NCAA Football, What Is Wrong and How To Fix It...Without a Playoff!
The college football system is broken, it has been for decades.
Every year there is a mess of a debate over who is the best team in the land. Yes, there are a few years where the debate is non existent, but that is the exception, not the rule.
This year we have trouble brewing once again with Oregon and Auburn in the drivers seat, but TCU, BSU, and LSU have tickets ready as well. The worst case scenario for the BCS is if Auburn or Oregon lose a game and TCU, BSU, and LSU all win out.
This would create a value debate about whose schedule is worthy of a championship birth, whose team has more battle tested talent, and who just deserves to go. Personally, I hope the system collapses with a TCU versus BSU championship, and the SEC powers demand change.
So what is the problem? Why can't the NCAA get it right? They figured it out with basketball why not with football? Well the short answer is money and greed.
Ideally the pure way to determine a championship is a playoff system, but the individual conferences are worried about having the share the revenue that they currently hoard under the bowl system. The figureheads will give the tired excuses of the time the athletes would spend away from school, or that the bowls are full of tradition and they do not want to loose that.
Well, that would be an excuse if you already did not have lower level colleges playing full playoffs every year. As for the tradition argument? Very little in college football is about tradition anymore, the uniforms, stadiums, sponsorships and schedules all change regularly; you have professional agents running the asylum nullifying the amateur status of the athletes and the university presidents are worried about the tradition of the GalleryFurnature.com Bowl? Seriously?
What is the best way to determine a college football champion?
The current system is too top heavy biased, meaning those teams on top tend to stay on top. Mid level conferences (with increasing talent and competition) have little opportunity to climb the ladder to the top. Yes, BSU and TCU have accomplished great things, but it will not last, and they are working with a very small margin of error.
How is the system fixed? Not in one fell swoop, the problems are institutionalized and need to be addressed gradually over a long period of time. Here is a list of the fixes required to correct the system.
1. Implement an RPI ranking similar to NCAA basketball
For years the RPI has been a valuable tool to determine the how to rank the teams and seed them for the tournament. An RPI system would be even more useful in college football because of the disparity of the conferences and confusion about the legitimacy each undefeated season.
An RPI ranking would discourage SEC teams from scheduling East Tennessee State as a "key" non conference opponent. More meaningful games would be played in the non conference season and would go a long way to clarify the championship picture.
2. Standardize the college football season
This was done to a large extent a few years ago but it still needs some adjustments. Because some teams play in weaker conferences, those teams need to be given an opportunity to schedule an extra BCS opponent to even out their strength of schedule.
3. Develop a new ranking system
Frankly the current system is garbage. There is no place for a coaches poll in a ranking that determines who plays for the championship.
First step is the rid the rankings of coaches input, they do not see enough of the other teams to make an informed decision. Each team must be individually ranked offensively, defensively, and in special teams. Each rankings will include efficiency statistics that accurately details the quality of each team in each phase. Point differential will only count if a team wins in an upset, or looses a close game to a vastly superior opponent (heavily favored blowouts will not register).
Finally, each team has to play two conference games before they are eligible to appear in the championship rankings.
4. Develop an "And 1" system for the championship game
This is a multi-step process.
First, the bowl system will have to develop a system where No. 1 plays No. 2, No. 3 plays No. 4 and No. 5 plays No. 6.
Second, you make it a requirement that any team eligible for the national championship must win their bowl game. Third, you re-rank all the teams after the bowls have been played and the top two will play for the national championship.
This will not completely end the controversy but it adds another layer to weed out the teams that do not belong in the championship game. This system is brutal for the eventual champion to make it through, but it is a true test of the best team.
The bowls will mostly stay intact and continue to serve as grudge matches between the conferences and their tradition will continue.
5. Improve the business model
The problem that many smaller colleges face is that they have to compete with schools like USC that have a seemingly unlimited bankroll for athletics. A revenue sharing plan must more evenly distribute money across the college football landscape.
With money pouring in from TV deals and bowl endorsements it may be hard to break these traditions especially when the main benificiaries are also the biggest college football power brokers. Parity breeds competition and competition breeds revenue and this equation is a proven winner in the NFL and will also succeed in college football.
6. Clean up the funny business
The Cam Newton saga this year just highlights how dirty college athletics have become.
Agents have infected the college landscape like a tapeworm, and are just as hard to get rid of. The solution, punish the athletes, school officials and the agents that engage in rules violations.
Too often it is the innocent bystanders that suffer in the wake of scandals and to the violators go the spoils. The penalty must be hard and swift and needs to be long term. A life time ban would be levied on a player that did what Cam Newton is accused of doing and the same would go for the agent that facilitated the transaction.
Both parties would be banned from ever taking part in as much as a sorority bake sale on campus. Bowl bans and scholarship restrictions should only be a penalty if any member of the coaching staff is involved and remains the head coach. The NCAA can not prevent the coach from taking another job, but they can levy heavy fines on schools that decide to hire guilty parties (probation should follow the coach, not the innocent school).
Punishment for the players is a bit harder due to the fact they can just declare for the NFL draft and be done with college. A partnership with the NFL is needed to assure that players can not avoid punishment in this manner.
There isn't a fool proof way to fix all the problems with the college football system but the current system is much more broken than it needs to be. There is a severe lack of alturism that jeopordizes the future and integrity of the system. The love of money threatens this great sport and this is evident in the eventual demise of the Big XII, Texas demanded the world, and they got a scorched earth.
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