There’s a lot to look forward to.

Really, this is such a sharp piece on what all the changes in college football are doing to reducing the importance of conference championship games.  Start with the obvious:

Once upon a time, conferences were alliances based on geography and traditional rivalries. There was some sort of natural barometer when teams played round-robin schedules and saw most of their conferences each year. The SEC, which used to span a maximum distance of 750 miles between Kentucky and LSU, now boasts Missouri, which must travel 1,000 miles to Florida. To add to the humor, the two teams are in the same division, the SEC East. Although I suppose it’s understandable to be muddy on the geography of flyover country (I’m kidding, it’s not, the Midwest is amazing and you should learn how it works), here’s a quick lesson: Columbia, Missouri, is the third-farthest west city in the SEC. In addition, teams in different SEC divisions face each other only every seven years, except in the case of teams’ cross-division rivals.

Consider, too, the Big Ten. When it was founded, it comprised only teams from Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. Now, 1,300 miles and five rather large states lie between Nebraska and Rutgers. In the Big 12, it takes 1,450 miles as the crow flies to get from Texas Tech to West Virginia, and in the ACC, about 1,300 miles from Miami to Boston College. The Pac-12 seems at least superficially like the most reasonable conglomeration of the bunch, maybe because of the wide open spaces the West calls to mind, but even it, when reduced to numbers, is absurd; Arizona and Arizona State are about 1,500 miles from Washington.

She refers to that as “geographical heresy”, which is a nice turn of phrase. It’s illogical.  It’s also expensive, both in terms of finances and in terms of student-athletes’ time constraints.  (Although it would be a real shame to bring those titanic Florida-Missouri mid-week volleyball matches to a halt, I suppose.)

That’s hardly all, either.   There’s also — you’ll be surprised to hear this — the corrosive effect of the money chase.

… Really, this comes down to the money and the fact that schools like Houston, Cincinnati and BYU are willing to jump ship to a Big 12 that was nearly toppled five years ago and has been feeble ever since. The television dollars lie there, though, and it’ll take some major foundational disruption on the business side of the game before that changes. So for the time being, conferences will exist as they stand now. There will be the Power 5, where the money lies, and then the rest, and every other team will claw its way toward the Big 12 the next time it cracks open its doors, no matter how uncertain its face might be. Still, we need to learn to place less value on games because they occurred between conference foes—oh, the storied rivalry that is Rutgers-Indiana—or because they’re deemed a championship game.

How sad is it to watch the Big 12 chase its tail with expansion and a totally unnecessary conference title game after being told not having a championship game cost it a playoff berth, only to see Ohio State make the field this year?

But that’s the way the college football world appears to work now.  Who’s to say this isn’t the lesson to take away from that?

That’s all to say that none of this makes a good deal of sense, and we should treat the first weekend in December as such. A championship game is not much more than a chance for schools to get more television revenue and stations to draw in millions more viewers. Divisions are artificial, and if the committee keeps up its current thought process, why shouldn’t Urban Meyer and Nick Saban start scheming complex scenarios whereby their teams earn a so-called extra bye weekend to start their bowl training early?

Unfortunately, my fear is that rather than being an end in itself, the conference championship game is only the canary in the coal mine.  After all, any argument you can make about de-emphasizing one game can be extended just the same to the rest of the regular season.  That’s the slippery slope that eventually gets you to a seeding delivery system for the postseason.  The joke will come when Bill Hancock insists the regular season has been made more relevant than ever.

35 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

35 responses to “There’s a lot to look forward to.

  1. The geography of conferences was my biggest complaint when all this expansion started. I wasn’t big on adding 2 teams to the SEC, and especially wasn’t big on them being 2 teams that far West.

    As I’ve said repeatedly: the conference commissioners and university presidents are whores. The whole system is going to collapse under the weight of their greed.

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  2. Gaskilldawg

    There has been s debate on this blog about whether playoff expansion will affect the significance of the regular season. There have been good points made on both sides.

    This week has seen sports writers argue that conference championship games be eliminated. Jeff Shultz wrote that the NCAA should eliminate up to two regular season games. If we eliminate regular season games and conference championships is that not by definition impacting the regular season?

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  3. dawgfan

    Conference expansion was always about adding television markets, not natural rivals. I would have preferred FSU, Clemson, Tech, and a North Carolina school instead of UCSe, Missouri, A&M, and Arkansas. I went to Columbia, Missouri this year and it is a long drive from Georgia.

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  4. Bright Idea

    Again I ask, what is the real point in having conferences in college football if the be all, end all is simply the Final 4 as selected by a committee? Just draw a schedule out of a hat with geography and rivalries being only a minor consideration or do it like the NFL with the this year’s losers playing each other next year. Of course no conferences would mean the end of arguing on the SECN or the BIGN which conference was the strongest. ESPN has created a situation that if you aren’t relevant nationally you’re aren’t relevant period.

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    • We are heading towards a point where the only justification for having a conference is to sign a television contract.

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      • My question is, when will the World Wide Leader realize that conference groupings have less and less influence on attracting eyeballs for games? At that point do we atomize the whole conference set-up and have 137 Notre Dames (which is only quasi-independent)?

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      • paul

        Oh I think we’re already there.

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    • “ESPN has created a situation that if you aren’t relevant nationally you aren’t relevant period.”

      That’s what’s going to kill the sport’s popularity, and no amount of bracket creep is going to change that.

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      • Bright Idea

        Kind of like NASCAR going national and people quit showing up.

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        • JCDAWG83

          Perfect analogy, NASCAR created the most popular, highest attended sporting series in the country and their greed ruined it. College football is following the same path almost step for step.

          In 20 years, college football will have 16 teams in the playoffs and no one will care.

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  5. Wolfman

    Clearly, the money is in football – both in ticket sales and in TV dollars – and the conferences are bending themselves to gobble up as many of those as possible. It’s this football dollar chase that is shaping the whole of college athletics. This “Florida-Missouri mid-week volleyball match” is nonsensical, but comes as a result of chasing football money, which, as someone noted, is most accomplished through adding new markets, whether or not the market is devoted to the conference, or even football. (B1G selling out to get NYC via Rutgers is a good example. People don’t watch Rutgers – but the Big Ten Network now is a staple on the east coast.) Conference championship games used to have a regional flair, for a regional game. As those regions are diluted, these games become more like bowl games, where teams are matched for an exhibition, than like regional championships.

    It’s quite unrealistic, but I think creating separate conferences for football, vs a school’s other athletic program, would be a way to minimize this “geographical heresy”. Conferences include schools, and make platitudes about their academic standing or strong leadership, because oftentimes they don’t belong. If we creates “football conferences”, and keep them separate from other athletics, I sincerely doubt we see Florida & Missouri in the same volleyball conference, and I also don’t think we have an ACC with 15 basketball teams. I could be very wrong – and I usually am – but conference expansion was not sped by basketball or men’s tennis. Why did the ACC grab Miami and Boston College? They needed 12, and they wanted football money. In that instant, they diluted a regional conference.

    Football’s championship isn’t governed by the NCAA, so why shouldn’t their conference membership reflect that? Maybe this is a pipe dream. My hope is that commissioners would realize the regional benefit that made college football so appealing and created such diehard fans, and begin to refashion based on that potential revenue stream. But as I was typing that, I realized how naive that is.

    Is this the college football we are condemned to?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bright Idea

      Yeah imagine playing Washington, Colorado, Texas Tech, Purdue, and Rutgers instead of SC, Auburn, Tenn., Florida, and Tech,

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  6. Macallanlover

    I have no problem with contiguous expansion of conference lines but agree there is a better way to have done this. It is what happens when you are purely reactionary and had absolutely no plan to implement on a proactive basis. Conference commissioners, ADs, and university presidents all played key roles in this debacle, it would make a great case study for a business school to dissect.

    It is hard to feel sorry for the Big 12’s plight since they allowed one member to make life so miserable and intolerable for the others that they risked their athletic future to get away. That same member remains an obstacle to them solving their current issues.

    Shultz is a buffoon, no adjustment is needed to the regular season due to the playoffs, or their needed solutions to repair/improve. The regular season will be enhanced by fixing the playoffs, just as the current expansion to four teams helped. Making it right can only make it better so long as you don’t go too far, beyond eight, imo.

