Could College Football Have Playoffs and Keep the Bowls?
The first postseason college football game in 1902 was called the Tournament East-West Football Game. An interesting title, considering that 109 years later, there still isn't a tournament to determine the champion of major college football.
The game in 1902 was created by The Tournament of Roses Association and played at the site that would later be named The Rose Bowl in 1923.
Keeping the tradition of the venue where the first game was played, future post-season match-ups would be named bowls as well.
There are currently 35 bowl games, which means that more than half of the 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision qualify for one.
Many bowl advocates support the traditions that the college football bowls have brought throughout the years.
For many years, certain conferences were contracted to send their champions to specific bowl games. From 1948 to 1997, the Big Ten champion and Pac-10 (now 12) champion were contracted to play in the Rose Bowl.
The SEC champion played in the Sugar Bowl from 1975 to 1995. Traditionally, the Big 12 champion played in the Fiesta Bowl, and the ACC Champion played in the Orange Bowl.
Due to the bowl affiliations, No. 1 and No. 2 rarely played each other in bowl games throughout history. That would create drama, suspense and arguments around New Year's Day.
A team that started the day at No. 4 could possibly win the national championship if a few upsets occurred in other bowl games.
In 1998, the BCS was created. Its goal was to create a system where No. 1 would play No. 2 at the end of the season to determine a national champion, while keeping the traditions of the bowl games.
College football traditionalists support bowl games, and some will argue that the current system keeps the bowl tradition and is the best solution to create a national champion.
Others have the opinion that every bowl besides the BCS National Championship is a glorified exhibition game, and a playoff should be created so the champion will have to earn their championship on the field.
But what if we could have both?
Here is my proposal for a college football postseason that includes a 16 team tournament, while keeping every bowl game.
Structure of the Tournament
The college football regular season typically ends around the first week of December. Bowl season begins approximately two weeks after that.
The bowl games begin with lower tier games and end with the BCS National Championship around the second week of January.
In my proposal, the regular season would end one or possibly two weeks before it currently does.
Who would qualify for the 16-team tournament?
The champions of the major conferences. That would currently include five teams; the champions of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC. Sorry, Big East.
The three highest ranked conference champions from the mid-major conferences would qualify as well.
The other eight slots would be given as at-large bids to the eight highest ranked teams who were not conference champions.
There would be no committee selecting these teams, and there would only be one set of rankings.
Once the 16-team field is selected, the teams will be seeded in order of ranking.
How would the rankings be determined?
The formula would consist of one human poll and one computer poll.
The human poll would make up 75% of the ranking, while the computer poll would make up the remaining 25%.
I'm not entirely sure who would make up the human poll.
However, I am certain that coaches, who can't possibly have enough information on all 120 teams in the FBS, and who have an obvious conflict of interest, would not be a part of this formula.
Only one computer would be used to determine the computer ranking portion of each team's ranking.
Where would the games be played?
The first two rounds would be played at the home stadiums of the higher ranked teams.
The final four would be played at one neutral site with the semifinal games one weekend and the championship game on the following weekend.
The next page has a representation of the teams that would make up the four pods to create the final four if my proposed system were in place this season.
I used the current AP rankings to seed the teams. So that put the USC Trojans in here instead of the Virginia Tech Hokies.
What the 2011 Tournament Seedings Would Look Like
Below is what this year's tournament brackets would look like.
The semifinals would consist of the winners of Pod 1 vs. Pod 4 and the winners of Pod 2 vs. Pod 3.
The championship game would be the winners of the two semi-final matchups.
No. 1 LSU vs. No. 16 West Virginia; No. 8 Boise State vs. No. 9 Wisconsin
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Southern Miss; No. 7 Arkansas vs. No. 10 South Carolina
No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 14 TCU; No. 6 Oregon vs. No. 11 Kansas State
No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 13 Michigan; No. 5 USC vs. No. 12 Michigan State
What About the Bowls?
In 2011, 70 teams qualified for 35 bowl games. If 16 teams participated in a tournament, then the other 54 bowl-eligible teams would be selected to play in 27 of the bowl games.
Here is how the participants in the other 8 games would be determined.
The eight losers of the first-round games would be placed into four bowls, avoiding rematches if possible.
The four losers of the round-two games would be placed into two bowls.
The semifinal losers would play a bowl game to determine the third-place team in college football.
And the championship game would be the final bowl game.
Just like now, there would still be 35 bowl games.
Common Objections to a Playoff
The teams that advance to the semifinals will play too many games!
The typical BCS conference champion plays 14 games in a complete season: 12 regular-season games, a conference championship, and a bowl game
More often than not, three or four non-conference games each season are nothing more than scrimmages in uniforms. Is there really any reason for Alabama to play Georgia Southern in late November?
But even if the regular season were not shortened, there is evidence from other leagues that the season would not be too long.
FCS teams currently play a 12-game regular season and have a 16-team tournament.
The NFL has a 16-game regular season, plus preseason and postseason games.
I'm confident that FBS athletes could handle this proposed schedule.
There isn't enough time!
Alabama has had 40 days to prepare for LSU. Next objection?
The playoffs will be during final exams.
College basketball teams play nearly their entire non-conference schedule and the first week of their conference games while the teams in the BCS National Championship Game are practicing. College hoops teams rarely have more than one week off during December.
Don't they take final exams as well?
A playoff won't generate as much money.
Every money-making bowl would still exist under this proposal, plus 15 additional games. Next!
Some college football fans enjoy every bowl from the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl to the Cotton Bowl. Other fans want the champ to be crowned on the field.
Maybe there can be a solution for all of us.