Breaking Up the BCS: 12 Steps to a College Football Playoff
It is obvious to everyone that follows major college football that a playoff is not only wanted, but needed to level the playing field across the country.
I haven't seen a poll that had less than 80 percent public support for a playoff system for the big boys of college football.
So what's the hold up?
Money. That is obvious to anyone with a pulse, even if the NCAA and the rich stakeholders of bowl games won't admit it.
I don't expect a playoff until a "historically great" team like Notre Dame gets the shaft.
If Notre Dame went undefeated this year, who would be put in the National Championship game?
Texas (assuming they win the Big XII)? The SEC Champion (Florida or Alabama)? Or Notre Dame?
That kind of controversy is the only thing that will get the people what they want. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened yet, but with six undefeated teams remaining after the regular season has ended for most teams, this year has been the best in terms of an argument for a playoff.
*I-A and I-AA is much less confusing than FBS and FCS, so that is what is used in this article
Step 1: No polls until after the fourth week of the season
Many companies use the excitement of an upcoming football season to make money (what else?) off the fans with preseason polls and the controversy they create.
I am all for capitalism, but these polls are horribly flawed, and in my opinion the single weakest point in today's BCS system.
1. How in the world does one know how good a team is going to be with the attrition that each team suffers every year?
2. Teams ranked very high who lose to unranked teams almost always tumble more than 10 spots in the second poll. A lot of the time, that unranked team is actually a great team, and, you guessed it, the preseason poll had them ranked too low.
3. The above scenario also quickly labels the highly ranked team that was beaten "overrated". That label sticks with that team all year, and affects the mindsets of voters.
There are other scenarios that are just as bad, but I believe everyone can agree that preseason polls can only hurt the process, and in no way help it.
Step 2: Eliminate the Coaches Poll unless...
The USA Today's Coaches Poll allows 59 I-A coaches to vote each week to determine the Top 25 teams in the Country.
I believe this poll should be eliminated unless:
1. All I-A coaches should have to vote. I am not sure there is a good reason to allow only half to vote.
2. The coaches' votes should be made public. This is an obvious integrity check, and it boggles the mind why it isn't currently done this way.
3. A grid of each coaches' vote should be available online for public scrutiny.
In my opinion, coaches already have enough on their plate, and they certainly don't have time to watch and follow every team in country. Their bias can be minimized by displaying it publicly, but it only opens them up to even more pressure from media and fans "to do the right thing".
Does Ohio State's Jim Tressell vote for Michigan above his own team? What if Rich Rodriguez doesn't have a vote in a year when they are in the thick of things?
I say eliminate it.
Step 3: Harris Poll should be public
For the same reasons above. This is simply an integrity check.
The AP poll is public, why not the Harris and Coaches polls?
If someone doesn't want their vote to be made public, then they shouldn't participate. It isn't like they are voting for POTUS.
Step 4: Combine the best teams from the WAC and Moutain West Conferences
Some of the biggest concerns by fans and media are that the WAC and Mountain West Conference do not stack up to the likes of the SEC, PAC-10 etc.
1. I believe the new conference should roughly consist of the following teams: TCU, Utah, BYU, Nevada, Boise St., Air Force, Wyoming, Fresno St., Idaho, Hawaii, Colorado St, and Louisiana Tech.
2. Teams in this new conference would be eligible to make the playoffs if they meet all playoff criteria outlined in this article
Step 5: Combine the 12 best teams from Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt
Same as above but consisting of the 12 best teams from these three conferences.
Step 6: Only teams in the Eight
I almost want to say that teams not included in the "Power" conferences can either drop to I-AA or become independent, but I doubt that would ever happen.
Here is what I think is more reasonable.
1. ACC, SEC, PAC-10, BIG East, Big 10, Big XII, MWC/WAC consolidation, and C-USA/MAC/Sun Belt consolidation are the "Power" Conferences.
2. Every conference should include 12 teams.
3. Teams not included in these "Power" conferences can participate in the playoffs if they become "Independent", and schedule teams from the "Power" conferences. This is very similar to Notre Dame.
With eight “Power Conferences” of 12 teams, that leaves 24 teams to become “Independent”, drop to I-AA, or create their own conferences.
Teams in these “Power” conferences are eligible only if they meet the other requirements outlined in this article.
Step 7: Eliminate games versus FCS (I-AA*) opponents
Though some I-AA teams have beaten their I-A opponents in recent years, this is nothing more than a scrimmage for most I-A teams.
If anything, a loss to a tough I-A team should count more than a win over a I-AA team.
The playoff system probably eliminates this anyway, because losing to a I-A opponent or two doesn't kill a team's chances at a national championship like it does in today’s BCS system.
