On Friday, tBBC turns 5. Or, as Jeff says “we’re old enough to be in kindergarten!” which will come as no surprise to all eight of our regular readers. You’ll also be happy to know that we’ve officially stopped eating paste.
So, to celebrate we “veterans” are taking a look back and re-posting our favorite articles from our time on the intertrons. Since I’m going first, I’m going to reach deep into the archives to pull up something from our time at SBN- my suggestions for “fixing” the BCS via conference realignment/expansion. Building on some of the “Bowl Crap” series that I did, I was working with Rob Harley’s ideas and those of a faithful reader, but it’s interesting how close to this is to what might be happening over the next week or so.
Granted, my idea included 6 conferences and not 4; but it did forsee a situation where the conference championship games were the first round of the tournament. Looking back… I think I like where we’re headed better.
Oh, and this was originally a two part post, so if you print it for “reading” at “work”, be warned that it may be a longer trip to the lounge than usual. Enjoy!
For the record, I’m not a proponent of playoffs. I actually liked the way things used to be with conference bowl tie-ins and such; arguing about who was #1 back in the day was a part of the enjoyment of the game, in my opinion.
But, since you asked me, if we were going to have a playoff this is what it should look like. Unlike some people, I’m not going to tell you what won’t work- I’m taking a flier on what would ooze awesomeness. Caution is advised; some items may shift during the duration of this posting.
A lot of this is based on the bowl history series I did back on the old site. It might not be a bad idea to give it a look-see if you haven’t already:
For those of you who didn’t want to tear a tendon in your clicking finger, let me sum up the relevant parts for this discussion: The old bowl system (PreCS) was flawed in it’s ability to create a national champion, since it didn’t exist for that purpose. The original purpose was money; tourism, money for sponsors, etc. It will be impossible to lose this system and start from scratch because of the “tradition”, the money, and the fact that the NCAA has been told in federal court that they cannot legislate post-season activity.
So- on to the philosophical guidelines and overarching principals.
We have to keep money in mind; both for the sponsors and for the institutions. As such, a lengthy playoff won’t work- most schools don’t have the resources for a long post season like they do at other levels of NCAA Football, and the fans (true fans, not rich boosters or hangers on like you see at the Super Bowl) don’t have the funds for travel to multiple sites.
Second, we need to keep the bowls around and use them as best as possible. They do have great tradition, and (as a mid-western guy) provide ideal vacation spots in January. But, we should also seek to remove the home field advantages that occur, as best as possible. This means that, while the bowls would still be an important part of this discussion, conference ties would need to be dissolves (and yes, I’m looking at you Pasadena).
A third major change would be the end of the pre-season poll. Other people have said this much better than I could (Heisenberg principal? Wow…), and even point out that the BCS numbers use the Harris poll which does not release rankings until late September, after teams have actually played. Pre-season AP polling impacts national opinion, and takes away from the “win it on the field” idea that a playoff would allegedly correct.
Fourth major change: schools would need to go back to only playing 11 games a season. Again, this hits the pocketbook; most institutions have used the extra games to schedule cupcakes at home for the ticket revenue (which is funny when it backfires). This would help address one of the major criticisms of playoffs- the season would run too long. Wiht 11 reScheduling changes should also be made to ensure that seasons start and end at the same time, and that schools only have one bye week a year (unlike some folks ). To be honest, I think that this recommendation would be the one that most programs would balk at; especially since it hits every program equally.
Final change: Conferences. There would need to be six 12 team conferences, meaning that the Big T1e1n, Big East, and Pac-10 would need to add members. These could chose to do so from the smaller conferences (WAC, Conference USA, etc.) around them. As a corollary, major independents would need to join a conference. While this would kill Notre Dame (who would finish in the middle of the Big 10 most years), it would level the playing field and give us a chance to compare similar schedules. These conferences would need to add a championship game as well; if that means scheduling like the Big 12 and SEC does (east/west, north/south), so be it.
Yes, I know that this screws with tradition and schedules that are set for 20 years- you wanted me to be creative; here you go, although I’m trying to minimize a huge switcheroo.
The Big 12, SEC, and ACC are already good, so here’s how we could tweak the PAC 10, the Big T1e1n, and the Big lEast.
