6… you’d have ppl askign to go to 16, then 32, then.. ahhhhh

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      • FisheriesDawg

        Are the mid-majors really getting those extra spots, though? Presumably you’d still have to give out the auto-bids in the tournament. There are very few of the at-large spots going to teams that aren’t from the Big East, ACC, Big XII, etc.

        I also think the Ivy League is the only one who awards their auto-bid correctly, but I can’t blame the SEC for holding a tournament to make money off of Kentucky fans, either. I think it would be ideal to get rid of the conference tourneys as a means of awarding the NCAA bid, but I don’t see that going away any time soon.

        Here’s my ideal situation: let’s say that you went to a 40-team format. There are already 30 automatic bids that go to the conference champs. Yeah, the regular season would still be completely worthless for the one-bid leagues but they aren’t selling out arenas or playing on TV anyway, so who cares? That leaves us ten “wild card” bids across the college basketball landscape for teams that were in the top of their league and didn’t win their tournament. Many of these bids would likely be regular-season champs from the majors that just slipped in their conference tourney. You would have to consistently perform across the entire season to get one of these bids and bottom 16 teams would have to play an extra game, thereby giving the best teams who performed during the regular season a little more of an advantage.

        I think you’d see a lot bigger TV deals for college basketball given that landscape, but the NCAA wouldn’t see that money, the conferences would. Therefore, it would never happen.

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  2. rbubp

    “It’s a way for more mediocre head coaches to justify their existence – because their teams made the NCAA playoffs”– scratch that, made a A Bowl.

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    • I thought the bowls don’t matter. 😉

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      • rbubp

        They don’t, unless you’re a player getting a deserved reward with a free trip to [variably fun locale], or a coach trying to justify your existence by getting to the Mogadishu Bowl (thanks, EDSBS) after beating the tar out of four OOC cupcakes and managing two conference wins.

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  3. Kevin

    I read this blog a lot. I know it’s all about the money and that this argument is not what the post is about BUT:

    They should absolutely be allowed to expand… once a 16 seed proves it can win the championship. If a 64th place team can run the table, who’s to say that a 66 or a 70 cant. Then Scott Drew has a real argument. As it stands now, no higher than an 8 seed has ever made the finals. The tourney should really only be 32. Why would i want to watch another 32 or 64 games of colleges that sound like there were made up for the purpose of a teen comedy (South Harmen Institute of Technology)?

    You know where I can watch 100 games with practically every team in D1? THE REGULAR SEASON.

    At this rate, playoffs will have to begin at the start of the season, every team gets seeded, one and done. That’s it, your entire season. Win and you move on. Lose and your out. Now THAT would be exciting…. hmmm, i wonder what other NCAA sporting league places so much emphasis on winning every game in the regular season… where if you lose you’re basically out of the running for a national championship… hmm.. i wonder if there exists such pressure…

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  4. Scooter

    I agree that college football should not have a playoff. It is what makes the game so unique, where every game is crucial. A playoff would make to game more like the pros. Where the regular season is not that entertaining.

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  5. The Realist

    All of this jibber jabber confirms what is patently obvious. The only way a college football playoff can work… that is, be contained, provide equal opportunity to all, etc. … is to adopt the Senator’s plan of eight ten-team conferences where only the conference champions make the eight-team playoff… essentially kicking out one-third of teams in the FBS.

    The argument against a playoff is not about whether a playoff is more rational. It is. It is not about academics, or mid-majors getting access to championships, or the bowls. What is comes down to is this:

    Slapping a playoff format on the current landscape of FBS college football including the conference structures, the people in charge, and the conflicting agendas will only lead to an expanded playoff of 16+ teams, which will fundamentally lead to the destruction of the real money-maker in college football… the regular season.

    There is no single sport (of which ALL have playoffs) that maintains the sanctity of the regular season like college football. The debate in the NFL (which college football with a playoff would most closely resemble… not the NCAA tourney) over whether the Colts will rest their starters with 18.75% of the season remaining proves this fact.

