It would appear that the powers-that-be in major college football are finally going to sign off on having a playoff to decide a national champion.
The word “appear” is the most important word in that sentence.
Don’t for a second think that the commissioners in the Big Ten and the Pac-12 can’t still mess this up by holding to the ridiculous notion that the Rose Bowl must be the be-all and end-all for its conference champions.
But those two leagues aren’t the only problem. The commissioners of the other major conferences and school presidents have done their part in keeping major college football from having a playoff.
But for the sake of this commentary, let’s assume that this summer, everyone who needs to signs off on a playoff that would start in 2014.
In meeting last month, the commissioners of the BCS conferences quickly doused any idea of an eight-team or 16-team playoff. They announced that a variety of four-team event scenarios would be discussed with the schools in their conferences. They like to use the word “event,” as if “playoff” is a bad word.
A four-team playoff is fine, for the time being. It is better than what we have now. Hopefully, in the future, college football will be able to expand further.
The most important question will be how do the teams qualify or how are they selected.
In a perfect world, you would take the best 64 playing schools, put them in four conferences, and the winners of the conferences would qualify. This also would place the maximum value on the regular season.
But taking just conference champions would not always guarantee that you have the four best teams in the playoff. You only have to go back to last season to see a perfect example. Alabama and LSU were clearly the two best teams in the nation. However, LSU won the Southeastern Conference championship and during the regular season had beaten Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Under a conference-champions only playoff, LSU would have been one of the four teams in the playoff; Alabama would have been on the outside looking in.But if you decide to go with a playoff that includes the four best teams, then how do you decide which four are “best.” You either have to come up with some formula, such as the BCS, or you have a committee, such as the NCAA basketball committee.
Another question to be answered would be the site for the two semifinal games. It’s hard to believe that there is even consideration for having those games played at the top two seeds, i.e., on campus. Those semifinals should be played at neutral sites, which would give the BCS bowls a chance to be part of the process.
There are a couple more months before all the answers to the questions about a four-team playoff are made clear. With the BCS in charge, those answers might be tough to take.
Kevin Price, firstname.lastname@example.org