To me, the PAC 12 is easy: Add BYU and Utah, and you’ve got two really good divisions:
- Clouds- Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, BYU, Utah
- Sun- Southern Cal, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State
The Big T1e2n gets a bit more complicated: Ntre Ame is the logical addition, but there are problems. The Irish are not interested in joining a conference, and would never win the Big Ten. Just being honest. Second, all Big Ten teams are part of the Association of American Universities; an elite group of research institutions. For the record, the Big Ten is the only conference to have all of its members be a part of this group. So, no Notre Dame.
With all the expansion discussion coming out of the winter meetings, I continued to hear two schools mentioned: Texas and Missouri. To be honest, I also heard about Nebraska, but I’m not having them in the same conference as the Buckeyes, if only for the sake of my marriage. I’ve also heard about UConn, but don’t think their basketball first program would work well in this football first (basketball close second) conference.
While Texas would be an amazing addition, I just don’t see them leaving the Big 12 and their dominance. Plus, there are rivalries with Oklahoma and aTm to be considered. Missouri has a better case, as well as a regional rivalry with Iowa and Illinois. If either team jumps ship, look to see TCU added to the Big 12 and a shuffle of sorts (wouldn’t it be great to have Oklahoma and Nebraska play every year again?).
Personally, I think the answer may lie to our east at the University of Pittsburgh. They help create a natural rival for Penn State, they are an AAU school, and there’s enough tradition in their program to let them stand tall with the rest of the conference. Just for giggles and the purposes of this discussion, let’s welcome the Panthers into the fold.
So, what would our divisions look like? For the sake of rivalries and splitting up the traditional powers, let’s go with this:
- Hayes- Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa
- Paterno- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern, Penn State, Pittsburgh
It looks a little heavy on the one side with Mich1gAAn, Ohio State, and Iowa; but how is that different than the SEC East (Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee) or Big 12 South (Texas, Oklahoma, and TTU if they’re good again)? Remember, every team has it’s ups and downs- Nebraska was supposed to dominate the Big 12 North, yet they struggled under poor coaching (sounds familiar) until recently.
The Big lEast is even more confusing, mostly because I don’t care. They need to add five teams to replace Pitt and get to 12, so let’s look at their basketball conference to add Notre Dame (no AAU requirements for the Big lEast). Adding Army and Navy would make ND’s schedule easier to explain, and let’s look to Conference USA to add Marshall and East Carolina into the mix. Their divisions would be:
- Rivers- WVa, Marshall, Syracuse, UConn, Cincinnati, Louisville
- Oceans- Notre Dame, South Florida, Army, Navy, Rutgers, ECU
And yes, I know that South Bend isn’t near an ocean. You’ve got better names, let me know and I’ll change it- I wanted to allow them to play the service academies, and keep the conferences relatively balanced.
So that’s what we’ve got so far.
OK, a quick review of the rules as we have them:
I’m feeling pretty good: ESPN agreed with me twice, first on polls-
Preseason polls will be abolished
Sometime during the next decade, the Associated Press and coaches’ polls finally get it right and decide to abolish their preseason polls. The first polls won’t be released until Oct. 1. Remarkably, Notre Dame will still be No. 1.
Then ESPN predicted that the realignment will happen. Although they also talk about a “plus one” (fifteen games for some people…), here’s their predictions:
The Big Ten is exploring the possibility of adding a 12th team, and I’m betting it will be Missouri before the 2011 season. With 12 teams, the Big Ten can split into two divisions and stage a conference championship game. Who can’t wait to flock to Detroit or Minneapolis in early December?
With Missouri leaving, the Big 12 will add TCU to its lineup of schools. Not to be left out, the Pac-10 will add Boise State and Utah, giving it 12 teams and a moneymaking championship game. The Big East will react by adding Memphis, East Carolina, Central Florida and Temple.
We didn’t talk about the Conference Championship Games in our last post: In my opinion, the Big lEast game happens in Lincoln Financial Field, the Big T1e2n game is either at Soldier Field or in Detroit’s new ballpark (could even be played on a Sunday, since the Lions aren’t using it), and the PAC12 championship alternates between Seahawks Stadium in Seattle and the new NFL stadium in Los Angeles. Good times.
OK, so now we have our six champions. Some folks have questioned this idea- “what if team A from this conference is the third best team but is better than the champ from Conference X?”. Valid point, but let’s look at the NFL for our response. In 2008 we had the 8-8 Chargers hosting the 12-4 Colts while the 11-5 Patriots sat at home. Yes, it seems unfair, but the No Fun League’s rules also value conference championships, and it seems as if America has accepted those parameters pretty well.
Look, you have to draw a line somewhere- my line is that national champions should also be conference champions. It keeps the regular season meaningful, and will reward (or at least not penalize) teams for playing difficult out of conference games- you can lose one, win your conference, and still be dancing at the end. Also, if you’re in a difficult conference and “beat up on each other every week”, your record won’t matter if you win your CCG.
OK, now onto the rest of the changes:
Let’s look at these, just to make sure we’re on the same page. It is possible for two teams from the same conference to get to the playoffs, but it can’t be through the conference championship game. If you lose your conference championship game, you’re out; even if it’s your only loss of the season (Florida, circa 2009). It doesn’t matter that you could beat everyone else in the playoffs- you lost in the first round. You won’t hear the Chargers gripe about losing to the Jets and ask for a better match up; it’s one and done.
Remember, this would only happen in situations like Texas’ from last year (beat Oklahoma, lost to TTU, got bumped out of the championship game by league decision) or Georgia from 2007 (didn’t win their division, highly ranked at the end of the year). In these rare occasions, the two teams play in the first round what ends up being a second conference championship; the final four will represent four different conferences.
Most of the time, though, these “at large” teams will be conference champions from one of the other conferences- Boise State, TCU, Hawaii, Tulane, etc. It insures that teams will have their “chance” at playing for a title without sacrificing the efforts of teams from stronger conferences.
Look, anytime there’s any sort of ranking there’s going to be some controversy. Think of March Madness- even with 65 teams there are others who feel shunned unfairly. And there are often others who end up in a really easy bracket or a really difficult one. It’s a part of the nature of the game- The Patriots only lost one game in 2007, but it was in the Super Bowl to an “allegedly inferior” opponent. In football and college basketball, it’s not “best of…” series- it’s one and done.
Remembering one of our other directives, the playoffs have got to involve the current bowls as best as possible (money, tradition, and tourism, remember?), while working to remove automatic home field advantage for teams in the south and west AND thinking regionally so fans can go and tailgate appropriately. This meant creating two extra bowls (sanctioned by the NCAA), one for the first round and one for the final game.
The chosen eight teams would play four games during “Bowl week”, and would include three “traditional” bowls and a new one located in the new New York stadium (to partially eliminate home field disadvantage for the Big T1e1n, half of the Big 12, most of the Big East, and some of the ACC. New York would also serve as a viable destination for tourism, one of our other goals). Rankings would be used for seeding purposes in regions for this first round- North, West, Central, and South.
Two weeks later, the winners would face off in Pasadena and Miami, and two weeks after that the winner would be crowned at a new bowl in Indianapolis’ (home of NCAA headquarters) new stadium. Not only does this centralize the final game (no more home field advantage for the SEC and PAC12), but it would give the NCAA another opportunity to promote itself and the other sports. There’s a reason the Final Four seems to be in Indy every three years or so.
The “Championship” is played during the week before the Super Bowl. I know they’ve moved the All Star Game to that weekend, but, let’s be honest; if people don’t want to play, ain’t nobody gonna’ watch.
So- what would this look like? Let the totally imaginary games that will never happen in real life because money and television are too much of a factor begin! Well, in January of 2008, we would have seen:
Playoff first round: January 1-4, 2008
Playoff second round: January 15, 16, 2008
National Championship Game : January 25, 2008
January of 2009, would have looked like-
First Round: January 2-3, 2009
Second round: January 9-10, 2009
National Championship Game : January 24, 2009
And for this year (all results speculative):
First Round: January 1-2, 2010
Second round: January 15-16, 2010
National Championship Game : January 30, 2009
Those look like pretty impressive matchups. Plus, the other teams would still be allowed to play a 12th or 13th game- there are tons of bowls looking for a rabid fanbase to come and enjoy their festivities.
It would still be a problem for fans to travel to these extra events, would also impact academics (going an additional month into spring semester/quarter), and would not totally remove the debate aspect (who’s the at-large teams? Are seedings and regions fair?). But, these issues seem to not be much of a concern during basketball season, so I’m sure we’d get over it. Plus, it allows for other teams to still be involved in the pageantry of December/January football.
Is it perfect? Nope. But it’s better than just griping about the current system, blindly following what ESPN hands you, or rambling on and on about the good old days when Michi1gAAn had a football program.
And, if nothing else- it’s got us talking.