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  6. Hogbody Spradlin

    The comment about staying afloat and not dropping baseball and wrestling programs caught my eye. It’s no impulse he mentioned baseball and wrestling. There’s another elephant in the room: Title IX. College wrestling is a shell of its former self, and baseball is next. Meanwhile any girl who shows the least promise in softball or volleyball, just as examples, gets a full ride.

    I’m not against women’s sports getting opportunity, but why do men’s sports get sacrificed in this zero sum game of equal results? To achieve equality, colleges eagerly reduce men’s programs instead of making the effort to build up women’s programs. Or maybe they tried building up women’s sports but couldn’t find enough takers. In the mind of your typical college administrator, there can be no reason for inequality except that somebody else did something wrong, so it’s okay to shaft the non-preferred class. Plus, they gotta keep those federal dollars rolling in. Result: you can look anywhere you want for the source of economic problems, except at the sacred cow of equal results by sex.

    What does that have to do with this topic: a helluva lot to the smaller schools that rely on basketball.

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    • I’m not against women’s sports getting opportunity, but why do men’s sports get sacrificed in this zero sum game of equal results?

      Because football gobbles so many scholarships.

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      • Hogbody Spradlin

        Somebody who knows this regulation please pipe up on this, but I’ve heard that football is thrown out in calculating the scholarship equality. However, my main beef is with the zero sum game, not how it’s calculated.

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        • DawgPhan

          I am pretty sure that football schollies count in title IX calculations…The Knight Commission sometimes leaves them out of their reports on the status of Title IX for whatever reason.

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        • rbubp

          This is where the sports and the educational mission get all muddy.

          It has to be remembered that the ostensible reason for scholarships is to get an education. If you are going to award educational vouchers to prospective students they have to have an equal chance to earn those vouchers, or it’s discrimination. So if we are speaking of competitive fields where one gender is excluded, the compensatory action is to offer other sports so that the vouchers are evenly distributed. (And you have to reasonable and not claim that women have just as much chance to get a football scholarship men do blah blah blah).

          Essentially, the rule is that women athletes have just as much of a right to the attempt to earn an athletic scholarship for a university education as men do.

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          • Puffdawg

            Do you support this practice or are you just clarifying the issues?

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            • rbubp

              I support it.

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              • rbubp

                But you knew that. What can I say? I’m in academia. I get the criticism but I do feel that sports have to be reigned in sometimes…in all of the sports other than baseball, basketball, and football, those NCAA ads about going pro in something else are absolutely accurate. 90+% of NCAA athletes are students first and have to be thought of as such.

                I do hate what happens to baseball…but I would much rather see the scholarships that could be used for baseball come out of the excessive number allotted to football.

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                • Phocion

                  Does your desire for equal scholarship treatment apply to academis scholarships as well?

                  What about regualr admissions policies?

                  Wouldn’t consistency mandate that each and every academic instituion that receives federal funding be made to accept a student population that is 50/50 male/female so that women and men are given ” an equal chance to earn” diplomas?

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                • Kevin

                  I think US population is tech. 51/49 f/m…

                  but if you start getting into numbers like this then every college will need to give 12% schollies to AAs and 25% to spanish speaking ppl and so on

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                • rbubp

                  The difference is that academic scholarships are not limited by gender like some sports are. Academic scholarships are often funded by individual donors who do put strict guidelines on them…but gender and/or race are not allowed.

                  Of course scholarships discriminate–one has to compete to get one, to qualify according to the standards. They just do their legal “discriminating” according to achievement rather than gender or race.

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                • rbubp

                  They do try to maintain some sort of balance if they are public institutions, friend.

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                • rbubp

                  (sorry–last post to Kevin’s comment about admissions)

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                • Kevin

                  Right, I understand. I studied the science behind admissions and race when I was at UGA seeing as how we had(have?) a real problem with diversity there. Honestly though, I think they only want diversity so they can say, “Hey look how diverse we are, you can come here (read: give us money) and feel comfortable”

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          • Hogbody Spradlin

            I agree with the idea of offering other sports to even things up, and agree with: “Essentially, the rule is that women athletes have just as much of a right to the attempt to earn an athletic scholarship for a university education as men do.”

