BCS vs. Playoffs: Playoffs Are Better

Ian_InsideTheShoe's picture
March 22, 2011 at 6:44a
1 Comment

First posted at Inside The Shoe

Ed. Note: The first in a series of posts between Brady and Danny on what system is better: The BCS, or the Playoffs.

The NCAA basketball tournament is at full throttle and our Ohio St. Buckeyes have been as good as advertised up to this point. George Mason hardly stood a chance on Sunday with OSU’s onslaught of 3 pointers and the physical presence of Jared Sullinger on the inside. The Buckeye’s move on to Newark, NJ to face the Kentucky Wildcats on Friday night. With any luck, and continued hot shooting from the outside, OSU will move to the regional finals against the winner of North Carolina/Marquette for a chance to head down south for the Final Four.

Without a doubt, March Madness is this country’s greatest sporting event. The excitement and revenue that is generated from this tournament is astronomical. There are upsets and buzzer beaters every year that get your heart pumping no matter what team you root for personally. Nothing can compare to the drama that Cinderella teams such as Butler and George Mason create when they beat the odds and take down national powers. I am not a huge Basketball fan by any means but am gripped annually by this event.

With all the success and excitement that Basketball creates in this country every March, I wonder what football could do with a similar format. The ridiculous, unfair and laughable way the NCAA decides to crown its’ champion on the gridiron still dumbfounds myself and the population at large. Tournament brackets are so easy and obviously fair to set up one can lose their mind trying to figure out why a computer formula is in charge of crowning a champion. This is America! We decide things on the field.

My colleague Danny at ITS seems to think that the BCS is a fair and objective way to decide the NCAA football champion. Over the next few posts we will explore some of the issues and have an ongoing back and forth… like a virtual argument. Feel free to add your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below as this is always a hot button topic sure to bring out some interesting opinions.

My first, and most obvious argument, is that every other sport in this country (including lower divisions in college football) have a bracket style tournament where things are decided on the field. Many against a college football playoff have said that loss of class time and damage to bowl tradition are adverse effects to this style. I want to address both of those.

Losing school time due to travel and extra games is laughable in my opinion. The end of the football season comes towards the winter break for most schools and allows ample time for scholarly activities during the week. As I mentioned, all other divisions of college football have figured out a way to play these extra games without damage to the student athlete. What about the 4-6 weeks of down time between conference championships and the bowl games? You’re telling me there isn’t a way to fit an 8 game playoff in that time?
The other major issue is what to do with the bowl games. There is a rich and long history with the major bowl games that many don’t want to mess with. I kind of understand that point of view but if we want a playoff, collateral damage is unavoidable.

The man with the plan

There are many suggestions on how to incorporate the bowl games into a playoff system but they would never be the same. I can live with that if only to see the fat cats on bowl committees lose their six figure salaries. These men, and the college presidents, are the one standing in the way of what most of the country wants. Why? Money… it’s always money. These men are very powerful and don’t want to lose the easy payday that comes every year. Until this problem is dealt with, it is going to be an uphill battle.

Well Danny, the first shot has been fired across your bow. What say you?

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NW Buckeye's picture

This debate will go on forever - even after we implement a playoff system.  And, yes, it will be implemented because people who have nothing to do with playing the game will force it. 

This year's B-ball tourney shows both the strengths and weaknesses of a playoff system, but most of us will choose to just see the positives.  One can point to the fact that Butler, Arizona (both in the elite 8), Marquette, Richmond, Va Commonwealth, and Fl St are examples of why the tourney works.  They could still win it all.  None of them were in the top 25 at seasons end, and justifiably so.  Their season records did not merit consideration for a top 25.  One could argue that several of them should not have even made it to the tourney.  Yet, here they are, in the sweet 16, and most likely at least 4 of them will be in the Elite 8. There is a great shot at one of them becoming the champion of the tournament.  With that will come a #1 national ranking.  But are any of them really deserving of being the #1 team for the overall season, let alone being ranked in the top 10?

