And so, the presidents and commissioners have replaced the BCS… with a bigger version of the BCS. Mark Schlabach summarizes what that means.
Contrary to what many of you probably think, I’m okay with the move, provided it’s as far as they intend to go. I will say, based on this quote from Harvey Perlman, that bracket creep is on their minds.
“I think it’s everyone’s concern,” Pearlman [sic] said. “There was a conversation about which one of these models — the plus-one or the four-team — would alleviate the pressure of broadening the playoffs as we moved forward. There are one of two things you can do — add games or take games away from the regular season, and neither one of them is good.”
Of course, keep in mind that Perlman favored a plus-one, the more unstable of the two expansion options, so perhaps his observations should be taken with a grain of salt.
The suits have made a twelve-year commitment to the new regime, trying to show they’re serious about bracket creep, but if there’s one thing we all know about college football these days it’s that if there’s enough money at stake, minds can be changed. There’s also what we don’t know. How do these geniuses react to the next crisis? We know that’s going to come sooner or later.
Anyway, here are a few random questions and observations:
- They’ve solved the Auburn 2004 debacle, but is that enough? I think worrying about a season in which five major conference schools go undefeated is a bit of a stretch, but Jerry Palm lays out a number of situations which aren’t. The fact is that when it comes to a freakish season like 2007, there’s no way to satisfy everyone without a much larger playoff than is needed in most other seasons. On the other hand, I expect to hear complaining about this often and loudly: “We go from leaving out the No. 3 team to leaving out the No. 5 team, but because of the arbitrary nature of rankings, most years, the fifth-ranked team is just as good, if not better, than the third-ranked team.”
- Not so fast, my friend. John Infante points out that a couple of housekeeping issues have to be run by the NCAA before an expanded playoff is greenlighted: “Two small rule changes need to be made. First, the playoff will need to be added to the list of games that teams can play past the end of the regular season. Second, the playoff will need to be added as an exemption to the maximum number of games a team can play in a season.” In ordinary times, I’d expect that to be rubber stamped. It probably will be, but would anyone be surprised if the NCAA tried to extract some quid for its pro quo?
- Irony abounds. As Jon Wilner points out, it took an all-SEC title game to propel the commissioners and presidents to give Mike Slive what he’s wanted all along, a four-team playoff with no conference championship requirement. I can’t wait to hear the reaction when we get another SEC rematch in the new postseason.
- If this is what Larry Scott means when he says it’s good for the Rose Bowl, I’d hate to see what’s bad. Again, a good point from Wilner: “Other than the National Championship Game, the Granddaddy was the top dog in the BCS system. Now, in the years it’s not hosting one of the semifinals, it’s on the third tier.” To varying degrees, that’s true of all the BCS bowls. All that’s been sacrificed so that the nouveau riche like Jerry Jones can shower money on the conferences. For all the lip service otherwise, make no mistake about it – the bowls come out of this round as losers. That’s a postseason trend definitely worth keeping an eye on.
- College football got five billion dollars and all I got was this lousy discounted hotel room. My first impulse was to give Gene Smith today’s Somebody Tell This Guy To Shut Up Award for this observation: “You play New Year’s Eve, and the championship will be played on Monday the 8th, 9th or whatever it ends up being. That’s an expensive venture. What are we going to do for those families, let alone the fans?” Smith said. “I worry about the parents of the athletes. They’re going to be in a box. I think we need to continue to talk and see if there’s a strategy we can put in place legislatively to do something for them. . . . I don’t know if it’s discounted hotel rooms or something of that nature. We’ve just got to figure something out.” But face it, that’s probably the most generous thought anyone’s going to have about the fans, parents and student-athletes. And a few years down the road, when this whole deal gets kicked up another notch, nobody’s going to give a rat’s ass about travel anyway.
- I got ‘yer strength of schedule right here. If the selection committee is going to consider strength of schedule as a component of playoff admission – and if Bill Hancock says it is, you can pretty much make bank on it – Marc Weiszer offers a subversive way to measure that. After noting the Sagarin ratings for Georgia’s 2012 opponents, he concludes, “Georgia was still sending out emails on Monday with tickets available for the Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt games in September.” Painful, but devious. I love it. Seriously, this is going to be a major battleground for the committee, perhaps the battleground. If the SEC finds itself being punished for its eight-game conference schedule, how will it react? (Assuming the networks haven’t gotten there first, of course.) On the other hand, if they bail on including SOS in the selection committee deliberations, expect to see more news like this. Settling it on the field only goes so far, you know.
I’m a skeptic, so you’ll have to pardon me if I have my doubts they can really hold the line. As far as I can tell, the only thing keeping a four-game playoff in check is the threat to regular season broadcast revenues that an expanded playoff would pose. If the commissioners ever get to a point where that’s no longer something they fear, it’ll be Katy bar the door. Let’s see how long the brave talk keeps up.
UPDATE: Year2 is surprisingly breezy (“Now, tell me again why bracket creep is an issue?”) about the prospects for bracket creep. As I mentioned above, I agree that regular season broadcast revenue is the current bar to postseason expansion, and it’s a strong one, but if I can be a party pooper for one moment, it’s worth noting that:
- A year ago, people like Jim Delany were warning us that a move to a four-team playoff would open Pandora’s Box with regard to expansion. Yet here we are.
- The lesson the commissioners take from this round of change to the BCS is that they can increase postseason revenues significantly without killing the regular season golden goose. What makes anyone think they won’t try again? That means we’re counting on their ability to calibrate the impact of postseason expansion on what the networks are willing to pay to show their regular season product. (Remember, these are the same people who tried to push March Madness to a field of 96 until they discovered nobody was willing to pay for the extra product. Let’s just say I’m not impressed with their mad skillz in the calibration department.) If they overshoot their mark, too bad, that’ll be it. They’ll spend their future chasing their tails on playoff expansion, because that where the new money will be. And they’ll need it to make up for what they’d lose on regular season revenue.
Bottom line, I’d say he’s a lot more confident in Slive and Delany (and whoever follows them) being rational actors than I am.