In the midst of John Feinstein’s current rant (even he calls it that) about this year’s March Madness selection process comes this observation:
… Gary Williams claimed to me the other night that there are more good teams today than in 1985 when the tournament expanded to 64 teams. With all due respect, he’s flat out wrong. In 1985, Villanova, a No. 8 seed WON the tournament. In 1988, Kansas a No. 6 seed WON the tournament. IN 1986, a Maryland team led by Len Bias finished SIXTH in the ACC. There were more teams in big conferences with juniors and seniors back then, there was more depth because of that and the quality of basketball was better at all levels than it is today. [Emphasis added.]
So if we take him at his word, even without any further expansion, the college basketball postseason is already watered down over the past quarter century. That’s a helluva sales job for a playoff, John.
And before I get the inevitable basketball-isn’t-like-football complaints in the comments, read his entire blog post. It’s a litany of complaints about seeding, conflicts of interest, the irrelevance of the selection of the final entries into the field of 64, etc. In other words, it’s a shining tribute to “settling it on the field”.
Look, I get the point to a football playoff. I really do. But here’s the thing: on a year-in, year-out basis, on average, how many teams can you say truly deserve to play for a national football title? Four? Six, max? And how big a playoff field do you see most folks jonesing for a playoff advocate? If you’re honest, it’s more than six. So at some point, the debate here crosses over from settling it on the field to inviting Cinderella to the dance. My question is, why does college football need the fake juice of potential upsets in a single elimination-format postseason to validate itself?
UPDATE: I swear to Gawd you can’t make this stuff up. Today Feinstein bitches about the play-in game added a few years ago as being nothing more than a rank money-grubbing move – which it was, but that’s beside the point. His solution to fix things? Expand the tourney to 68 teams.
Intellectual consistency, thy name is John Feinstein.
36 responses to “Out of the mouths of cranks”
Because, one more time, I’d hate for my team to go through a whole season and realize they were the best team, but never get a chance to prove it because a bunch of coaches said they weren’t.
I am for a four team playoff, no more than an eight team playoff. Would and could they expand it? Possibly, but there would be lots and lots of hoops to jump through. One of the biggest being the amount of time it would take to get it done.
You’re right. It would probably take 3 or even 4 years to expand a playoff well beyond 8 teams.
Slive has already said that a playoff would have to start with at least 11 teams and provide every conference champ a seed.
The conference presidents see that as the only way to avoid lawsuits. And that’s the way all other championship playoffs work in college.
Which means you’d likely start with 16 teams.
So…you already are being told it won’t start with 4, 6, or 8.
He was once talking about four teams or a “plus one”. I wonder if someone told him to pipe down on that because of the lawsuit thing.
I could handle the top four ranked conference champs and considering the past few polls at the start of the bowl season, that would have included some non BCS teams. The top 6 or 8 would’ve definitely included Boise and TCU from the past couple of seasons.
This is directed more at chickenshit presidents than at you, Paul, but I think it’s a horrible precedent to do things based solely on the threat of litigation, unless you think, somewhere in that giant sack of crazy, the litigants might be have a point. Hootie Johnson and The Masters looked at Martha Burke and found her sack of crazy wanting.
There’s no gun pointed at Boise State’s temple compelling them to be a member of the NCAA or a major conference. If your distaste for their rules is greater than your taste for their money, start your own cabal. Just because Google and Apple print money doesn’t mean I have to invest in either if I don’t like their corporate governance.
Thank you. I’ve been saying it for months now. Whatever your complaints about the BCS may be (and many are valid), don’t ever bring the anti-trust argument to the table because that’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight. As you stated, nothing is stopping the Boises/TCUs/Utahs of the world from creating their own playoff system and calling it a national championship if they like. Whether people will watch it or not is not an entirely separate issue, but that in and of itself doesn’t make the BCS anti-trust. It means the BCS brings a better product to the table (the product being the teams that are involved).
Forget the conference championship BS, until the conferences get rid of tiebreaker rules, it is arbitrary.
Take this scenario, UGA and UF are preseason 1 & 2, UGA loses to SCe on a last second FG when their all-american heisman candidate RB sprains an ankle in the 1st quarter and can’t play. UT is pretty good but gets shelled by UF. UGA’s RB is just getting back on the field by the UT game and UGA loses another close one. UT gets drilled by an 8-4 Ole Miss team. UGA beats an undefeated UF in an epic in Jacksonville. On the last play, UF’s all-american heisman candidate senior QB gets a concussion. UGA and UF also both beat LSU and Auburn by double digits. LSU and Auburn are both top ten teams and the best teams in the west. Both finish the conference at 6-2. UF loses to USCe as their QB is unable to play yet. After their QB’s return UF beats eventual ACC division champion FSU giving them their first loss. UGA easily beats previously unbeaten ACC division champion GT.
UT wins the tiebreaker as their division record is better. LSU, by tiebreaker edges Auburn and beats UT by two touchdowns.
Several two loss teams are in the final 4, 6 or 8 – you pick. UGA and UF are top 4 in both polls.
