Tag Archives: Plus-one

Jostling for position around the grown-ups’ table at the post-BCS banquet

It looks like the Pac-12 wants to be the lead dog on the playoff debate sled.

Leaders of the Pac-12 Conference agreed in principle Saturday to try to end college football’s Bowl Championship Series, proposing its replacement with a playoff system that would allow only conference winners to play for college football’s national title.

“I don’t hear anyone saying business as usual is acceptable,” said Edward Ray, Oregon State University’s president and chairman of the Pac-12 universities’ CEO group. “We need change.”

The size and shape of the new postseason are some of the kinks left to be worked out – how the Rose Bowl fits in with a four- or eight-team playoff, particularly when there appears to be some disgruntlement over the bowls, looks like a sticking point – but there seems to be clear sentiment to follow Larry Scott’s path towards a conference champion-only format.

“The BCS polls have had unintended consequences that are very negative in terms of the culture around football that places a premium on not losing,” Scott said. “The BCS system really doesn’t have any value around strength of schedule. It’s about won-loss records. It’s encouraged by coaches and conferences to want to schedule games as easy as possible and to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars and sometimes more to buy games and easy wins.”

Well, duh, Larry.  Like your proposal is going to stop that.

But the real 800-pound gorilla in the room with Scott and the Pac-12 isn’t Mike Slive and his conference (and don’t think Scott’s quote wasn’t pointed in the specific direction of the SEC).  It’s Notre Dame.  Dennis Dodd describes the dynamic accurately when he writes,

There is a way Notre Dame could be allowed special access into the new postseason. The question is, should it? With the apparent end of automatic qualifiers, what is the line between the haves and have-nots? Will there be one at all? Notre Dame is the only single entity in the room deciding the future of college football. But the other partners control the football future of Notre Dame.

I have no doubt there will be a full court press put on the Irish to join a conference.  I also have no doubt that Notre Dame will resist.  What is Swarbrick going to hear now that he hasn’t already heard before?

Those of you who think that Notre Dame’s on the field results have made it an irrelevancy which can be conveniently brushed aside in the rush to give the people what they want (hey, don’t forget Michael Adams “feels frustrated for the fans”) are missing the point.  Notre Dame still draws viewership in a way that no other school really does.  Why do you think Swarbrick is the only AD allowed in the room with Slive, Delany and Scott in the first place?  Hint:  it ain’t because they want to discuss the finer points of Brian Kelly’s public etiquette.  He’s there for the same reason that major bowls fight over extending an invitation to an eight-win (hell, seven wins will do nicely, sometimes) Irish squad.  It’s where the money is.

Swarbrick’s no fool, by the way.  He knows why he’s there.

Which is why Dodd’s plus-one format suggestion of the top three ranked conference champs along with the next-highest ranked team getting the last spot screams successful short-term compromise.  I bet Mike Slive would sign on to that.  So would Swarbrick.  Would it last?  Hell, no.  What’s your point?



Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Nobody’s gonna tell Mike Slive what to do.

It should come as a surprise to exactly no one that Mike Slive is less than enamored with Larry Scott’s conference champs-only plus-one format.

“I’m willing to have a conversation about (only conference champions), but if you were going to ask me today, that would not be the way I want to go,” Slive said. “It really is early in the discussions, notwithstanding what some commissioners say publicly. There’s still a lot of information that needs to be generated.”

Translation:  if you think I’m giving up the advantage of having the only conference that seems capable of having two schools in the title game without a battle, you’re crazy.

That being said, I think he’s off base with his complaints about playing the semifinals on the campuses of the higher ranked schools.  Sure, there’s a competitive advantage.  That’s the whole point.  You’ve got to build some incentives into the system to make sure that schools don’t overload on cupcakes or, even worse, decide to take a regular season game off to prepare for the postseason, à la the NFL.  That’s an even bigger concern if you adopt Scott’s proposal.

And, turning to the current state of affairs in the SEC, this is too cute by half:

… Meanwhile, as the SEC prepares to welcome Missouri and Texas A&M into the league, Slive said the conference is content with 14 members.

