Jun 29, 2012
Every March fans from all over the country cannot wait for the brackets to come out so they can try their hardest to pick the Final Four and championship winner. Whether it’s done by picking mascots, location, hottest alumni, picking higher seeds or underdogs, it seems that everyone gets into it, even non-sports fans.
In June the College World Series takes over Omaha, NE and again a playoff settles the National Champion. Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, Softball, Soccer, Lacrosse, Wrestling, etc, the NCAA National Champion is crowned through a playoff tournament. FCS (formerly known as DI-AA), Division II and Division III all have playoffs to determine their National Champion. Does the best team that season always win? No, but that’s what makes it fun sometimes.
The last few professional championships have been won by a team that caught a hot streak at the right time and won over opponents that probably should have won. The 2011 Giants were one play away from not even making the playoffs, the Mavericks of 2011 were slumping when the playoffs started, the 2011 Cardinals were one inning away from staying at home last October and the 2012 LA Kings that just won the Stanley Cup were an 8th seed in the Western Conference, all overcame the odds and beat the favorites to win the Championship.
Bowls have been a part of College Football
since 1902 when Michigan and Stanford faced off in the 1902 Tournament East-West game hosted in Pasadena, CA now known as the Rose Bowl. Legends were born in bowls, Vince Young in the 2005 and 2006 Rose Bowls, Andy Dalton leading TCU over Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl, Herschel Walker in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, Joe Namath in the 1965 Orange Bowl, Jim McMahon in the 1980 Holiday Bowl, Joe Montana in the 1979 Cotton Bowl and the list goes on and on of bowl memories. While bowls are usually a positive for a university, lately there has been a lot of negativity for the bowl system, especially the Bowl Championship Series.
The Bowl Championship Series or BCS was founded in 1998 to organize the bowl system and hopes to crown an outright National Champion. The Championship game alternated between the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl and the Rose Bowl. The top two teams in the BCS rankings would play for the championship while the other games were held together by traditional conference tie ins and the winners of the six power conferences (ACC, Big10, Big12, Big East, Pac10 and SEC) would get an automatic bid with two at large bids, usually also being from those conferences or Notre Dame. The past few years, teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences like Boise State, Hawai’i, TCU and Utah have pushed their way into the BCS talks and all three have wins over major teams like Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Alabama, in fact the non-AQ teams have a record of 4-1 against the big boys (the exception coming in 2009 when undefeated Boise State and TCU got pitted against each other rather than having a chance to play for the National Championship) but they have never had the chance to compete in the Championship game for the AFCA Trophy.
Also, the automatic qualifying conferences made hundreds of millions more in revenue compared to the non-automatic qualifying conferences which have many smaller schools crying foul. Then there have also been situations where teams like Auburn and Cincinnati who finished the regular season undefeated but were passed over to for a chance to play for the National Championship or teams from the big six conferences that qualified for a bowl game when they probably had no business being there, like UConn and Wake Forest.
There is now a four team playoff where the top four teams will be picked by a selection committee. More than likely they will be picked from the bigger conferences and probably the schools from smaller conferences still won’t have a chance, but the chances for them have gotten better. If you can make it to the final four, anything can happen. Think back to 2004 and what an Auburn/USC matchup could have been or even last year an Alabama/Oklahoma State game.
The real winners of the playoff will be the fans who will now have another week of football
and a chance to see the top four teams battle it out for the right to be the Champion instead of two teams who will probably start the season at the top of the rankings and stay there all year long. Other winners to the new format are bowls like the Cotton Bowl or Capital One Bowl (Citrus Bowl) who have long played a role in college football tradition and cities like Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis, Indianapolis or Houston who now can try and vie for a chance to host a Semi-Final or National Championship game where they haven’t been able to before because of the exclusiveness of the BCS.
Will the four team playoff be the perfect answer that everyone wants? No. Will there be flaws? Probably so. Will there be teams, alumni bases and fans that think they are being cheated about not having a chance to be in the playoffs? Yes. However it is a start in the right direction where at the end of the season there will be a clear picture of who the Champion is. Now if the NCAA presidents could get together and discuss cutting some of the crazy bowl games that no one attends and 6-6 and 7-5 teams earn bids to, but that is a whole different discussion for a different time.
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