Year2 does about as clear a job of contrasting the difference in approach to the college basketball postseason and the college football postseason as I’ve ever read:
… This [ed. note: the “First Four”] is a very NCAA-ian way of doing things, and it clearly illustrates the difference between college football and the sports where the NCAA is directly involved with the post season. Because the majority of schools in Division I basketball are not perennial powers, the NCAA must take as egalitarian a posture as it can. Forcing eight conference champions (no matter how middling the conferences) to the 16-seed line is too unfair to the body as a whole. Therefore we get this “First Four” garbage. Meanwhile, the BCS gets to largely ignore the irrelevant-to-the-post-season Sun Belt Conference for the 13th straight year.
This issue cuts right to the heart of what you think the purpose of the tournament is. Clearly it’s not just for determining a champion, or else it would be smaller than 64 teams and the Patriot League wouldn’t have a guaranteed spot. I get that you have to throw a bone to the smaller conferences when they have an equal say in how things work.
Now you may think brackets are the way to go in football, and that’s fine, but that’s not really the point here. What’s important to consider is that once you go down the expanded tourney trail – particularly one maintained by the NCAA – what you wind up with is a very different animal than what you started with. To insist otherwise, whether out of pure stubbornness or some belief that you can’t compare the two sports (my favorite convenient excuse), is to ignore reality.