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    • Wolfman

      For the life of me, I know the Big 12 is struggling, but what’s the root of their problem? If it’s that they let Texas dictate their own terms so they wouldn’t leave, fine. But, to me, they are the only conference to have a clear conference champion – the round robin format allows for that. If the conference championship goes away, that becomes a nonissue. They have a strong fanbase, plenty of money to throw around – is it that the conference championship is such a money maker in other conferences that is creates that big of a gap? Or, is it that TV dollars are less, because networks are unable to market a game with maximum ad revenue, because there’s not a “championship game” title?

      You say the regular season will be enhanced, and I think you’re right, in the sense that the games still mean something, and we aren’t leaving deserving teams out. However, the distinction of being a conference champion will not mean as much. An expanded playoff means that only one champion matters, and if you listen to ESPN, you know that’s true. If you don’t, ask Penn St. how much their conference championship means. I think I’m in the minority, but I would like to see a system where winning your conference means more.

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      • Macallanlover

        Since winning the CCG is a guaranteed spot, the Conference title will definitely be THE goal of all Power 5 teams. With only two teams that are not champions you can bet not only will being the champ be enhanced, so will every other game on their schedule because those two spots are not only rare/precious, they are totally subjective so putting your best foot forward every week is a requirement.

        I should add, under my preferred plan, the first round of four games will be played at the home field of the four highest seeds. That doubly insures no one will take any game lightly because that would be a big advantage. My guess is only Conference Champs would earn those four spots.

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  7. Gaskilldawg

    The focus on simply who is in the ersatz playoff diminishes the enjoyment of college football for folks such as me.

    Take UGA as an example. My alma mater fielded a football team for over 100 years without its division (then, afterwards, subdivision) having a artificial method for determining “Whose Number One??!!!”

    During that time Sanford Stadium got built, double decked, and expanded. The Hartman Fund got fat. Campus swelled on game day and networks paid a lot of money to broadcast the games over the radio and television.

    Why? Certainly it had nothing to do with “settling it on the field” between Michigan and Oklahoma as to which had the better team getting a tacky trophy.

    It had to do with the neighborhood. In our case the neighborhood was our State and our conference. We played Tech, Auburn and Florida yearly and the frequency made those games matter, despite the teams’ records. Likewise our conference opponents that we did not play yearly. We did not worry about any hill west of the Rockies, we worried about being the King of OUR Neighborhood Hill.

    The occasional intersectional game was fun. California coming to Sanford with that Joe Roth guy who throws it all over the place? Gosh, they play a different style out there, let’s see how SEC stacks up and see how they like the Georgia heat and humidity!

    Now, we might as well be in the NCAA Southeast Division of the NFL Lite League. Beating Auburn doesn’t matter any more. We are told instead that Iowa beating Michigan that day should be far more important to us.

    Not me. UGA beating Auburn made my weekend, and I did not care who won the Iowa versus Michigan game. I did not even look to see until mid-week afterward. I certainly am not the target “College Football Playoff” market, but CFP Administration, LLC (which runs the playoff) writes bigger checks to McGarity than fans such as I do, so it matters, not fans such as me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wolfman

      This is exactly right. The Auburn win was amazing. I don’t want to be told to devalue it, and frankly, that attitude has led to my cord cutting from ESPN.

      When we talk about the past in Georgia football, we talk about individual games – ’01 Tennessee, ’07 Florida, ’97 Tech, etc. – and those are the games that matter. These are the moments I want to relive. Heck, my first great sports memory was ’91 Clemson. I have rarely been to an atmosphere that rivaled that one. I learned of Herschel from my Dad, and on the TVs with the telephone receiver in Butts-Mehre before games on Saturday. I learned to hate orange in all its forms, and first cussed in front of my parents singing along to Glory, Glory Dixieland.

      Things change, but these are the things that make up Georgia football to me. I imagine other schools are similar.

      It is hard for me to verbalize to people who don’t understand this point of view why it’s important, and why it made college football what it is. I appreciate your post in that sense, and I hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 92 grad

        Im Right there with you and gas kill. Back in the days of 6 conference games it was all about winning the battle between red and orange. If we had a good season then let’s see how we stack up against a team from up north in a bowl game, and then maybe some poll would rank us in the top 10. I remember seeing the rankings and that being enough to validate the notion that my school fielded a great football team. End of story.

