College Football Playoff: The BCS Is Dying, Please Send No Roses in Memoriam
On Wednesday, the powers that be declared a seismic, decisive shift in the college football landscape.
First, it was the revelation that the term "BCS" was no more. That's fine, but it was always just a label to begin with, carrying no greater meaning by itself than the "Bowl Alliance" or "Bowl Coalition" labels that preceded it. Still, though, the veneer itself had been removed, crushed and buried.
The BCS is dying.
The real news came in the evening, though, when according to CBSSports.com, the conference commissioners announced that they had come to a consensus and that they would be presenting one postseason model to presidents: a four-team, seeded playoff, just as the SEC and Big 12 wanted.
Long live the playoff.
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Thus culminates literally two decades of anger and discontent from fans, pleading and shoving Division I-A/FBS college football's national championship away from the economic stranglehold of a wealthy, entirely self-interested bowl system and toward a playoff.
All we've ever wanted was a playoff, and now, barring a horrific about-face from college presidents, that playoff is here for the 2014 season and beyond.
Contrary to the scare tactics dutifully trotted out by administrators and the Football Bowl Association every time the notion of a playoff was raised, this doesn't mean the bowls are going away. Nor should they. Teams that go 7-5 or better still deserve one last exhibition in vacation destinations, not only for themselves but for their fans as well.
In fact, it even still may be the case that the bowls host semifinal games or even the championship. They shouldn't host semifinals, mind you—that puts such undue strain on even the most diehard fans that selling tickets is going to be a nightmare—but money doesn't just roll over, and the bowls are all about that money. They've been fine throughout the BCS era and they'll continue to be fine.
In fact, one of the bowls that has thrived the most despite all its hysterical whinging over the years is the Rose Bowl. Or wait, pardon us, that's the "Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio." It's Vizio now, not Citi. Or AT&T. Or PlayStation 2. So let's get that right.
In the 1990s, the Rose Bowl bleated on and on about the necessary exclusivity of its arrangement with the Big Ten and Pac-10. So deep was its commitment to tradition (and to its TV deal with ABC) that the Big Ten and Pac-10 excused themselves from the first two iterations of college football postseasons, even at the expense of two legitimate national championship games (Penn State in 1994, Michigan in 1997).
And yet the Big Ten and Pac-10 joined the BCS in 1998 anyway, and the Rose Bowl didn't shrivel up and die. It didn't cease to be when it was hosting Oklahoma against Washington State in 2003, or Michigan against Texas in 2005.
In fact, its legitimacy was harmed the most by its steadfast demands for Pac-10 vs. Big Ten, leading to a 2007 laugher involving USC and woefully outmatched Illinois after Ohio State was picked for the national championship instead. You can relive that game at right. Illinois fans probably don't want to. The Big Ten probably doesn't either.
So harmful was the Rose Bowl's commitment to its two conferences that, in ESPN's latest TV deal with the conference, it mandated the use of an eligible non-BCS conference team as a replacement for a championship-bound program instead of the next-best team in the relevant conference.
ESPN knew what we all know: good football trumps tradition, every time.
And yet on and on went the Rose Bowl's drumbeat of tradition, carrying on to the current playoff discussions and leading to an outright inane proposal from Jim Delany and Larry Scott, asking the Rose Bowl to somehow not be disrupted from its conference obligations even if either a Big Ten or Pac-12 team was in the Top Four. It's not hard to imagine the nightmare scenarios that would ensue.
Fortunately, sanity reigned and the special treatment of the Rose Bowl was excised from the plans. Good.
We know from 1994 and 1997 what happens when the Rose Bowl unnecessarily involves itself in the championship landscape and puts the Big Ten and Pac-12 on a different postseason plan: the Big Ten suffers. This is not an opinion. This is a fact with evidence.
So the last step in saving college football from the shackles of outdated tradition is clear, and we are so close to realizing it: do not let the Rose Bowl dictate matchups in this four-team, seeded playoff.
If it wants to host games, that's great. If it wants to host the national championship, that's also great. It should also still host the regular Rose Bowl on January 1. Let it host as many games and parades as it wants.
But who faces whom in those playoff games cannot be up to the Rose Bowl anymore. That's the BCS way of thinking.
And at long last, the BCS will soon be dead.
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