Tournaments, playoffs, what ever you want to call them, produce a tournament champion.  As we all witness in the NCAA basketball event, it is all about matchups, game locales, officiating, injury and sickness status, and a variety of other variables that can not be controlled by participating teams or tourney officials.  And controversy abounds.  We have teams crying about not making the field of 68!  Heck, we have national sports experts (self appointed) bemoaning the fact that officials actually had the gall to call fouls committed in the last 1.5 seconds of a game, even though they were fouls. 

Yes indeed, a national playoff in football would eliminate controversy.  But, it will generate some as well.  Proponents here are saying an extended playoff would not harm student athletes in any way.  Reasons range to "we already do this in basketball" to "Losing school time due to travel and extra games is laughable in my opinion".  Yep, both valid arguments.  Yet the first one loses much credibility because of the nature of the games.  It is proven through conference basketball tourneys that basketball players can play as many as 4 or 5 games in a weekend and still win a tourney and function normally after the games are done.  Try doing that in football.  Yes, no one is trying to play multiple college football games on a weekend, but take a look at HS playoffs around the country.  There are many teams that because of season league standings or other considerations have to play 3 games in a span of 6 days.  Good for the athletes?  Ask any of the athletic trainers, and they will not come up with anything positive to say about it.  My only point here is that you can not compare basketball to football - two entirely different sports all together.  So when you point to the NCAA Bball tourney as an example, you lose all credibility.  The best comparison that you can draw is the NFL playoffs.  And, we all know that those playoffs have shown no ill effects for the players.  Yeah, right.  Tell that to Bret Favre. 

I did coach HS football.  We have playoffs there.  And, yes, I did see the way it impacted the athletes.  We lost our starting Q one year in our 3rd playoff game.  He was speared by a tackler (clearly an illegal hit - it was not penalized because playoff officials have a tendency to let them play).  The hit broke his sternum.  He was never the same after that.  Many schools were interested and were talking about offers before that hit.  No offers materialized after that hit.  The kid had a lot of talent - would have made a great college Q.  That playoff game changed his life.  Nothing will ever convince me that the extended high stakes season had no impact on that man's life. 

Student athletes will have their school time effected in some way.  There will be an impact, whether through just playing the games, or lingering effects from a 4 game or more playoff.  And, don't kid yourself.  Once you involve 4 teams in a playoff it is only a matter of time before it expands to 8, 16, 32, etc.  The Bball tourney is evidence of that. 

And now we have Mark Cuban clamoring for a 16 game playoff.  His reasoning?  It will be a cash bonanza.  Yep, playoffs always generate gobs of money.  Try telling that to the conferences that sponsor year end playoffs.  The only conference that has come close to making it work is the SEC.  All the others have LOST money.  You can say that it is simply because those conferences don't generate enough interest in football, but hey, those are the same teams that everyone wants to include in a 16 game playoff.  Yet, Mark Cuban can not possibly be wrong - he is a sports authority.  After all, look at the success he has had in the NBA, all those NBA championship banners.  Oh wait, he doesn't have any?  Mark's whole approach to a playoff system is to throw enough money at it until if forces the NCAA to implement.  Fine and dandy, but what happens after they start?  Is Mark always going to be there to fill any shortfalls that may occur?  Oh, that's right, proponents say there won't be any shortfalls.  All playoff teams will experience a cash surplus.  Games between Boston College and Utah will fill the big house.  TV ratings will soar.  The bad news is that there are teams in the NCAA Bball tourney that actually lose money.  Hard to believe.   Mark is a business man first.  He is all about making money.  The only reason he is throwing his hat into the ring is because he believes it will make him money because of the publicity.  What?  A capitalist taking a capitalist approach?  Preposterous. 

I know this is sounding like I am against a playoff system.  I really am not.  I just don't believe it will be the cure all that writers like Ian profess.  You can not sit back and cherry pick the positives to prove the success of a playoff system.  There will be negative effects.  For any proponent to ignore them so blatantly like Dan Wetzel (a self appointed expert who never played or coached the game) is both asinine and ignorant.  Both systems have their flaws.  Proponents of each are all to quick to point out the problems of the system they don't like while candy coating their own.  Ian is quite guilty of this with this post.

When a playoff system is implemented I just pray that they participants will be the ones who deserve to be there based on a season's worth of work and will not include teams who get healthy and hot at the end of the season.  (Va Commonwealth is a great example of this in the Bball tourney - they don't deserve to be there).