Playoffs vs Bowl Games

Before the BCS pairings were even announced yesterday I heard people talking about how this year should be conclusive evidence that we need to have a playoff for the National Championship in NCAA Football. I disagree. I think that Mike Lopresti got it right (again):

So ends an entirely captivating, wildly absorbing, deliciously unpredictable college football regular season. And now at the finish, what do we see?

Controversy. Mayhem. Protests.

Ain’t it great?

Here comes the BCS bashing, clanging like cymbals in a band, guaranteeing peace in our time — if only there could be a playoff.

Yeah, right. Put eight teams in a playoff. One would have to be Georgia, of course. Hottest team at the end, and all that.

Now go tell that to Tennessee, who won the division that Georgia could not, and beat the Bulldogs head-to-head by three touchdowns. And what about Hawaii? You going to have eight teams in a playoff and leave out the only team in the land with a 12-0 record? Or 11-1 Kansas? Or Missouri, which somehow fell from No. 1 to the Cotton Bowl in 24 hours? Just a few of many dilemmas.

The howls can be heard, though, now that the bowl pairings are out.


No it didn’t, because there is no right answer. Not for the BCS. Not for a playoff. Someone will always feel shafted. Someone will always have another case to make. There will always be politicking, because if you need two teams, you can’t pick three. And if you need eight, you can’t choose nine.

He missed one thing there – college athletes are not professionals. I know, they work as hard as the professionals (perhaps harder) but thankfully they are still expected to be students and do more than take the field for our entertainment. The fact that we have an imperfect BCS system means that we as fans get to participate in a much more animated discussion surrounding what is happening, right or wrong, in college football. The fact that we don’t have a fool-proof way to declare a champion every year might serve to remind us that there is more to life than sports – no matter how entertaining those sports may be.

Let’s not ruin that by throwing together an imperfect playoff system that would concentrate more money in the big name leagues than we already have and give us the false sense that we really were getting the right champion every time. We’ll never be able to get a football playoff large enough (like the 65-team March Madness) so that the schools at the bottom of the pool will prove each year that while they might surprise us they still never win it all. Each time the lowest seeded team wins we have to wonder why not number 9, or 17, or 66?

Let’s just admit that the system is imperfect but the goal is entertainment, not clarity.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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7 Responses to Playoffs vs Bowl Games

  1. Jeremy says:

    We need a playoff. You’re right that #9 or #10 might be controversial but in the end there will be fewer controversies over the #1 and #2 teams than we’ve had over the years. There have been too many terrible calls by BCS over the years and the injustices which have occured cheat the teams which really do deserve a chance to show why they were the best.

  2. David says:

    Is it so important to know who was “the best” every year? I agree that it’s nice to know, but sometimes we need the reminder that “being the best” is not as important as “doing your best.”

    I’m sure that we agree that there are some players and teams that are doing their best even though they are not even close to being the best.

  3. Bill says:

    Let’s skip to the chase!!!!

    Let’s just have a computer randomly generate the teams that will play in the bowl games; regardless of records, statistics, or even reasonable assumption.

    If we do that, we can still be entertained, even if it’s University of Oklahoma vs. University of Idaho. We can still enjoy watching U of I get “Vandalized”. And, nobody would have to worry about what is fair!!! Nobody could expect it!

  4. Yeah, the BCS stinks. However, more than anything, bowl inflation has really diminished the importance of a bowl game. UCLA’s coach got his team to a bowl game against the champion of the MWC. That accomplishment got him fired.

    BYU should be really excited to play a team that was so honored to be in a bowl game with them that they fired their head coach. Yipee.

  5. David says:

    Call me picky Bill, but I don’t think it would be very entertaining to see the Indianapolis Colts play Bountiful Junior High School (and really Oklahoma and University of Idaho is just about like that).

    I say we stick with what we have. We should accept that picking a champion in football is not on the same level of importance as picking the leaders of our nation. That might remove the sting when we quit pretending that we do, or even should have a perfect system for choosing the national champion each year.

    And Obi wan – I would be very happy to see the number of bowl games reduced to where being invited meant more than “congratulations you didn’t have a losing record.”

  6. We should have the top 16 teams in BCS have a playoff. It would take 4 extra weeks for the best two teams. That would solve all the problems, except that it would create a whole set of new ones. But that would be like 8 + 4 + 2 + 1 bowl games. Okay, then, the top 32 teams and 5 weeks and 16 + 8 + 4 + 2 + 1 bowl games. That’s about as many bowl games as they have now. Then they have a lottery to see which bowl hosts which game in which round.

  7. David says:

    One of the problems with any playoff system (especially at the 1A or FBS level) is that instead of money going to 60+ teams who play in bowl games it would go to 16 or 32 teams. Imagine how lopsided it would become after a couple of programs have managed to play 4 or 5 extra games per year and make money from each of those 4 or 5 games.

    I say keep the controversy and ditch the dream. I prefer the current set of problems.

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