            But, the law of the land requires equal opportunity, not equal results, and Title IX mandates equal results. Add to that the fact that Title IX is administered in the Dept. of Education and on college campuses by the kind of people who love parsing everything by race, gender, or ethnicity, and the kind of people who if you scratch the surface are against more things than they’re for, and you get distorted economics, and get deserving student-athletes short changed.

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      • rbubp

        Right… there could be fewer scholarships for football–there are way more than necessary–and baseball would be helped out considerably, but it is very easy to blame the volleyball or track teams rather than the excessive number of football scholarships.

        (and then there’s that old “who brings in the moolah” issue regarding football and baseball…)

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  7. Go Dawgs

    “Stingy with postseason play”? Is Shaheen serious? Sure, half of college football teams end up in bowl games. But EVERY. SINGLE. TEAM. in Division I gets to play in their postseason conference tournament (provided that Vince Dooley and Mike Adams don’t hold them out). If they win, they get into the Big Dance… just like the 2007-08 Georgia Bulldogs. I think we won, what… two conference games in the regular season? Then the Dawgs got hot, and got into the NCAA Tournament. If they’d won six more in a row, they’d be national champions.

    Stingy? NCAA Basketball has theoretically left the door open for a team that didn’t win a SINGLE game in the regular season to get hot and win the NCAA Championship.

    So, spare me the expansion talk for March Madness. If your team doesn’t win the conference tournament and earn an automatic bid, then you don’t get to bitch if you don’t get in. It’s just like football, where a team has to go undefeated to have a legitimate beef if they don’t get into the BCS Championship Game. My feelings are still hurt over the 2002 Bulldogs not getting into that game, where I still think they’d beat either Miami or Oklahoma. Or, the 2007 ‘Dawgs… but we don’t get to whine, because they lost games. I don’t want to see three teams from the Missouri Valley Conference or whoever it is complaining about not being in the tournament. Win your conference title. Or shut up. And Coach, if you got fired because you didn’t get into the tournament, then it’s your own fault. It’s there for you if your team deserves it.

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    • Hogbody Spradlin

      Does the Big Ten/Eleven/whatever have a basketball tournament yet?

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      • Every conference (including the mid-majors) has a basketball tournament and each tournament winner gets that conference’s automatic big. I think it’s something like 32 automatic bids at this point.

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        • Patrick

          The Ivy League does not have a post-season tournament. My correction doesn’t add anything substantive to the discussion, but what is the internet for if not needless pedantry? Also, only 31 teams get automatic bids.

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  8. sUGArdaddy

    Sigh…it’s so nice to hear rational people who love college football talk about this. I was talking w/ a friend the other night, and we really concluded that there are 3 things that the playoff proponents COMPLETELY underestimate:

    1) Devaluing the regular season. In an 8 team playoff, the Bama/Florida game meant absolutely nothing. In a 4 team playoff, it could work, but you start opening the can and…can they put the lid back on?

    2) Travel. Any playoff system that used the bowls during quarterfinal or semifinal rounds is assanine. Check out the stands next March during the tourney and see how empty they are. And that’s with 4 or 8 teams at one venue, not two. College fans simply can’t afford to make 2 cross country trips in a 3 week span and football isn’t meant to be played in front of half-empty stadiums. That’s why CBS and ESPN pay so much money for the SEC. Those stadiums full of passionate fans create and irresistable product on TV. Any playoff would have to use home stadiums leading up to the championship games. If not, you would double the devaluing of the regular season even more. At least the Colts get a bye and 2 home games. Are you telling me 11-2 Tech gets rewarded the same as 13-0 Bama? Something’s wrong w/ that.

    3) The collisions. Big time college football is much more like the NFL than it is like the FBS. They knock heads, but they’re not full-time football players, they’re student athletes. Many years, it would turn out to be who is the luckiest with injuries. Moreover, a team like TCU would be at a tremendous advantage in the playoffs because they simply have not taken those NFL-like collisions week in and week out in during the season. It’s not like basketball. Playing a tough schedule makes you better in basketball. It makes you beat up on SEC or Big 12 football.

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    • SCDawg

      I’ve been arguing point number 2 with playoff people forever. I can’t ever get a serious response.