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  8. CB

    My lack of kickback against the pending destruction of college football as we know it stems from me losing all conference pride as soon as the SEC added Mizzou, and TAMU. I now have little to no regard for any team outside of Athens. Once we started letting in teams with mediocre winning traditions because of tv markets then the whole thing died to me. The expansion embarrassment opened my eyes to the reality of the entire industry. For me it’s Georgia against the world and nothing else matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gaskilldawg

      I understand your position. It is kind of a “do you like vanilla or chocolate better” issue as each person’s subjective preferences matter to that person but maybe not to someone else.

      I get it that your interest in maintaining our traditional rivalries is much less than mine and you enjoy different aspects of the new order than I do. I sincerely am glad that there are a lot of fans who like an 8 team playoff because it is coming whether I like it or not.

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  9. Cojones

    Good comments here. The SEC Championship will always be of great interest for fans watching because we know it’s the strongest and probably represents a mini-playoff from year to year with the certainty that the winner is going to be of great interest going forward to the NC. It continues to mean something for us and the rivalries take full stage here; screw the other conferences if they don’t want to watch our games with the excitement that we do. Denigrating the SEC to other conference’s levels of pussy games and meaningless “rivalries” (manufactured in some cases by ESPN) doesn’t come close to the many true rivalries that have endured here since the inception of college football.

    Going to eight games will make it a true “playoff” with no need to expand further just for the sake of expansion. Trying to tie that in with the power of ESPN in promoting for other expansion and “mo money” when there will be a backlash to such and there being so many other issues that will inundate college ball before their business plan hits the dust, I’m not so sure of any college football doomsday scenario occurring by going to eight games like “the sky is falling” crowd is trying to sell.

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  10. paul

    As we have all said here ad nauseam over the last couple of years “In 2016, conferences are nothing more than television revenue partnerships.” Now that our previously beloved game is nothing more than content for another TV show it loses pretty much everything that had meaning for us. The question is, what happens over the next few years as new generations grow up with this as the norm? They won’t have memories of college football as something distinctly different like we do. What will it mean, or not mean, to them? Will they continue to watch and support their teams? Hard to say. I know I have already given up the season tickets and severely curtailed my tailgating. It just isn’t the same experience for me that it once was. But, I grew up with something entirely different.

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    • 92 grad

      I’ve already figured this one out. To find the answer, type the following comment in a comment thread somewhere:

      “The national championship doesn’t really mean anything and I don’t get why everyone thinks it’s the primary goal for their team”.

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  11. Lawya Dawg

    Didn’t this year’s committee results indicate that the regular season is more important than people are giving it credit for? I personally think that Penn State should have been in as B1G champ, but the committee at least appears to have chosen the 4 P5 teams with the fewest regular season losses (all with 1 or 0), without regard to conference championships.

    At least one possible interpretation is that winning your regular season schedule, regardless of opponents or conference/division outcomes, is the most important thing.

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    • 69Dawg

      But the committee totally devalued the B1G Conference Championship and basically said that the Champion, who had beaten OSU on the field and had to play a 13th game was not as worthy as OSU. That is, was and always will be BS. They might as well have said we are letting this happen because our WWL masters want OSU in this playoff and we will not piss them off. This years selection of OSU over PSU just blew the doors off of the need for a conference championship game. Just win your games. If you are a Power 5 and undefeated your in. If you have one loss and ESPN loves you, you are in. Hell, if you have two losses and ESPN loves you you might get in. Why play the Championship game? It means nothing.

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      • Macallanlover

        OK, hypothetical situation here: Ohio and Pedophile State are to play on a neutral field net week. You have to put all your deeds and titles on one of them, which one do you choose? I love conference champ getting in, and I seriously dislike Urbie and the phio fans more than any national group, but I am with the committee, I would pick ohio to win. I think you would also. That is their mission, to get the four best, as they see it, and I think they did their job well.

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        • Mac, I hope you did not bet all your deeds and titles on OSU when they actually DID play PSU. So, you are saying your hypothetical situation is more important than an actual real life game. Strange. Why don’t we just look at the last 4 recruiting classes each year and put the top 4 in the playoff, no matter what happened during the season.

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  12. 69Dawg

    I mention it in a later post but the fact that OSU only played 12 games and didn’t have to risk injury in that 13th game might be a deciding factor in the “Playoff”. The CFB playoffs are the Bizzaro NFL playoffs where the only non-conference champion gets a bye while the Conference Champions have to play their way in. Talk about F uped.

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