There is a playoff in every sport, at every level, from college lacrosse to professional hockey, from high school swimming to Little League baseball.
Except for one: college football.
Instead of crowning a champion the way everybody else does, the lords of America's greatest sport—bowl directors and BCS "cartel" members—would rather stuff their own pockets with money than spread it out to universities and television stations and, in the process, gift fans with a real way to decide who is best.
Maybe Death to the BCS was right. This really is borderline corruption.
I'm not going to plagiarize the beautiful work of art put together by Jeff Passan, Dan Wetzel and Josh Peter. If you haven't read Death to the BCS, I highly recommend you put it on your Christmas list. What I am going to do is quickly paraphrase their points for the benefit of those who haven't read it yet, to explain why the BCS has to go; then I will go my own separate route and propose five seemingly wacky but actually realistic—not to mention highly entertaining—playoff plans.
There is no legitimate reason not to institute a playoff. Oh, sure, BCS backers have plenty of illegitimate reasons, but none of them would actually stop a playoff from happening. Before I get to my proposals, let's run them off quickly:
Academics: Under each proposal I drew up here, student athletes would all have at least 21 days to focus on their final exams. Besides, bowl practices interfere with their study schedules anyway. Nice try. This argument is probably the weakest.
Money: For the bowl directors, sure, it would hurt them. For the dying little girls and boys who the bowls falsely claimed to be feeding through the money they give to charity...it would be the best thing they could hope for outside of a tree that grows money. Bowl directors are highly corrupt, as Death to the BCS explains expertly.
Regular season: This has to be the funniest one of all. The "regular season IS the playoff" argument has more holes than a defense full of tackling dummies. What kind of playoff rewards an undefeated team with a No. 3 final ranking and a warm handshake from a BCS bowl director (Utah 2004, 2008, Auburn 2004, Boise State 2006, 2008, 2009 and many, many more) as opposed to a national championship? College football's regular season.
All of this could be tolerated if only the BCS bigwigs could see the many examples of injustice their system have caused. Many people and businesses try things on a trial-and-error basis. They know when they try something that it could fail, and they are willing to pull the plug on something that is clearly not working out.
The BCS is not perfect, as we all know. In fact, it's so far from perfect that even the BCS agrees. Yes, the Associated Press reported the BCS officials have officially announced that the official system used to officially crown a champion is officially garbage (from Fox Sports Houston).
Great! So we're almost there!
Now all the "cartel" (another Death to the BCS reference) needs to do is pull the plug. And that, my friends, is the point where we run into trouble. The BCS knows their system is flawed, and yet it's been in place for a decade-and-a-half. There has been time to generate enough proof that this trial-and-error experiment has been a failure, yet the BCS does nothing to change it.
It's been 15 years since the BCS was installed, and now, finally, there appears to be a change on the horizon. So why am I here writing this article? Because the change that's coming simply isn't good enough. All that's being proposed is a four-team playoff. How the four teams are picked and where the games will be played are the only real points of discussion among the cartel members.
There's only one problem. Four teams isn't good enough. It's better, but it isn't good enough. It's like dropping an ice cube into an empty pool. It's a step in the direction of refilling the pool, but will it come close to accomplishing that? No, it won't.
With four teams competing for a championship, you're still going to have the same problems you tried to eliminate with two.
Look at the 2009 season.
You had Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State all finish unbeaten. A four-team playoff still shuts one of them out. Forget the fact that 12-1 Florida dismantled Cincy in the Sugar Bowl, meaning the Gators would be more worthy of a playoff bid than the Bearcats. That just makes it more complicated. But it also serves as a reminder that certain conferences are stronger than others, meaning that's something to take into account when choosing the teams for a playoff that's still going to generate as much controversy as the BCS ever did.
Even in 2008, with only one unbeaten, there would have been controversy when it came to picking the teams. Why? Because there were five powerful one-loss teams along with unbeaten Utah: Florida, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Never mind that Utah got shut out of the title game completely and probably would have been shunned from this four-team playoff, too. The point is, it's simply wrong to end a season with people who don't play or coach or even have a hand in the game deciding who is better, when the players could.
So forget four teams. Each of my playoff systems have one common goal: to put enough teams in the postseason that there are no legitimate arguments for the teams that just missed. For example, the "bubble teams" would be two- or three-loss teams from power conferences or lower-conference, one-loss teams, as opposed to unbeaten teams or one-loss, power-conference teams.
In each proposal, I will pick the teams from the 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009 seasons (five of the most controversial), and put them in the playoff to show what the matchups would have been. I will have all the high seeds win, just to show what the later-round matchups would have been.
Before we begin, let me quickly explain what my playoff proposals will accomplish, aside from including every deserving team and fulfilling the cartel's silly arguments: excitement.
That's it, in a nutshell, my playoff matchups will provide more excitement than one could ever get with a four-team playoff.
So, let's count 'em down, from five to one, with one being the boldest.
For each proposal, there will be three sections: the logistics, which explains the proposal; the playoff/academic schedule (to prove that student athletes can indeed juggle both responsibilities); and the examples, which cover the playoff teams/game sites/matchups from each round from each of the five aforementioned seasons.
Each playoff field would be picked by a committee. In some cases, they would be taking the bowls into account and rewarding bowl wins since they're the freshest games in their minds. In other cases, the field would be picked before the bowls.
The teams would be seeded in the order the committee believes is best. If that means that two teams that just played in a bowl game would play again in the first round, or if two teams that played in the regular season would play for the championship, so be it. This happens in pro football, college basketball and every other big tournament.