Michael Elkon noticed something about the latest Final Four…
After a year in which college basketball was roundly criticized for being boring, too physical, too slow, too defensive and increasingly unpopular, the Final Four and the Championship Game got the best TV ratings in decades. Both the Final Four and the tournament as a whole got their highest ratings since 1993.
Like 2015, 1993 featured the rare trio of No. 1 seeds reaching the Final Four.
… and draws a useful conclusion for college football from that.
So what does this mean for college football? Simple: the tournament is an endorsement of modern-day college football in two important respects.
First, the 2015 tournament shows it’s much better to have the best teams playing the semifinals than it is to have a stagecoach full of Cinderella. Yes, it was fun to see VCU, Butler and George Mason make Final Fours, but the viewing public tuned out because it gauged that these were not the best teams in the country. In contrast, put together a Final Four with three No. 1 seeds and another perennial power, and you have TV gold.
Right now, the College Football Playoff is designed to produce that exact formula. It aims to take the four best teams in the country, not the four that have gone 4-0 in a tournament. [Emphasis added.]
Two things in response: he’s right and ultimately it won’t matter that he’s right.
The same people who are responsible for the current enlarged basketball playoff field – and would have been happy to bloat things even further had some broadcaster been willing to pay for the privilege – are making the call on college football’s postseason. And there are too many elements of a perfect storm out there waiting for just the right moment to spring Bill Hancock’s next breathless announcement about how this time they’ve really got things nailed.
If I can mix aquatic movie metaphors for just a minute, we’re all just waiting for someone to say they’re gonna need a bigger boat.