“I still view 14 as an extension of 12,” Slive said. “Going beyond 14 is no longer an extension of 12. Maybe the Pac-12 and Big Ten scheduling alliance may be their way of answering that question. I can only speak for us. I think it’s going to take us some time to absorb these two institutions. At this point, I don’t see us adding more. We’ve never been trying to get 14 so I don’t see us necessarily trying to get to 16.”

Slive said the SEC is currently in future TV discussions with CBS and ESPN and that finalizing future football schedules beyond 2012 does not impact those talks.

“They know who we are and what we have,” Slive said. “None of our schools will be hurt financially (in 2012-13). But that’s just today. It’s tomorrow that’s the real issue. The discussions are very important. They’re longterm. We’ll leave it at that.”

Right.  This whole thing just sort of fell in Slive’s lap.  And the TV negotiations going on simultaneously?  Mere coincidence.  If you’re buying this, I still haven’t been able to unload that beachfront property in Hahira and would love to talk with you.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, SEC Football

The audacity of a plus-one

And you guys thought I was kidding about Republican objections to Obama’s opinion about a D-1 playoff.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Political Wankery

Dan Wetzel and the intellectual consistency of playoffs

Honestly, I don’t know what it is about Dan Wetzel’s particular form of playoff monomania that drives me so batty, but there it is.

His latest outburst is a criticism of Larry Scott’s conference champs-only plus-one proposal.  This literally made my jaw drop:

Scott’s instincts aren’t completely off; deemphasizing flawed, groupthink-powered polls and mathematically unsound computer formulas is an admirable goal. The only reason polls (25 teams deep) are used is because college football still believes there was validity to something invented by some sportswriters in the 1930s.

It was a just a promotional tool then (try comparing teams in the pre-TV era). It should’ve remained that way. It never should’ve been used on an official level.

The computers were brought in to partially take subjectivity out of the equation. The formulas were bastardized, however, by PC decisions such prohibiting margin of victory.

At its core, this is the intellectual inconsistency that plagues college football, one that Scott reasonably wants to escape.

The problem is obvious: Rewarding only conference champs would be intellectually consistent only if all conferences were competitively consistent.

They aren’t even close to that. Plus they shift on an annual basis. Decades and decades of history in every sport says that there are years the second-best team in one conference or division is superior to a champion of another conference or division.

It’s not that I disagree with any of that.  I think an objective, conference champs-only playoff format should be what D-1 winds up with once they get realignment out of their system and consolidate the division around 64 to 80 teams, but right now, it would lead to as many new problems as it would solve.

No, what drives me crazy here is Wetzel arguing that with a straight face after previously pitching a 16-team playoff with a 6-6 Sun Belt champion in it based on this appealing rationale:

… While no one would argue that the Sun Belt champ is one of the top 16 teams in the country, its presence is paramount to maintaining the integrity and relevancy of the regular season. Teams that put together exceptional season deserve to be rewarded. If you just take the top eight or 16 teams and match them up on a neutral field then there is no advantage to being No. 1 rather than No. 16.

The way to reward the best teams is two-fold. First is providing home-field advantage to the higher-seeded team until the title game (more on this later).

The second is by giving an easier first-round opponent – in this case No. 1 seed Auburn would play No. 16 Florida International. Earning a top two or three seed most years would present a school a de facto bye into the second round.  FIU isn’t in the tournament to win the title – they won’t – but to make the regular season matter more.  [Emphasis added.]

Intellectual consistency?  Pot, meet kettle.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Media Punditry/Foibles

They’ve got nobody to blame but themselves.

If you want to understand what’s really behind playoff angst, look no further than Brian Cook’s short and sweet explanation.  Money (see what I did there?) part:

The BCS moved off broadcast to cable. But when paired with declining interest, the cavern between postseason formats screams “grit your teeth and do something literally everyone else wants.”

Gee, who would have figured that a almost total sell out to ESPN of the postseason would have advertisers spending less money?  I mean, why would anybody expect that having fewer games as national broadcasts might impact viewership and advertising?

So now the same guys who drove the car into the ditch are going to be the ones to pull ‘er out and save the day.  Yeah, I feel better already.