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      • rbubp

        I have a serious proposal. Do this like the FCS series–played at the home of the higher-seeded team–on a regional basis as closely as possible (like the NCAA basketball tournament USED to do it 30 years ago). I’m aware that there would be challenges to that due to geographic concentrations of teams, so have a general rule of cumulative travel miles–or some similar mediation– so that travel would happen but is managed. Championship game at a neutral site.

        Another idea, instead of home seeds, would be to have multiple games in regional centers at different stadiums (or the same stadium on a Friday-Sunday rotation if necessary). Highest seeds play the closest to home aformentioned mileage restrictions or other similar mediation still apply. Use the same venues from week to week until the championship at a neutral site.

        I’ve probably forgotten something that would complicate this. I realize, however, that the bowls have no role in what I am suggesting. That’s why, purely realistically, I like the “top four seeds” format the Senator posted a few days back.

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        • rbubp

          “multiple games in regional centers at different stadiums”– for example, one game at the Georgia Dome and another at Bobby Dodd.

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  9. Dog in TN

    Let us be “fair” and not hurt anyone’s feelings.

    Name all the teams as champions of the NCAA.

    Doesn’t that “feel” good?

    What a bunch of BS. Let’s cut it to two teams.

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  10. wheaton4prez

    We don’t even have A play-off in NCAA football. Who is now arguing for extending from a play-off system that doesn’t exist?

    Arguing that a play-off would lead to an extended play-off relies heavily on speculation. It’s not comparable to basketball because the football post-season is already close to or is maxed out in profitability via the entire set of bowl games. A play-off that adds more than a few games would not be economically viable, even if those dastardly people in charge wanted to do it.

    Also, just because the Wall Street Journal has a columnist who wants to extend the basketball tournament, along with some others, doesn’t mean that financial factors wouldn’t be considered in possibly ruling against it. Something that hasn’t happened isn’t very good evidence for why something similar will certainly happen in a different sport.

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    • The BCS title game is a two-team playoff.

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      • Kevin

        and they created it strictly for that purpose, moving away from having 1 of 4 bowls host it. sure, 1 of those 4 sites will host it, but it’s an entirely new bowl that was not around 5(?) years ago

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    • Hackerdog

      FCS has a playoff. It was instituted in 1978 with 4 teams. But that left too many teams out, so in 1981, it was expanded to 8 teams. But that left too many teams out, so in 1982, it was expanded to 12 teams. But that left too many teams out, so in 1986, it was expanded to 16 teams. But that left too many teams out, so in 2010, it will be expanded to 20 teams.

      Do you see the pattern here? As a math exercise, can you predict when (not if) the next expansion will happen and how many teams will be involved?

      Can you name a playoff system that hasn’t been expanded? None come immediately to my mind.

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      • Randall

        MLB used to get it right. AL and NL and never the twain shall meet during the regular season. Each league picked a winner based on a 154 game regular season and the winners played a best-of-7 series.

        Now baseball playoffs suck and not only do you not have to win your league, you also do not even have to win your own division.

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        • Kevin

          I don’t follow. How can you not win your league and play for the WS?
          I understand a wild card team (non-division winner) is capable… but im pretty sure you still have to win the league.

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          • Randall

            Well, yes. Obviously you have to win your league to get to the WS. My (poorly worded) point was that you no longer have to prove yourself the best team in the league to win the league and get to the WS.

            Old system was based on who was the best team over a long season – not who happened to get hot at the right time.

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      • wheaton4prez

        Yes. Our current understanding of physics demonstrates that all play-offs will always extend. It’s part of nature.

        This is like someone trying to argue that if you flip a coin twice and it’s heads both times, the next flip has a greater than 50% chance of being tails.

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        • Coin toss. Right. Because everyone knows that playoff expansion decisions are made just like the call to see who gets the ball first.

          It’s not about physics. It’s about human psychology and the market place – economics, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”, etc. Contrary to your trite dismissal, expansion is the 800-lb. gorilla in the room. Guys like Delany and Slive are more concerned about preserving the football regular season revenue stream than anything else in existence. Unless they can be convinced that a playoff either won’t affect that cash flow (which they don’t share with anyone else, remember) in the slightest or generates so much more new money that what happens in the regular season would become merely gravy, they’re not interested in seeing #1 play #16 to satisfy you.

