Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why College Football Sucks (#1)

The official boycott is on. Just say no to college football. Just a few hours ago, the Florida Gators thrashed the Ohio State Buckeyes in the BCS Bowl (or whatever in the fuck they call that arbitrary new game that adds yet one more dumbass bowl to the most ridiculous postseason contrivance in the history of competitive sports) and will win at least one half of the college football national championship. They’ll probably win the AP half of the championship, too.

So why the boycott? Because both Florida and Ohio State finished the season with records of 13-1. Boise State finished the season 13-0. The Boise State Broncos are the ONLY team in Division 1-A college football who DID NOT LOSE a game this year, and they will not be the national champions. They did not even get an opportunity to play in tonight’s BCS Bowl to have a chance to win the championship.

Only in college football, ladies and gentlemen, can you win all of your games and not be declared the champion. Indeed, college football remains the one big sport where it is likely that the champion will finish the season undefeated. Most teams in college football play only 12 games - make that 13 games when you add in the bowl game. Some teams have 13-game schedules, like Florida and Ohio State, and so wind up playing 14 games.

In college basketball, teams play upwards of 30 games. Pro football plays 16 games. The last time a college basketball national champion finished the season undefeated was in 1976 (Indiana University); and the last time a pro football team finished the season undefeated was when the Miami Dolphins won the Super Bowl in 1972. You can’t even expect to go undefeated in pro basketball or hockey (both leagues play 82 games), or Major League Baseball, which plays a whopping 162 games.

All of those other sports have a playoff system at the end of the season - college basketball, pro football, Major League baseball, and pro hockey. College football does not have a playoff system - and because it does not, teams like Boise State get fucked.

The argument is that teams like Boise State, which plays in the Western Athletic Conference, are not of the same caliber as the teams from the so-called “big six” conferences, which are the: Pacific 10, Big 10, Big 12, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, and Big East. Teams in conferences like the Western Athletic, Mountain West, Big Sky, and Conference USA don’t get the same kind of talent that teams in the “big six” get, those teams don’t play the “big six” teams in the regular season, and they don’t get the national television exposure.

And that’s what this is really about - money. The bowl games are big-money games for college football, and they represent huge amounts of money for the schools that play in them - and the conventional wisdom is that people won’t watch those games unless there are big-time teams playing in the games. The Bowl Championship Series was designed to make sure that conference champions from the “big six” conferences got to play in the four biggest bowl games - the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Fiesta Bowl. And yet there is an exception for Notre Dame, which is not affiliated with any conference. There is an entire line item in the BCS eligibility rules that makes an exception and allows Notre Dame into one of the big four bowl games if Notre Dame finishes the season ranked, I think, in the top twelve.

A fifth bowl game was added this season, and the rules expanded, so that teams like Boise State could at least have the opportunity to play in the series and gain some national exposure. Guess what Boise State did in their bowl game - the New Year’s Day Fiesta Bowl, where they played Oklahoma, a team from the Big 12?

The game was a thriller, which Boise State won, 43-42, in overtime, thanks to two trick plays - a hook-and-ladder that scored the tying touchdown, and a Statue Of Liberty play for the two-point conversion that gave them the win. It was the most exciting bowl game of the whole stupid season - a season in which everyone pretty much thought Ohio State was just going to run the table and walk away with the national championship. Apparently they did not count on wide receiver and superstar return man Ted Ginn getting injured early in the title game tonight - possibly while celebrating the 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that was the first play of the game.

It’s time to dump the BCS, which rarely works the way it’s supposed to, and go to a playoff system. Here’s how it will work. First, you take every team back down to an 11-game schedule. This will peel at least one, and a lot of times two, games off of every school’s schedule. Then, you use a ranking system - and I think you can go ahead and use the current BCS ranking system for this, provided that there is an exception allowing entry into the playoffs for any undefeated team that, for reasons passing understanding, does not get into the final top eight - to determine the top eight teams at the end of the season. Those eight teams are then seeded, with the #1 seed playing the #8 seed, and so on. Three games later, you have a legitimate national champion. Even if you wait a week after the end of the regular season to start the playoff, you would still have the season over with by the early part of January, just like it is now.

You get two of the big four bowls to host the first two games, and then you have the title game played in a third of the big four bowls; and to make sure that each of the four big bowl games gets its turn in the spotlight, you rotate which bowls get which games, and which bowl does not participate in the playoff system each year. You still play all of those other little bowl games, for the schools who qualify to play in bowl games but do not qualify for the playoffs, but you just play them around the the playoff games.

Of course, there will be people who are against this kind of system for monetary reasons - but all of those people can go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. College sports used to be about sports, but now it’s mostly about money, and it’s time for that to change. Step one is tossing out the BCS and bringing in a playoff system.

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