On my “About Me” page, I say “to paraphrase Churchill, the BCS is the worst form of deciding a national football champion except for all those others that have been tried”.
If college football’s movers and shakers wind up adopting a plus-one postseason format to replace the BCS, that comment still stands.
For all the lip service about listening to the fans, the reason the plus-one has traction is solely because of its virtues to the commissioners and presidents. It gives them another postseason game to bid out to the networks, it preserves the significance of the major bowls – in the case of the Rose Bowl, you could argue it does more than that – and it provides a cease-fire, albeit a temporary one, to the Delany-Slive trench warfare.
But, as Matt Hinton argues, it doesn’t do a damned thing to address what fans want.
A plus-one would entrench the status quo. In fact, it’s a conscious rejection of the playoff push, the whole point of which is demand for a system that judges aspiring champions by actually having them compete against one another – you know, the basic premise of the sport, and of competition in general as practiced by virtually every other competitive entity in the world. Plus-one proposals default to what we have now: A random cabal of pollsters, coaches, computer programmers and whoever else they can graft on to anoint contenders by fiat. (Among the proponents of a plus-one, for example, are a couple of Texas businessmen – fans – who have pitched a proprietary plan to BCS honchos on multiple occasions.) Nothing changes except that the music stops in early January instead of early December.
Consider a scenario where Southern Cal, LSU and FSU all finish the regular season with identical 13-0 records and then go on in a plus-one world to win their respective bowl games. How would you like to be on that selection committee? It would be Auburn 2004 on steroids.
What makes this worse than what we’ve got now is that this whole fiasco will be sold to college football fans as an improvement over the status quo (from the standpoint of conference bank accounts, it would be). When reality hits, the anger and frustration will be even more palpable than it already is. And that’s not a good thing. It’ll likely force these guys back to the table to scramble to come up with yet another fix. It’s pretty clear already that knee-jerk reactions to short-term problems aren’t their strong suit.
As I’ve repeatedly said, I’m largely agnostic about a playoff. I can see a benefit to a four-team scenario with little downside, so I’m okay with it, but what I really want to come out of this round of negotiations more than anything is a format with enough stability to withstand a push in the near term to go to a larger postseason field. And a plus-one clearly ain’t that.