It looks like college football is finally moving in the right direction.
The regular season still counts. There is even more money to be made. The rest of the bowls are still in place. There are two more intriguing games of college football for fans everywhere.
What took so long?
An oversight committee made up of 12 university presidents representing schools from various conferences approved a four-team college football playoff on Tuesday. The new format, which is scheduled to begin in 2014, was proposed by a group of 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
The basics of the new playoff, which still lacks a name, are that the four best teams will be chosen by a selection committee. The semifinal games will be rotated among six bowl games, and the championship game will be awarded to the highest-bidding city. In other words, book your tickets to Dallas in advance.
While some major details still need to be ironed out (who’s on the selection committee and how is the money divided?), the playoff format is pretty straightforward: four teams, three games over two weekends and one committee in charge of it all.
Personally, I would like to have seen a six-team playoff with the best two teams getting byes as a reward for the body of work they put in to climb to the top two spots.
But four teams is clearly an improvement. And we definitely don’t need an expansion that would push it to eight or even 16 teams, which is why it’s smart that the college presidents who approved the playoff deal locked up the four-team format that will start in 2014 until at least 2025.
As for those who say schools like Boise State and others from outside the five major conferences still have no shot, realize that each conference commissioner and a dozen university presidents representing schools with different caliber athletic programs all signed the deal.
Every. Single. One.
If a team can’t prove throughout the course of a season that it is one of the best four teams in the country, then it has a weak argument to make the national championship game. At the very least, their odds of getting a chance just doubled.
“The access for conferences throughout the FBS is going to be better in this system than the current system," ACC commissioner John Swafford told ESPN. "That's an important part of this. But you have to play your way in. That's a plus."
Nothing will be lost from the regular season because one slip up could eliminate a team from top-four contention, and two losses would unquestionably end a championship season. The plus side is that teams will now be more inclined than ever to play a stronger out of conference schedule to impress the selection committee, as strength of schedule and conference championships will be large parts of the equation.
There will always be critics. As March Madness has shown, even a 68-team field does not eliminate arguments over bubble teams. Yet there is a notable difference in arguing who is the second-best team in the country versus who is the fourth-best team. In fact, according to Virginia Tech president Charles Sterger, “A four-team playoff doesn't go too far; it goes just the right amount."
It may not be a perfect solution, but any fan of a playoff has to agree the new system is an upgrade. Before we blame the decision-makers for not going far enough, let’s give the new format a chance and continue to enjoy the most important regular season in all of sports.
See you in Dallas on January 12, 2014.