Every game counts.

If you were Boise State or the Mountain West Conference and hired a bunch of lawyers/lobbyists who didn’t know jack shit about college athletics to draft a report proving that a 16-team playoff would enhance D-1 football’s regular season, this is pretty much what you’d get.

Despite the dramatic tone, it’s unlikely to win many new hearts and minds on either side of the debate.  Here are a few things I found less than convincing:

  • Saying that the regular season is meaningful isn’t the same thing as saying that every game in the regular season is meaningful.  The latter is a functional impossibility.  I’m not sure why it’s so hard to understand the difference between a meeting of North Texas and Louisiana-Lafayette and the 2007 West Virginia-Pittsburgh game that knocked the Mountaineers out of their shot at a national title game.
  • On the flip side, you’ve got to love the logic of arguing that a playoff will make the regular season more relevant because more teams are involved in the playoff hunt.  Taking that to its logical conclusion would mean that a postseason composed of every team in Division 1 would create the most valuable regular season possible.  (Notice that the authors are silent about bracket creep, though.)
  • Nor is there any explanation about how a playoff format that grants an AQ slot to the Sun Belt winner, yet denies any place at all to the third best team in the SEC (and at least one second place team from a BCS conference) enhances the value of the regular season.
  • “Even a cursory analysis would tell you that a college football playoff would not be similar to the college basketball tournament with respect to impact on the regular season.” Implicit in that argument is the acknowledgement that March Madness has a negative effect on the basketball regular season.
  • The authors ignore the fact that the pool of eligible basketball programs is roughly three times the size of the D-1 football pool, making a 16-team football tourney the rough equivalent of a 48-team basketball playoff.  Yes, that’s a smaller number than the current size of the tournament, but how many of those teams seeded twelfth or lower have any realistic expectation of making the Final Four anyway?  (For that matter, how many teams seeded eighth or lower do?)
  • The Playoff Money Fairy makes an appearance:  “With these universities receiving far more revenue under a playoff (as they generally will share the revenues earned by other teams from their conference who reach the playoffs), they will have even more money to ensure that they can continue to, in effect, subsidize such bowls.” No mention is made of what impact an extended postseason will have on regular season broadcast revenues.  If you are a member of the Big Ten or the SEC, that’s kind of a big concern.  (Of course, if you’re a client of Arent Fox, that’s not exactly the case.)

Like I said, it’s none too compelling.  I can think of three reasons to support an extended football postseason:  (1) you like upsets; (2) you like brackets; (3) you support a program that doesn’t make enough money from regular season college football.  (I think we know where Arent Fox falls among those.)  Notice I didn’t include making the regular season more meaningful there.



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

18 responses to “Every game counts.

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    Those dip shits don’t know jack shit so they sling a bunch of bullshit designed to make people act chicken shit. Horseshit.


  2. Rick

    I think it’s a little unfair to say that a playoff including every team is the “logical conclusion”. If I say these biscuits would be better with a little more butter, the logical conclusion is not that I would prefer just to eat a stick of butter (although….).

    It’s a fair point that a modest sized bracket will give a large number of teams something to play for that they otherwise might not have, and will undoubtedly prolong the “meaningful” portion of the season for those teams.

    I agree that the overall cost to the regular season is probably not worth it when you get larger than an 8-team playoff (maybe even 4), but they still have a fair point.


    • Your analogy isn’t quite on point. It would be more proper to make the comparison by saying that if your biscuits would taste more buttery with a little more butter, then a whole stick would make them more so than just a little pat.

      One thing these guys don’t argue is that a 16-team playoff would be “better” than a plus-one. That’s not their agenda.


      • Rick

        Ok, now that I’ve read the actual article…

        The biggest problem I see is that they assume that their new metric (Games that Impact Achieving National Title), is a valid surrogate for measuring the meaningfulness of the regular season. They never even try to justify it (and they have an “assumptions” section at the end that would have been perfect), they just take it as read, which is strange because the entire paper is based on that assumption.