If an I-AA teams wants the competition, then they should take the step up to I-A.
Step 8: Each "Power" conference team who wishes to participate in the playoffs must play two teams from other "Power" conferences
I realize there are some logistical issues here, as well as ways to skirt this rule. That said, the strength of schedule that the computers calculate will end up determining whether the school makes the cut or not.
In example, if a team from the MWC/WAC consolidation schedules the two worst teams from C-USA/MAC/Sun Belt as their two "Power" teams, then it will be reflected in the calculations. This most likely would hurt their standing.
However, I think a rotation of games between the conferences would be best.
1. The schedule would be based upon the previous year’s standings
2. The top team from one conference would play the top teams from two other conferences. The team that finished second in one conference would play the second ranked teams from two other conferences. And so on.
3. The conference carousel would change every year, much like the NFL division rotation.
In example, Alabama would play its eight SEC games. It would then play two teams from other “Power” conferences.
If this plan was implemented in 2010, they may play Texas and Georgia Tech, the first place teams from the BIG XII and ACC from 2009, respectively.
Assuming Alabama finished second in the SEC in 2010, they would then play the second place teams from the MWC/WAC consolidation and the PAC-10 in 2011.
Step 9: Each "Independent" team who wishes to participate in the playoffs must play 8-10 teams from "Power" conferences
This allows a team such as Notre Dame or an up and coming team not from a "Power" conference to participate in the playoffs.
I don't think this would be a logistical nightmare, as most teams outside of the "Power" conferences aren't going to try to attain a strength of schedule similar to Notre Dame's.
Step 10: Eliminate the Conference Championship games
Again, this is all about money. There is really no other reason to have such a game.
1. The best two teams don't always play each other. Sometimes the fourth or fifth best team is in the championship game for a given conference.
2. No one cares. Seriously, who cares who wins the ACC Championship game this year, outside of Clemson and Georgia Tech? The only reason anyone cares about the SEC championship, is because it determines who goes to the BCS title game.
The money will be replaced many times over with a playoff. Trust me.
Step 11: Bowls during the week between playoff games
This allows all the schools outside of the Top 16 teams to participate in postseason play.
Step 12: 16 Team Playoff, four weeks, single elimination
Building off the changes outlined above:
1. The playoff should start the first Saturday in December and continue until the championship game between the only two teams left standing. This eliminates the 40-50 day gap between the final game of the year, and a bowl game that a lot of teams face. A huge gap like that is an issue because teams can get rusty, and really isn't fair to teams who have momentum in their favor at the end of the year.
2. Please don't start with the "Academics" arguments. I-AA schools have exams in December too.
3. The 16 seeds are determined using the current BCS formula (Champions Calculation), with the changes outlined in this article, as well as including the AP poll.
4. All "Power" conference champions, determined by record, are included.
5. If a "Power" conference champion isn't among the Top 16 teams in the Champions Calculation, then they are inserted as the 16th seed, bumping the calculated 16th seed.
6. Games are played at the higher seed's home stadium except for the championship game. This allows schools from the Big 10 and other places up north to get the same advantage that schools from the south have been enjoying forever.
7. If there is a stadium that would accommodate (more seats) both schools better within a 100-200 mile radius of the higher seed, then that stadium could be used.
8. The championship game would rotate between stadiums across the country, similar to the Super Bowl.
What about Orange, Rose, Sugar, and Fiesta Bowls?
I realize there are some traditionalists out there who don't even want a playoff, but there are many who want a playoff and keep the bowls.
I believe they can integrate these four bowls into the playoff system.
But I am not against eliminating them either.
No one is going to miss them outside of those who play in the Rose Bowl—Big 10 and Pac-10 fans.
Will it happen?
No system is perfect—including this one—but most of us can agree the current system is not even close.
There are always naysayers, like TCU's Gary Patterson saying he prefers the bowl system over a playoff, but they almost always have a personal agenda.
"Is it easier to win one game for a championship? Or to have to win four?" Patterson asked. "If you have a playoff, you practice and get on a plane and play. And if you lose, it's over. If you go to a bowl game, you're there seven days and the kids can enjoy a place and get rewarded."
No kidding coach. It isn't supposed to be easy.
Of course he would say that, as it benefits his particular team greatly. TCU plays 10 cupcakes a year and a couple of mediocre teams, and people want to put them in the BCS title game (Please read my Tiger Woods analogy to understand my argument).
Are they the best? It is definitely possible, but the playing field isn't level. TCU's toughest opponent all year was Clemson, who is a loss away from dropping out of the Top 25.
A playoff won't always crown the "best" team, but it does crown the team who is playing the best—on the field.
And that is better than what we have now.