Because, if you’ve run the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, nothing says “old school” like postseason expansion.
And you know what? A sixteen-team playoff lets all the conference champions in!
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.
For once, Bill Hancock speaketh the truth.
The committee’s protocol went out the window this year, but in came a breath of fresh air — the reminder that finding the four best teams overrides anything else in the committee handbook.
Well, except for getting back to the old tried and true of letting coaches, with all their attendant biases and prejudices, have an oversized impact on setting the postseason field.
Those five former coaches in the room? They know how hard it is to win a conference title, and the value of a head-to-head win, but their voices in the room were influential in guiding the committee beyond resumes and into the talent.
“As we looked to our coaches to share their perspective on what they saw on the field,” Hocutt said, “it was determined that Washington was the more talented team.”
Hell, they may be right about that, for all I know. But I thought the point to all this was to reduce the possibility of… oh, forget it.
The committee had reasons for every decision it made. It just wasn’t in sync with what we heard the first two years, when so much emphasis was placed on conference title games (Ohio State, 2014) and head-to-head results (TCU-Baylor, 2014).
But just when you think it overlooked its protocol, there is an example of how the committee followed it.
“I’m not sure Ohio State would have been in the [playoff] this year,” Hancock said, “if it hadn’t gone and played Oklahoma.”
So strength of schedule does matter. And it can be overcome.
“But I believe, I feel strongly about this, that the way to be sure you get in the playoff is to let your players show what they can do against the best competition,” Hancock said. “I don’t envision that part of it changing.”
I’m not sure it’s possible to jam more contradictions in a five-paragraph stretch than that.
The good news is if you expand the playoffs enough, nobody will care any more. Brackets, for the win!
You can dismiss the messenger, or pooh-pooh the message, but this Jeff Schultz column is a checklist of what college football will look at weighing with regards to the regular season if and when (“if”, heh) the postseason expands.
And before you say, “Schultz wants ’em to stop at eight”, keep in mind that he’s proposing they dump conference championship games and up to two regular season games. Every regular season game you eliminate adds another weekly round to the playoffs. My math may be rusty, but I think that would get you to sixteen teams in a playoff with room to spare.
What can I say? The man delivers.
“Every year is going to be different. Football seasons are like snowflakes, they’re all different,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said. “Next year we’ll be standing here talking about some other way it fell out. And that’s great.”
“When we started the playoff, people said this will grow to the game. I said, `This game is already off the charts in popularity,’ ” Hancock added. “But we have proven that this college football tree can grow. Indeed, grow to the sky.”
Snowflakes and trees. They are so going to eight. At least.
Penn State fans booed Jim Delany at his Big Ten Championship Game. They booed him long, they booed him loud, they booed him until he stopped talking during the Nittany Lions’ ceremony after a remarkable run and 21-point comeback to the Big Ten title.
Delany’s crime? Earlier in the day on ESPN’s College GameDay, he explained he thought 13-0 Alabama and 11-1 Ohio State — the team the 11-2 Nittany Lions beat on their way to the Big Ten crown — have separated themselves and should be in the College Football Playoff.
“I don’t know why they booed,” Delany said on the field Saturday after Penn State’s thrilling 38-31 victory over Wisconsin. “I don’t know what that was for. Just fans being fans. It’s cool — all good.”
They booed because Delany didn’t make a case for Penn State on national television while supporting Ohio State. He wouldn’t make the case when pressed late Saturday night.
“I’m not going to dissect it,” Delany said. “That’s their job, not mine. … We wanted the human element in this process and regardless of what happens, I’ll be supportive of the outcome.”
It’s one thing to listen to pundits without any skin in the game engage in this silly debate. It’s quite another to watch the Big Ten commissioner devalue what should be the crown jewel of his conference’s season.
This is what comes of trying to marry an objective standard of naming conference champions with a subjective process of constructing a national playoff field. Add to that a pointless selection committee show for weeks that exists for the sole purpose of giving ESPN broadcast product and you wind up with the perfect shit storm.
It’s not that college football is in chaos. It’s that the people running college football are idiots.
*Hot take a week ago:
Unfortunately for ol’ Herbie, Washington crushed Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game and finished the regular season with a 12-1 record. That should be it, then, right? I mean, only one loss and a conference title ought to count for something, right?
Not so fast, my friend.
Oh. Man, what was I thinking of?
Oh, yeah, that.
UPDATE: GameDay, for the win.
Sure. I mean, why not?