Under the conference champion scenario, both are eliminated from the “playoff”, however, FSU or GT and LSU teams that were beaten by one or both of these top teams are in.
Don’t say it will never happen, because it will. It may not be SEC teams, but something like this will happen.
If you want a conference “qualifier” rule, make it that you must at a minimum tie for your division (if your conference has divisions) or for your conference title if no divisions.
Dawgaholic, this already happened–to UGA in 2007, only in a slightly different context. You are dead right.
One of the things the powers that be are scared of is, a 16 team playoff in which a 2 loss SEC team ranked 12th gets in the playoff and runs the table and beats an undefeated Ohio St or USC. And believe me it will happen.
I for one want a 16 team playoff and one of the reasons is that because of an early season injury, or a freshman QB losing a couple of early games and settles in, and either one of those teams coasts the rest of the way and goes 10-2 and is not in a conference championship game but is sitting there ranked #8. That team is going to get left out and one year it is going to be us. Some would argue that it happened to us already when we finished #2, but I say we weren’t as good as everybody thinks we were and we lost to a bad USC team and lost bad to a mediocre UT team.
The best team may have won the MNC game already but we don’t know for sure.
I am one of the ones who thinks it couldn’t expand any further than 16 that for so many reasons.
I completely agree with you. I know people think a playoff produces a true champion, but it doesn’t. The arguments about who should be included, how the seeding goes (in this year’s March Madness, Kansas has gotten hosed, Duke has been rewarded, and MSU is home but UF dances? – and that is just the obvious) who got suddenly hot (but if they played again today…) go on and on forever.
I think in most football seasons there are 3-4 teams who have a case for being considered “the best”, but contend there must be an 8 team tourney to legitimize the winner. Sure, some years two teams may separate themselves from the pack, imo, but usually there are more with bonafide creds. In no case is it problematic to include eight teams.
I don’t feel ANY format will guarantee “the best” team will always be the one who emerges as the NC. It doesn’t always happen in the NFL’s Superbowl, NCAA basketball, MLB’s World Series, or any other playoff sustem. A hot team at tournament time can prevail over a better team and still not be considered the best, but those winners are respected as the champion because they won a playoff where the deserving teams were all given a chance. It is about legitimacy, and being included, something we lack now with the BCS, or AP champion. I don’t recall a season where nine football teams had a decent case.
Feinstein lost my respect with his “Good Walk Spoiled” book decades ago. It doesn’t mean I may not agree with him on some issues, but he just isn’t my kind of guy, and I would never want him as a spokesman for a cause I supported.
Yet another reason why attempting to compare basketball and football is a foolish pursuit:
The NBA played are large part in contributing to the watering down of the NCAA because they allow HS grads to play in the Association. Not only that, there are tons and tons of “One and Done’s” on NCAA basketball rosters.
Does this happen in football with the NFL? Ugh..no.
Psst…in a football tournament that #8 Nova team would be a 13-16 seed…Danny Manning’s Kansas team would have been a 9-12 seed. But since they weren’t at least a 4, 6, or 8 there is no way that you can say they were deserving of the National Title, right?
Wayyyy off on the math here….
8 (Nova’s seed) x 4 (No. of Regions) = 32
So Nova would have been no better than #29-32 at the beginning of the tournament
6 (Kansas’s seed) x 4 (No. of Regions) = 24
So #21-24 for Kansas that year.
“The matchup that screams to be screamed at—among all of them—is Temple-Cornell. Both teams are under-seeded. And, when the committee tries to tell you this game is a coincidence, make sure you have a firm grip on your wallet.”
Yeah, that complaint sounds nothing like the one that circulated in December about having TCU play Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl thus eliminating a chance for one of the ‘under-seeded’ BCS Busters to knock off a BCS conference champ.
What football has is soooo much better…
I’m confused. First you say that any comparison of the two is a “foolish pursuit”… but now you engage in a comparison to make your point. So, which is it?
You continue to point out all the comparisons that would be bad for football…so i point to the ones that already exist in football even though it hasn’t adopted the dreaded basketball(baseball/hockey/wrestling/lacrosse…) playoff system.
In other words, there is already sooo much bad in what football does there is no way that changing it to be like the other sports could make it any worse.
I guess it’s not as foolish a pursuit as you say, then…
Nope…we’re just both fools for continuing to do so!
Speak for yourself, John. 😉
Are you two married or just dating?
Can anyone give me an accurate number of teams other than Aub. 2004 that deserved a chance to “settle it on the field” since the start of the BCS?
Let’s see if I can help… 12 years… times a 16-team tournament… less 2-team cartel format… carry the one… 168. 😉
While the Senator uses multiplication to make the point (perhaps jokingly) it is a valid one nonetheless. EVERY year some team or teams that really could/should have won the MNC gets left out by the BCS. Boise, Utah, Auburn, UGA, Tulane (’98)–you name ’em. I now favor a “plus one” format with the top four teams (established by the BCS) playing in two bowls (#1 vs. #4 in 0ne bowl with #2 vs. #3 in another) and the two winners advancing to the BCSNC game. This has a chance of actually happening (a 16 team playoff probably does not) and will not devalue the regular season. The top team would undoubtedly be in that group of four.