This is why I find Stewart Mandel’s wide-eyed disillusion over Larry Scott’s plus-one proposal so amusing.

… No system will be without controversy. Had a four-team playoff with no restrictions been in place last season, one could have argued for as many as eight similarly bunched one- or two-loss teams for the fourth spot. Had there been a conference-champion requirement, there would only have been eight teams eligible for that final spot — and one would have been 8-4 Louisiana Tech.

That doesn’t make sense either.

It’s unknown at this point how many other key decision-makers share Scott’s opinion. (We know at least one who doesn’t: Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick, whose independent school holds a seat at the table alongside the 11 conferences.) But they’ll discuss this angle extensively, and it’s easy to see why they’d find it attractive. The commissioners represent their conferences first and foremost, and the more the bids are dispersed, the more their member schools stand to benefit.

But a conference champion restriction runs antithetical to two other key issues BCS leaders are currently addressing. For one, they’re already trying to disentangle themselves from the BCS’ longstanding AQ/non-AQ conference structure, primarily because it shoehorns undeserving teams into some of the most coveted bowl spots. This would possibly do the same thing, only with greater implications.

Meanwhile, Bill Hancock and Co. have repeatedly expressed concern about “bracket creep,” i.e., the inevitability that a four-team playoff will produce pressure to expand to eight, then 16.

Well, there’s one surefire way to make that happen: Stage a four-team playoff that includes the nation’s 10th-best team.

What Mandel fails to grasp is that any format these people pitch is going to fall apart in the same way, because they’ve adopted such an amorphous goal behind their designs.  Once you get past trying to redress the truly grievous shortcomings we’ve seen now and then in the BCS, like Auburn 2004, it’s all nothing more than a bunch of tradeoffs that are bound to leave plenty of folks dissatisfied.  And when you’re talking about the kind of money that’s involved here, that only means more tinkering.

Add in what appears to be another goal of Scott here – to make sure that the SEC doesn’t crowd out the other big conferences at the plus-one table – and you’ve got a recipe for bracket creep stew.  It’s weird that the Rematch may turn out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back when it comes to the D-1 postseason, but more and more that’s what it looks like.

Of course, the irony is that if we get something like what Scott has in mind, the possibility of excluding an Alabama from a future semi-final game to include a clearly inferior conference champ will have these same people going back to the drawing board.

Don’t forget that Scott is considered to be one of the sharpest minds in college athletics.


UPDATE:  Hey!  Now there’s a kindler, gentler euphemism for “bracket creep”.

There will be 124 teams in the FCS this season. The Ivy League and Southwestern Athletic Conference don’t send their champions to the playoffs, but the Pioneer League desperately wants an automatic bid for its champion, and Emmert seems to realize the league has been getting the shaft while 10 other conferences claim one. Bracket expansion would send the PFL champ to the playoffs as well as increase the number of at-large bids from 10 to 13.

Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.  It’s still going to 24 in another year.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

Friday morning buffet

Grab a plate and do your thing.


UPDATE:  Promises, promises.

ESPN, we’re holding your ass to this, understand?  (h/t Doug)


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, Recruiting, SEC Football, Stats Geek!, Urban Meyer Points and Stares

We know what you are. We’re just haggling over the fee.

Dennis Dodd manages to distill my unease over where the BCS discussion is about to go into two sentences.

Left to their own market-driven desires, the commissioners themselves damaged the history and the tradition of the sport with conference realignment. There is a feeling that a plus-one could slow that process.

Because why, exactly?  Their stellar track record managing postseason play?  Right.  Some sudden enlightenment such that we’re supposed to believe they’ve finally learned their lesson?  That’s highly doubtful.

“Once that first toe goes in the revenue pool, it’s a lot easier to jump in when someone says the water is better in the deep end,” said the high-ranking BCS source. “How quickly does it creep to where no one really wants it to be, but where you can’t say no because of all that potential revenue?”

These people don’t trust themselves to do the right thing.  Why should we?

I’ll leave Roy Kramer to set up the punchline.

“You have to make sure you don’t totally destroy the foundation of the sport for minimal gain,” Kramer said.

But for the right amount of gain…


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness