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The College Football Playoff: One More Game, Same Underlying Problems

Jim Delany Big Ten

For years, we longed for a college football playoff. Now, after a consulting firm weighed in, we have “the” college football playoff. The title is neither creative, not interesting. But when “The All State College Football Postseason Classic” was within the possibility spectrum, it could have been much worse. It could even have been “cutesy.” Now that the event is here. It’s worth reiterating: hardly anything has changed, besides the money.

The “playoff” does not resolve the BCS controversy, it just pushes it farther away from the top. It’s No. 4 vs. No. 5 that is contentious instead of No. 2 vs. No. 3. The major flaw with the BCS is the formula. It’s a steaming pile of inconclusive shit. It provides an answer, but one no more certain than any other method (and less valuable than ones with any statistical rigor). The selection committee will present the a similar problem.

The makeup of the selection committee is irrelevant. Even if they are well respected, it will still be guys sitting in a room. Their opinions won’t create closure. It will work when the answers are obvious and be ineffectual when they are not.

Sports Illustrated ran a mock committee. That committee resulted in 11-1 Kansas State, champion of what was statistically the second best conference, not even reaching the final round of voting to get into the final four. Why? Because Gene Smith thought “Oregon and Texas A&M would beat em.” A selection committee is the Harris Poll condensed.

A poll component will only inflame things. It will be as inane, nonsensical and quarrel creating as the current one. It’s needless. If the new BCS, by some miracle, could (or had the fortitude to) create a valid poll/ranking system, why have the selection committee?

Bowl corruption is a major problem under the present BCS.  The new system entrenches and expands the bowl corruption. More bowls are involved. Way more money (for strip clubs, political bribery, etc.) will be siphoned out to them. Not “decimating the bowl environment” was the principal reason the playoff stayed at four teams. At least the increased revenue stream will make it easier for schools to afford being gouged for tickets no one wants.

Access and revenue were issues under the BCS. That also will get worse under the new regime. The new playoff tilts even more heavily toward major conferences. They take in the predominant percentage of a much larger revenue stream. They have almost every (now much more lucrative) bowl place on lock down. They no longer have to pretend the Big East is a valued partner. Everyone wants strength of schedule to be a major component to make the playoff (without margin of victory). That benefits the big conferences.

The college football playoff is a modest improvement, but don’t call it reform. Administrators saw the opportunity make more money by adding one game. Like it was an empty husk of an athletic department atop a valuable television footprint, they pounced on it.

[Photo via USA Today Sports]

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