College Football Playoffs: Why We Should Embrace Tradition with Games on Campus
In 2014, college football will have a postseason. This much we know, and the rest (as in pretty much everything) is currently being sorted out in the idea tank. Those privileged to sit in and provide input in such conversations are currently determining which details make the most sense and how they can drain every last cent out of every possible source.
We do know that postseason 1.0 will only include four teams. Sorry to those of you that banked on a 128-team football bracket; perhaps in 2024, when referees have been replaced with Apple’s new model of officiating robots that are also capable of beating you badly in Words With Friends. I mean, why not?
It’s unknown how these four teams will be determined just yet. Modifications to the current BCS formula are being discussed, as is the possibility of a selection committee that could match up the final four against one other.
Three postseason games—two semifinals and a championship—will decide which of these four teams, for a given season, regardless of how they got there, will be crowned champion. This is the foundation, and now it’s time to fill in the blanks.
Conference commissioners will meet on June 20 in Chicago to do just that, and we’ll likely know specifics regarding the future of the game by the end of summer, if not sooner.
Outside of the postseason selection process, where these games will be played is the debate that's taking center stage. This is a chance to create a fascinating footprint for an event that will be captivating in HD, 3-D or in person.
We are all satisfied that there is a playoff in sight, and we will watch, attend and drool over semifinal games, whether they are played in New Orleans, the backyard of the No. 2 seed or a Wal-Mart parking lot.
With that said, why just stop at satisfaction? The ideal scenario may differ for many, but giving home field advantage to the top-two seeds, according to the [insert whatever you call your formula or committee here] and, more importantly, keeping games on college campuses is an opportunity to showcase what separates you from your big brother, the NFL.
The atmosphere. The sights. The sounds. The scene. The NFL, while a giant still on the rise, cannot touch what makes Saturdays special.
Limiting the greatness of game day on a college-football campus to a sentence or a paragraph or even a page is impossible to do. You know the greatness if you’ve been there, and even if you’ve only seen it on television. And if you’ve only seen it on television, what the hell are you doing?
There’s an incredible difference in atmosphere at an NFL venue (minus a few historical exceptions), and the scene simply does not compare. This doesn’t need to be explained, and it’s why College Game Day has seemingly boiled over into the nation’s best pre-event telecast. Well, that and Lee Corso’s unexpected F-bombs.
Having these games on campuses looks like a long shot for the time being, but it does have support from those that carry actual decision-making power. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is certainly behind home-field advantage in the playoff, but his support may not be enough.
"I'm a big proponent of it," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the AP:
That was the choice we made in our conference with our championship game. Collegiate atmosphere. Guaranteed sellout. We've said all along preserving the regular season is important. What better way to emphasize the importance of the regular season than having a chance to earn a home game? It's a proven NFL model.
Proven, yes. But there are concerns. One of the concerns of those that oppose these on-campus semifinals (and these certainly aren't the fans speaking) is over the stadiums and cities that may host such a grand event.
Although the likes of Alabama, LSU (and, well, pretty much most of the SEC and many others) could handle this just fine, this might be a perceived challenge for a city and a stadium tasked to taking on this national spectacle.
In reality, this is a concern for those who wouldn’t have to worry about such things. The welcomed flurry to the town would be an encouraged bump to businesses and free marketing for the campus, in exchange for a crammed few days. This is a problem any school would gladly accept, and there’s posturing that stretches beyond the unique instance where a press box might be shoulder to shoulder.
There’s also some potential added pressure that could come by awarding home field to the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds for a given season, however.
The formula or committee (basically an updated and extended version of what the BCS does now) will already have the added task of selecting the four teams that will play on. Having to award home field— a monumental advantage that cannot be understated—could further highlight some debate and issues in the system, given just how much hosting would mean.
There will be debates and disagreements regardless of whether a team is playing for home field or not, but this could place a massive onus on these deciders to be named later. This probably isn't a factor in these conversations right now because so much is being strung together at once.
In the end, these semifinal showcases, which will likely be your Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and even the Rose Bowl (to the dismay of Jim Delany sitting in his Rose Bowl captain chair with “Tradition” embroidered on the back), will play a role in these matchups that lead to our championship game.
These games are a part of college-football tradition, and including these in the future of the game is important for a variety of emotionally and financially invested sources. There is more tradition at stake here, however, and new tradition to be formed and molded with how the postseason is conducted.
A neutral site won’t serve as a particular burden once we’re all knee-deep in seeded matchups. We’ll all be pigs in slop once this moment actually comes around.
But, embracing what separates your game and highlighting it on the grandest stage—regardless of the “potential” issues this could cause in select locations—well, now that could truly be something special.
Lead image courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel.
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