When the 64th ranked team in the tourney win the National Championship then and only then should they expand it.
There have been several times that teams just as deserving as teams that made it were left out.
2002 – UGA and USC were as good as Miami and OSU – If you discount Utah and Boise going undefeated because of their weak conference, how are the Big East and Big Ten teams really any different.
2003 – USC – just as deserving as Oklahoma and LSU.
2004 – Auburn, Utah was strong but still would not count them.
2005 – None, caveat, if DJ doesn’t get hurt, somebody gets left out.
2006 – None, Boise did run the table and beat the Big 12 champs though.
2007 – USC and UGA, both again were more deserving than OSU.
2008 – Texas – definitely as deserving as OU being they beat them on a neutral field and had the same record in the same conference.
2009 – None, though some will argue over Boise.
So, your total is 7 in nine years with only three years having none.
Ironically, two of the 7 did not win their conference. Also, one team that made it to the MNC did not win its conference.
I agree with the poster above that a four team playoff is all that is needed. I also agree that a four team playoff may not be seen as legitimate. To solve that though I would only have a 6 team playoff with the 1 and 2 seeds getting a first round bye.
Further, I would rather go back to the pre-BCS era than continue with what we have now. If you’re not going to settle it on the field, get rid of the charades and let more of the bowls mean something.
Only one of those teams was undefeated. Therefore, in my opinion, all of the others had a chance to get it done on the field. If you don’t win them all it will be left up to subjectivity. The same subjectivity applies to playoffs too.
I don’t even know where to begin with this idea od undefeated is the only deserving way to complain but apparently the schedule makers agree with all the cupcake games. I will say with LSU winning the BCS finale and having two losses your argument is forever buried. UGA had the exact same overall, and conference record that year. Pre- expansion, UGA would have been considered SEC Champs and with the higher ranking been very acceptable to all. So you endorse the system where not only subjectivity and politics prevail, but now procedural issues adopted by conferences legitimize your champ? Not me brother, decide it on the field or blow the damn thing up and stop calling anyone MNC.
So let me get this straight Bra. Games played during the regular season are not deciding it on the field, but games played in the post season are. Georgia deserved a shot in 2007 because under the OLD system they would have been conf. champs. And a playoff would be void of subjectivity and politics. I would agree that there should be more consistant scheduling. I for one am in favor of expanding the conference games and limiting non conf. games. But I guess that wouldn’t be deciding it on the field either.
My comment was that UGA was every bit as qualified as LSU in 2007. The rule for tiebreakers determined LSU and TN to be in the SECCG, not the ability of the team. If undefeateds are your criteria, give Boise half of last year’s title. Any one defending the BCS title has no solid ground to stand on, and I think all the arguing to do so is weak. Defending the AP’s title for many decades is just as pitiful. There is only one way to have a credible NC and that is to play it on the field. Since that hasn’t happened, and won’t any time soon, let’s just drop it until enough people care about crowning a champion that has earned their title. That wouldn’t be my choice but it beats the current charade.
If Boise played a halfway decent schedule they would have a case. But I wouldn’t change the whole system because two teams a decade get hosed. In all seriousness, why don’t all of the playoff proponents just boycott the bowls for a couple of years? Hit the conferences where it hurt$ and maybe you could get the change you want. I don’t mean just going to bowl games either. Don’t watch on TV, don’t support the sponsors, etc. If numbers of playoff supporters are as high as some claim, it wouldn’t take long to have effect.
You are the person who put so much emphasis on undefeateds. Boise beat a very good Oregon team, rated in the Top 10 at the time, and held them to zero first downs in the first half. They beat a solid TCU team ranked in the Top 10 at the time of the bowl game. You cannot take away credibility because they lost to BSU, that is totally contradictory. Both Oregon and TCU had quality wins over big name opponents. And you cannot forget the win over Oklahoma a few years ago.
I understand the questions many bring up about the schedule of many of the mid-majors, I have the same concerns about many of the Big 10 and PAC 10 champions of the past. Boise beat better teams that some of those past “MNC” winners/contenders. I think TCU and Boise should have been a play-in game for one of the eight spots thi spast season in an 8 team playoff. Inclusiveness is mandatory to have legitimacy, imo.
I would prefer to see major conferences expand (Pac 10)and inlude those teams. It would legitimize them more than a play-in game.
On that we can agree. The Super-conference may ultimately be the solution that satisfies a large majority of us, but the time it will take to to put that together AFTER the expiration of the current contracts means I will have to get a spot reserved in front of a TV at the nursing home.
Ah, the soft feel of common ground beneath my toes. A good feeling 🙂
From an ESPN.com article:
“No. 9 seeds have just one more Sweet 16 appearance (three) than No. 14 seeds (two) since 1985.”
Astute bracketeers will note that’s because #9 faces #1 in the second round. #9 presumably had a much better resume entering the tournament than #14, but because of the bracket, is much less likely to do anything in the tournament. Wow… College basketball has such a meaningful regular season!