          Beyond that, they’re worried that an expanded playoff would have a negative impact on those regular season dollars. And they don’t have to look any farther than college basketball to see that.

          So, yeah, the fact that playoffs have expanded in every other organized sport in America at the college or pro level since their inception is statistically significant. Especially since these guys are the same decision makers calling the shots in those other college sports.

          This is a perfect example of why I have such a hard time taking what I call the “it’s so easy” argument seriously.

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          • wheaton4prez

            If anything was easy, it would already be done, given that the vast majority of fans want a play-off. And you think Smith’s invisible hand works against a play-off?

            If extending a play-off wouldn’t be profitable, as you say, why would it happen due to Smith’s invisible hand? What market force seeks things of lesser value? Maybe you were thinking of the invisible rear end. 😉 The invisible hand is the basis for my argument that the play-offs are not likely to extend as you speculate.

            The 800lb gorilla in the room here is that if Slive, etc. need to be convinced in order for change to happen, then the same applies after a play-off exists. Someone, if not the same people, will be in charge and will be motivated to make arguments to preserve the size of a play-off if necessary to protect profitability. You have agreed that some play-offs would be an improvement. So, the stand to make about extending them starts when they are actually on the table to be extended. Not when they are an improvement.

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            • You need to quit thinking that the fans will drive a decision about playoffs. We won’t.

              You need to quit thinking of college football as some sort of monolith. It isn’t. What the SEC perceives as affecting profitability isn’t anything like what the Mountain West sees.

              Finally, you need to quit thinking that folks like Slive see the issues the way you do. Two years ago, Florida’s president pulled an end run around Slive with his own playoff proposal. There was all kinds of media buzz and rumors that several of his SEC peers were ready to vote with him. In the end, it was shot down unanimously. They even made him vote against his own proposal. And that was before the new TV deals were signed. Those guys aren’t going to vote for a playoff unless they’re absolutely convinced it won’t hit them in the pocketbook. The idea that they’ll simply swallow a short term “improvement” and table the biggest threat to their money until a later date is not realistic.

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              • wheaton4prez

                Why do you think that you have the authority to tell people what to think on this subject? What’s wrong with simply saying “this is how I see it…”?

                You mention the invisible hand but think that fans aren’t a factor regarding play-offs? I disagree. They aren’t the only component. But, as far as markets go, it’s about as unanimous as a population gets. As we have already seen politically, there are many ways for people with power to capitalize on such a strong public sentiment, influence the debate and potentially change. I would say that it’s only a matter of time at this point. There is nothing short of a play-off that will make the demand for one go away.

                I don’t think of CFB as a monolith. Though there are times when it makes sense to refer to it as a thing.

                I agree that the SEC will hold out. I expect them to be the last to let go, simply because they benefit from it the most as a conference with the largest market share in a system that rewards large market shares over merit on the field. A play-off threatens to give a perhaps smaller program a better shot at the biggest rewards in the game by winning on the field. The last thing the SEC (or many of the big conferences as well) want to see when they already have favorable treatment locked up.

                That said, the SEC, as influential as it is, is not the sole proprietor. If the other conferences sign a new deal, for whatever reasons, it would probably then be in the SEC’s best interest to do so also.

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                • Your arguments (and I’m using “you” in the collective sense, for the “it’s so easy” crowd, not you individually) boil down in most cases to projection of your own feelings and biases rather than looking at facts on the ground and addressing them.

                  Here, for example, you refer to the invisible hand of the market place, but wind up making the point that people with political power often capitalize on strong public sentiment. Skipping past my belief that the government is usually the adversary of the free market, where is your evidence of strong public sentiment here? I’ve been blogging about the playoff debate for three years. You know what’s happened in that time? College football’s popularity has increased. Revenues at the SEC and the Big Ten have exploded. Opinion polls don’t mean shit to guys like Slive and Delany; money does. The only pressure the big boys are feeling right now is in the political realm, and that’s got nothing to do with the invisible hand.

