Apparently, everyone in the college football world is excited about a playoff. Except Nebraska.
On Tuesday, college football fans learned that, at long last, they were going to get a playoff. The BCS Presidential Oversight Committee signed off on the four-team playoff model, to begin after the 2014 season.
College football is about to enter the promised land of a playoff, and everyone’s happy, right?
Well, not everyone.
University of Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman has been the most prominent critic of the seemingly inevitable playoff. According to Mark Giannotto of the Washington Post, Perlman is “disappointed” in a four-team playoff and would still prefer a “plus-one” model where a championship game is determined after all the bowls have been played.
“I’d rather have five exciting games instead of two exciting games,” Perlman was quoted as saying.
That only makes sense if you’re either not paying attention or not terribly bright, so Perlman is assuming that college football fans fall into one or two of those categories.
Five exciting games?
I suppose that’s possible. But a “plus-one” would leave open all the problems of the current BCS system and the flawed mechanic of a national champion determined by choice rather than on the field. All the “plus-one” would really do is extend the regular season by one game before the title game was determined.
And that doesn’t even get into the logistical nightmares that a “plus-one” could create. What if there are two undefeated teams going into the bowls, and they both lose to three-loss teams. Do you rematch them? What if there is one clearly dominant team that beats the next best competitor in the bowl? Do they have to play another game?
The “plus-one” really takes the BCS model and, if possible, makes it worse.
But Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini is in Perlman’s corner on this fight. In fact, Pelini thinks Perlman is going too far with a plus-one format:
Be careful what you ask for … We have a pretty good product in college football right now, with the bowls. ... There are a lot of good things going on in college football. How do you get a four-team playoff without messing up a pretty good thing?” Pelini was quoted as saying in the Lincoln Journal-Star.
Pelini’s position may be the most understandable. Coaches love the bowl system, because it helps them stay in jobs. In a playoff system, there is a clear goal, and if a big-time coach doesn’t make the playoffs then pressure can ramp up on that coach.
Unsurprisingly, if the top brass in Lincoln is against something, than the Journal-Star’s Steven M. Sipple will also come out against it. In his most recent column, Sipple argues that a playoff could be good, but that a "plus-one" could be good too, but that everything will be fine because people will still complain about a playoff, so he’s not sure if a playoff is a good idea yet. Oh, and that Sipple and Perlman are very brave men because people who question a playoff are having arrows shot at them, getting jackhammered and getting daggers hurled at them.
You can vote in the poll later if this column is an arrow, a jackhammer or a dagger, so think carefully. I’m hoping for a dagger, imagining myself in a cool Assassin’s Creed kind of style, but I will leave it to the readers to decide.
So, yeah, if Perlman is against it and Pelini is against it, then it’s a safe bet that Sipple will be against it. You don’t think those sit-down interviews with Pelini grow on trees, do you?
But we’re not done yet.
On N’Sider, the “official blog of the Huskers,” Randy York quotes one fan who agrees with Perlman’s stance on a college football playoff. Dr. Keene Hueftle cites the current “obsession” with “imaginary ‘winners’” that has created a culture where everyone is “virtually yelling and interrupting and out-doing each other, trying to argue about “Who’s THE best.’” According to York, it’s people like Perlman and Hueftle who “put academics ahead of athletics on their respective priority charts.”
Which, I believe, is the rhetorical equivalent to the distraught mother from “The Simpsons” insistently asking everyone, all the time, to "think about the children!"
Now, I’m sure that Dr. Hueftle is a fine fellow, and I am reluctant to have a go at him in a public forum. But there’s so much wrong with York’s column that I think we have to drag the good doctor into the fray.
First of all, York’s condescending reference to Perlman and Hueftle as those who “put academics ahead of athletics on their respective priority charts” is the height of sophistry. It insinuates that those who want a playoff don’t care about the academic performance of football players.
Apparently York, Perlman and Hueftle don’t really give a rip about basketball players, who have to give up almost a month of their academic calendar to participate in March Madness. Or baseball and softball players, who have to (gasp) reschedule exams or taking finals in Omaha during the College World Series. Or FCS football players, who go through a 16-team playoff in November and December of each year.
For all of those kids, put athletics over academics, apparently.
Even worse, Perlman’s “plus-one” proposal does the exact same “damage” to the academic performance of FBS athletes that a four-team playoff would do. Both a playoff and a “plus-one” would have teams playing one additional game after the end of the regular season, then having two teams play one more championship game. Functionally, both a playoff and a “plus-one” add one more game for two more teams.
So, Mr. York, answer me this. If Perlman’s “plus-one” proposal and a four-team playoff have exactly the same number of games, why is Perlman the noble defender of education, while playoff proponents are evil monsters wanting to turn college football players into soulless vehicles of athletic content for television (otherwise known as college basketball players)?
For years, we’ve had to endure ridiculous arguments about why a playoff in college football is a bad idea. Unfortunately, now that we’re on the verge of a college football playoff, Nebraska's representatives seem hell-bent to keep looking ridiculous as long as possible.
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