        What they are ultimately arguing is that not every team can make it to the championship, which *everyone already knows*. Why do we need a silly convoluted analysis to illustrate it? I think this paper could have been written in about 8 words and been more persuasive.

        That said, I still think the point about extending the value of the regular season for lots of teams is totally valid. It seems likely, though, that the overall “value” of the regular season wouldn’t be so much augmented as redistributed.


  3. As is typical, I’m finding comfort in the gray area with the playoff debate. I’m mostly content with the current system — it’s clearly profitable, it’s more rewarding to fans (even Rice went to a bowl game just two years ago), and it does make (almost) every game count in one way or another. That said, I’ve never had a problem with a playoff idea either. In a perfect world, a 16-team playoff that included all conference champions would be thrilling to watch. I even wrote about it last summer. If it doesn’t get rid of the bowl structure, I’m in.

    The problem, of course, is that this isn’t a perfect world. And 16 teams would almost inevitably lead to 20, 24, or something similarly ridiculous. I can buy into a 16-teamer with conference champions because a) it puts infinitely more emphasis on the conference titles themselves, and b) unless you win your conference title, you’re probably going to have to come up with some big wins to get into the field. In other words, the season still means quite a bit. But the bracket creep and other they-can’t-help-but-screw-it-up factors make me wary … actually, they downright frighten me.

    All that said … if it’s going to happen, I just wish it would go ahead and happen. I’m tired of the Ross-and-Rachel will-they-won’t-they story. We’ve been debating this since at least the 1970s, and it has long since gotten old.


    • But the bracket creep and other they-can’t-help-but-screw-it-up factors make me wary … actually, they downright frighten me.

      And that’s the thing – an expanded playoff isn’t about a search for the best team. It’s about the money.


  4. Macallanlover

    I do not support a 16 team playoff, but it is extrmemly logical that a limited playoff (8) does make the regular season more significant than the current system. Ask Auburn 2004, or Boise 2009 how significant every down was, they ended up with the same reward, although Boise wouldn’t have gotten a BCS Bowl with a loss. Point is, without a playoff beyond the current 2 “political” picks, a conference championship is all they play for. And you can win a lot of those with 1-2 losses.


    • Phocion

      Lower divisions of football and Hockey seem to do a pretty good job at this.

      What’s funny is that defenders of the BCS Faith (under whatever guise they name their alleigence) never seem to address the fact that their system is the anomoly in major team sports. Why don’t they complain about the unfairness of the Olympics and it’s selection system when making the analogy with a playoff system?

      And “Bracket Creep” is just their bogeyman. IT is a complete unknown quantity to them but they can use it to scare children.
      And ‘b


  5. A 4 team playoff; I.E. a “Plus One” would have always satisfied me.Outside of 2005 I have never thought the 2 best teams were in the MNCG.However the 2 best teams were always in the top 4.


  6. Phocion

    “Implicit in that argument is the acknowledgement that March Madness has a negative effect on the basketball regular season.”

    Then again it could have something to do with that fact that basketball teams play 30 or so games, face their conference opponents twice each year…and then play conference tournaments. But don’t let the complete lack of similarities (aside from the name on the front of the jerseys) stop anyone from continuing to make the comparrison.


  7. Phocion

    How come no one ever, in these conversations, complains abou the NFL system? I mean, if Wild Card teams are going to win the Super Bowl how can they rightly call that team ‘champion’?

    Have those teams and their victories devalued the NFL regular season…or is it still the most popular thing since oxygen?


    • Either you’re kidding or you haven’t been reading this blog long enough. Plenty of people here have pointed to the Giants’ Super Bowl win over previously undefeated New England as an example of what’s wrong with the NFL’s postseason.

      For that matter, I’ve posted about that, too.

      And there’s this one, as well.


      • Phocion

        As a longtime Pats fan I can say, “That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

        Two years ago, Pittsburgh, on their way to their 6th SB, defeated Baltimore THREE times. That the Pats couldn’t beat the Giants a second time is the fault of the Patriots players and coaches, not the system.

        (And, remember, the Wild Card Patriots beat the Greatest Show on Turf to start their reign atop the NFL.)