                  And your last point isn’t reality-based, either. There will never be a playoff without all of the major conferences signing off on it. The idea that the networks would offer to pay top dollar for a postseason without an SEC or a Big Ten (which has as much at stake financially and an even bigger asshole as commissioner) is ludicrous on its face. If you’re trying to convince me that your vision is viable, explain how that might happen.

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                • wheaton4prez

                  Where have I argued that anything is easy, that switching to a play-off should be taken lightly or without consideration of economics, etc.? I agree with the point that some people make rash conclusions and propose play-off ideas that aren’t feasible. However, I think that is a rather unremarkable point since you could say the same about just about every topic of debate in the world. There are always more or less thoughtful contributions. Intellectual honesty, in my opinion, asks us to consider the arguments with the most merit rather than spending a bunch of time knocking down the weakest arguments we can find.

                  You accuse me of ignoring facts and then cite an example of skipping past your belief. I’m sorry, but your belief is not necessarily a fact. In this case, I think you’re wrong. Until you prove that you are not, you are in no position to claim that I’m ignoring any facts. This is logic 101.

                  “The government” is a broad term. There certainly are enemies of the free market in the government. However, there are also many friends of it there. It is a false assumption that anything the government does must necessarily be contrary to the free market. For example, in order for a free market to be healthy and benefit a society, it requires competition. In this case, the BCS holds a monopoly on the post-season product of college football. If they are using that position to manipulate results (and they clearly are) that is a legitimate anti-trust issue. Doing something about it is PRO free market. Not anti.

                  My evidence for strong pro play-off sentiment? Every poll that I’ve ever seen shows that fans overwhelmingly want a play-off. I think you have to be delusional to not see how strong that sentiment is.

                  The argument that the popularity of football means that fans don’t want a play-off has no logical basis. Football can be popular and fans can want some revision to it at the same time. I love my country. However, I don’t expect it to be run exactly as I want at all times. Same with football for millions of fans. In fact, I would say that the popularity of football just demonstrates why so many people feel strongly about what should be done to improve it.

                  I realize that money motivates the players involved. More specifically, controlling where the money goes. And that’s the point. The fans, where the money actually comes from, love football AND want a play-off. The money will be there whether there is one or not. Some people will simply not be able to control the money as well as they used to with a play-off. So, yeah, I don’t expect those people to give up without a fight.

                  I didn’t say that there wouldn’t be a play-off without the major conferences signing. My point was that if enough conferences did sign, the others would most likely have no self-interested advantage to not sign.

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                • In this case, the BCS holds a monopoly on the post-season product of college football.

                  No, it doesn’t. Only four bowls and the title game, out of 36 total, fall under the BCS structure.

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                • wheaton4prez

                  Hah. How do the pay-outs, direct and indirect pan out between those BCS bowls and then the others?

                  It’s about the money, remember. 😉

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  11. Randall

    Just for fun, I spent a couple of hours on whatif sports (http://www.whatifsports.com) yesterday. I designed a playoff system for Div 1A that is truly fair: everyone gets in. A complete playoff with every team in Div 1A to determine a true champion on the field.

    I randomly assigned 30 teams to each of 4 brackets, then randomly assigned 1st round games in each bracket.

    After the first round, I seeded teams based entirely on margin of victory in the first round, giving a bye to the #1 seed, and ran a standard bracket from there on out.

    I played each game 10 times, on a neutral field in perfect weather conditions.

    I re-did the whole thing 5 times, each time starting with new random assignments.

    Championship games:
    #1: Alabama over TCU, 21-10
    #2: Alabama over TCU 9-6
    #3: TCU over Alabama 14-10
    #4: Alabama over Texas 38-12
    #5: TCU over Florida 7-0

    Note: in #4, Alabama and TCU were on the same side and played in the “final 4” game. In #5, Alabama and TCU were assigned to the same bracket and played in the very first round, where TCU won 18-5.

    Wouldn’t that be a fun playoff system: the regular season could be just 5 games against favorite rivals, but with the W-L record being meaningless. Then we could SETTLE IT ON THE FIELD!!!!11!!1!!one!!

    There is no good playoff system for college football. I vote we go back to the old way of doing things and have a bowl free-for-all, with the bowls as a reward for the players and the conference championships being what really matters.

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