Nick Saban Calls for Changing Bowl Selection, Wants It Similar to Basketball

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2014

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Conference scheduling and the College Football Playoff selection committee have been two of the hottest topics this offseason, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban touched on both of them with one statement Tuesday afternoon.

Per Michael Casagrande of, Saban proposed that the entire system of bowl assignments be changed to something that resembles the selection process of the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, where a selection committee chooses who gets in, who's left out and all the first-round matchups.

In Saban's own words:

I think we have to change the whole system. I understand everybody's point of view on this. Everybody wants to be bowl eligible, they look at it like if we have another conference game, that's seven more losses of everyone which would minimize the number of teams that could get in bowl games.

Well I think on the other end of it, the committee that's going to pick the top four teams for the playoff are really picking the top 12 teams for all six sort of championship bowl games, whatever they call it now. Well, why don't we do it like basketball and let them pick all the teams for all the bowl games. Then it doesn't matter what your record is.

I mean, who's to say having six wins and having a 6-6 season is what qualifies to go to a bowl game. If you play in the tough league and you play a tough schedule and you win a couple big games — RPI or whatever you want to call it — and even though you may lose to some very good teams, you should still have an opportunity to go to a bowl game because your team may be better than another team who played a lesser schedule.

In short, Saban is suggesting we rethink the definition of bowl eligibility. Instead of requiring a team to go .500 to make the postseason, why not allow the selection committee to select bowl teams on a case-by-base basis, rewarding, say, a 5-7 team that played a difficult schedule and proved it could beat quality teams.

Tennessee in 2013 jumps out as an example.

In Saban's mind, this would quiet the outcry against the SEC and ACC, two conferences that opted to keep an eight-game conference schedule over the nine-game model preferred by the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. If playing more non-conference cupcakes did nothing to improve a team's bowl chances, less teams would be inclined to do it.

At that point, more teams might be willing to schedule harder foes in non-conference play. Because wins would no longer be viewed without context, they would start searching for a quality victory.

"If we do that, then more people would not be so concerned about the type of schedule they played and the number of wins that they got," said Saban, per Casagrande. "Which, my whole thing is, improve the number of good games for the fans."

Alabama started the season with a marquee game against Michigan in 2012.
Alabama started the season with a marquee game against Michigan in 2012.Leon Halip/Getty Images

It sounds charming in the abstract, but a move such as this is unlikely to happen. The selection committee already has a discomforting amount of power, and this would only add to it.

Not all 6-6 teams are created equal, and a 5-7 team from the SEC is almost always better than a .500 team from the Sun Belt. But once you give the committee a chance to select each bowl team subjectively, it opens the flood gates to a slippery slope. It's not like the basketball model has been without controversy.

When Saban talks, the NCAA typically listens. It did for a while during the 10-second run-off debacle earlier this summer (allegedly), and it will continue to consider his proposals—as it should.

But this one seems a little too radical.


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT