Full Disclosure: this article is recycled from one I wrote last year. Since there were only about 50 people to read the first version, why not retool and republish?
I must admit, college football is a beautiful thing. I love watching the game for its imperfections, variety, momentum shifts and overall emotion. On twelve Saturdays every fall, teams from across the country line up to play for little more than school pride, honor and victory (oh yeah, and a shot at making millions in the NFL.) Simply put, these guys have everything to prove—not only to themselves, but to their fellow students, fans and alums.
In my opinion, the greatest thing about college football is that every game counts. In college, a 60% winning rate gets coaches fired. In the NFL, it gives you a shot at the playoffs. In college, you play your biggest rivals once a year. In the pros, you play your divisional opponents twice. Something about that never made sense to me.
Bottom line is that any changes made to the game have to be for the better and without tarnishing or diluting the game. Here are the five things I would change (in Letterman-esque reverse order):
5. Eliminate conference affiliations for officials
How would I describe the officiating across the board? Atrocious, abysmal, appalling and awful come to mind. And that is just the A’s. Combine the adjectives with the fact that I am convinced that replay officials don’t understand the meaning of indisputable video evidence, and you have a recipe for games to be in the hands of the men in stripes—which is exactly where it doesn’t belong.
And while you are at it, how about a 30 sec time limit on reviews. Any longer than that, and the original call should stand.
4. Eliminate preseason polls
Basing a team’s potential on its previous season can only go so far. Just look at the Oregon and Auburn this year. Both teams started the year outside the Top 10, with AP rankings of #11 (Oregon) and #22 (Auburn). To little surprise, the Coach’s Poll looked pretty much the same, with Oregon at #11 and Auburn at #23.
Let’s get rid of the preseason rankings and start the polling process the first week in October. By that time, teams have played a minimum of three to four games and the “experts” can make informed decisions about who belongs in the Top 25. Also, let’s completely ban the practice of head coaches making a public case for where they feel their team should be ranked. Can’t we just let the on-field product speak for itself?
3. Disallow D-IA (or FBS) teams from playing D-IAA (or FCS) teams
Does anyone really want to watch Big State U vs. Tiny School from where? Not me. In order to increase the level of competition and have watchable games on a weekly basis, I would disallow this practice. At bare minimum, wins in these games shouldn’t count towards bowl eligibility.
2. Completely overhaul the overtime rules
Who thought it was a good idea to start teams in FIELD GOAL RANGE? It absolutely does not make sense. Never did, never will. I do like that both teams get the opportunity to score, so that will remain in my new system, as follows:
A) Each team starts with the ball at the 50 yard line. That way, you actually have to make a few first downs in order to score. If you think that is too far away, then I would settle for the 40, but no closer.
B) Each team gets one timeout per overtime session and each coach gets one challenge for the entire overtime.
C) Teams are required to go for two points starting in the second overtime. Most OT games don’t get to this point anyway, so what does it really matter?
D) If the game is still tied after 3 OTs, it ends in a tie. What is so bad about a tie anyway? If after 60 minutes and 3 OT sessions the score is even, then I call the game even. The world didn’t end before OT when plenty of games ended in a tie, nor will it if the rules get changed. Even the NFL allows ties, just ask Donovan McNabb.
E) The last team to score in regulation is required to take the ball first in overtime. You may not feel this is fair, but I think it makes sense and eliminates another coin flip.
1. Institute a playoff system
I must admit that I miss the chaos of the pre-BCS/Bowl Coalition New Year’s Day Bowl scene. A full day of football followed by a smoke filled room decision on who became the national champion wasn’t a bad thing in hindsight.
Simply put—the BCS system is a mess.
Before everyone gets carried away with the anti-BCS maelstrom, we should all remember that the system was put in place to have the #1 and #2 teams play in a match-up to decide the champion on the field. To date, the system has done a fairly good job of that.
What I dislike most about the current system is the politicking and jockeying for position that goes on throughout the season to gain a spot in one of the five games. A simple solution to this would be to install a six or eight team playoff system that incorporates the current BCS bowl alliances.
Here is how I think it would work:
A) Reduce the number of games played by each team from 12 to 11. You will see why in just a minute.
B) With an eight team playoff (which I would prefer), you need seven games to decide a champion. Take the current bowl alliance (Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange), each hosting the championship game once every four years and add the Cotton and Citrus bowl as the other two sites hosting games. This still leaves one game/site undecided. Can we get a game north of the Mason-Dixon line? Possible sites with indoor venues include Indianapolis, Detroit, St Louis, and Minneapolis.
Round one utilizes the Cotton, Citrus, the site to be determined and one of the other three (perhaps the host of the previous year’s championship game?). Round two uses the other two bowl games that weren’t used in Round 1. Three crazy weeks intermingled with the holidays. Can anything be better? I submit that it cannot.
C) On timing—the first round would take place during the week of Christmas (after finals have been taken by the student-athletes), the second around New Year’s Day (preferably on, but I’ll take what I can get), and the championship a week later.
D) On qualifiers—to be honest, I think automatic qualifiers should be thrown out the window. Once the “regular” season is over, most rational people could agree on what eight teams were the best throughout the season and deserve a ticket to the big dance. If three teams come from the same conference, who cares? If a particular conference isn’t represented, better luck next year.
I will even go so far as to volunteer to run the whole selection process.
E) Three additional games for the two teams playing in the championship game (plus one in a conference championship game), results in just 15 games in a season. There is no sound argument by college presidents to say that players are playing in too many games, especially since every team that plays in a conference championship game today already plays 14.
Of course, a playoff system will only get implemented once university presidents and the NCAA figure out how to make more money utilizing one than in the current system. Perhaps it will take a few split national champions (after all, the AP is not obligated to vote the BCS champion as its champion) or maybe just a lightning bolt of common sense to hit those in control.
The best part of all of this is that you don’t lose the existing bowl structure for everyone else. With 35 bowl games currently, this system still leaves 29 other games for those left out of the national title hunt. That means that 58 other teams still get the additional practice and glory of playing in a bowl. However, only teams secure a place in the post-season under my system.
Well, there you have it. My ways to make what is already a great thing just a little bit better. By no means do I think what I have proposed is perfect, but it couldn’t hurt anything. Or could it?