A Solution So Simple... How an 8-Team NCAA Playoff Might Have Played Out
Another season is over, and another opportunity to crown an uncontested NCAA champion in the FBS has been missed.
I have been championing an eight-team playoff to complement the existing bowl system for a while now among friends and (dis)interested parties. While it sort of demotes the Big East from the BCS, requires Notre Dame, Army and Navy to join a conference and costs student athletes at four institutions to play more than one bowl game, I believe it is satisfies the greed of the institutions and conferences in a financially-viable and public-satisfying way.
The rules are quite simple
- The top five BCS conferences (the Big East demoted) play a conference championship game to determine each conference's bid.
- The other six conferences (Big East, C.USA, Mid-Am, Mt. West, Sun Belt, WAC) regular season winners play three games the same weekend as the BCS conference championships, rotating the matchups and locations each year.
- The five BCS teams and three non-BCS winners play seven games on regionally-determined neutral sites based on the final NCAA polls... or even... duh, duh, da, duh... an ESPN selection show!
This means that EVERY team will have a chance at a national championship regardless of preseason ranking or conference. Win your conference and you're invited. Independents need to get off the fence.
The conference championships are played on championship weekend in early December or late November.
The four quarterfinals are played Christmas Eve and Day, the two semifinals are played on New Years Day and the championship game is played a week or 10 days later in prime time.
This builds a holiday football tradition, a la the Thanksgiving tradition the NFL has successfully created, which has been supplanted by the BCS in recent years when the good games weren't on New Year's Day anymore.
The format adds TV revenues to the NCAA via the playoff-implicating conference championships and the three additional "BCS" playoff games, as well as the additional interest for all of the BCS schedule created by the playoff. This is so simple and revenue-generating that it's sick.
What follows is what might have been had this system been created for the 2010-11 bowl season... just think what the NCAA has denied us.
The Conference Championship Games
Sure we got to see the SEC, ACC and Big 12 championship games this year. But what we missed out on was the matchup of Oregon vs Stanford and Ohio State vs Michigan State (sorry, Badger fans, gotta draw the line somewhere) for supremacy in the Pac 10 and Big 10, respectively.
I know Stanford and Oregon played in the regular season, but so did the Ravens and Steelers, Jets and Patriots and Packers and Bears. Rematches are great in football, especially when there are playoff implications.
Additionally, our other six conferences are offering up UConn vs Northern Illinois, Central Florida vs Florida International and Nevada vs TCU (Sorry Hawaii and Boise State fans, gotta go with the Wolf Pack here.)
Given the results of these championship or tournament of champions games, if you will, we head into the eight-team playoff with Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Oregon, Auburn from the BCS conferences and Northern Illinois, Central Florida and TCU (in a barn-burner, I might add).
The NCAA has its five powerhouse conferences invited, plus viewers in the Chicago, Orlando and Dallas area. That's media market Nos. 3, 20 and 7, if you're counting your advertising revenue at home.
Round 1: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Following the ESPN NCAA football selection show, the seeds have been set for the first-ever eight-team FBS college football tournament of champions.
The selection committee made the regional choices of Ohio State vs Northern Illinois, Oklahoma vs TCU, Auburn vs Central Florida, and was left with an odd east-west matchup of Oregon vs Virginia Tech to round out the tournament.
Despite the support of the fans in Soldier Field, Northern Illinois falls to the Buckeyes on a fourth quarter touchdown, but TCU kept the door open to a national championship with a big win in Dallas Stadium on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Day, Cam and the boys rolled over Central Florida, and Oregon fought off the charge of Tyrone Taylor on a last-minute drive to seal a semifinal matchup with Auburn.
Semi-Finals: New Years Day
The New Years Day experience is back! Games that actually matter are being played in front of record TV audiences longing for meaningful college football on what used to be college football's most meaningful day.
In the early game, the Horned Frogs battled the Buckeyes throughout and won on the second possession of overtime to secure the currently unlikely (read: impossible) scenario that TCU could stand toe-to-toe with the big boys in an NCAA championship game.
In the prime time slot, the Tigers kicked a last-second FG to win 22-19 (sound familiar?) and set up a David vs Goliath championship game that will draw interest of the interested and dis-interested all over the United States.
THE NCAA CHAMPION IS...
Well, we've gone all this way, and I still believe that the current NCAA champion is the right one. I think Auburn pulls this one out, as Cam Newton rebounds from his so-so effort against Oregon to win the title and stoke the "big boys rule football" argument.
However, TCU had a chance. It beat Nevada, Oklahoma and Ohio State along the way in non-conference matchups it could only dream of today.
How did we do with Nielsen and the boys? The regional games set attendance records, though the Oregon-Virginia Tech game was a tough sell on the people of Denver. The semi-final games were watched more than any non-championship bowl game in the last 5 years.
Finally, what happened to college football? Local players started looking more seriously at small conference super programs like Boise State and TCU because they realized they also had a ticket. It wouldn't be parity, per se, but it might create at least six programs that could compete with the big boys and come out of the non-BCS group with their guns-a-blazin'.