Yes. Yes, we are.
Or, as it’s also known, “Now we have a different thing to argue about”.
Today, the presidents of the BCS conferences announced that they’d come to an agreement regarding the terms and conditions of a “four team event” beginning the fall season of 2014.
If you’ll remember, we argued for playoffs for a long time now, joining our voices to the thousands across the interwebs which pointed out the hypocrisy in the current system. This new proposal, while a great step toward “closure”, is not without issues… but let’s take a look at the details before we jump headfirst into our “evaluation”.
Oh, and let the record show… I still think the idea of “champion” will be something that sounds better than it ends up actually being. Fulfillment? World peace? Still elusive.
Here are the specifics:
- A selection committee will select (duh) the participants, which will be seeded for the first round matchups.
- The selection committee will evaluate the win-loss record, the strength of schedules, head to head record, and whether or not a team is a conference champion. The final matrix for this determination has not yet been decided.
- There will be four teams- more would not fit in the “Academic calendars”. The rest of the NCAA thinks that’s cute.
- No “automatic qualifier” designations… sorry, Notre Dame; you’ve got to actually win something to get in.
- The semi-finals will be on December 31 and January 1; the final will be on the first Monday that’s more than 6 days away from January 1.
- Six bowls will rotate the semi-finals, with the finals being bid out nationally and facilitated by the conferences. It will not be a “bowl game” per se.
- Rumors are that the Rose, and “Champions” (SEC/B12) Bowls are among the six bowls in line for the semifinals, with the other four to be bid. You’ve got to think that the Sugar/Orange/Fiesta will be in the conversations, although the controversies around these over the past months might be a challenge.
- This is a twelve year agreement, although the financial issues (TV Revenue, allocations, etc.) are still being ironed out. The Commissioners have agreed in principal, but need the Presidents to be on board before it’s finalized.
While this is a step in the right direction, there are still a number of things that are missing from making this ideal (outside of the “what does it mean to be ‘champion’ anyway? thing). Here are some of my initial reflections…
It's About Time
Watch what happens with the “matrix” There’s still a ton to be worked out on how the selection committee will pull things together: Who’s on that committee? When will they start announcing seeding/rankings? Will strength of schedule or conference champions be significant, or “polls” and public opinion? These will be the topics of debate in the coming twelve years. That being said,
- This decision, while landmark, only shifts the argument/debate. Before it was “who’s number one?” Then, the BCS came along and the discussion moved to “Who’s number two?” A four team playoff, while awesome in it’s own way, means that future arguments will be around “Who’s number four”? and “Why only four??” Remember, March Madness started with 16 teams, until programs started complaining and the possibility for more
revenue opportunities were created.
- This is still about money. If it wasn’t, you’d see much more interest in having the semi-finals on college campuses, rather than connected to the cash cows and tax free frauds that are the current bowl system. Yes, four other games will be bid out and not affiliated with bowl games… but are you telling me that these will be “bid” to the “Best” location and not the one with the most expendable cash? Remember the guys who came up with the BCS? This was their idea…
- But not money where it counts. It was good to hear Mack Brown ask the question about student athlete stipends, given that this could result in a windfall in the billions for the conferences and institutions… Will this be the end of the “amateur” charade? Als0- given that there will be two major games within seven to nine days of each other, how do you think this will impact fan base travel and spending? I have a hard time imagining that, say, Illinois fans will be excited to travel to a semi-final game with all of their vacation dollars when they might have the change to travel to see the Illini play in the title game (Yeah, I laughed out loud reading those last eight words as well). As such, will a title game turn into the “Super Bowl” in terms of attendance- hangers ons and celebrities rather than season ticket holders and die-hard fans? Although, I’m sure that the game will make tickets available for the institutions involved and their bands… and charge them a premium for every single one.
- Some teams will still have a home field advantage. I do like the fact that four of the games will be bid out, as it has a chance to change the fact that most bowls are in the backyards of non-B1G teams, but I can’t imagine that these bids wouldn’t go to “systems” that are already established (current bowl games). However, if the home of the NCAA can host the March Madness finals, why couldn’t we have a D1 Semi or Final game in Indianapolis? St. Louis is also a possibility- or, how awesome would it be to see one in Chicago… outdoors, in Soldier Field, in early January? Freezing your SEC off is what football is about.
- We need more bowls? Don’t think for a minute that the extra games will go into hibernation during the years where they’re not “in play”. I believe that we’ll see a combination of “traditional” and new each year: Rose and Bid Winner, Fiesta and Bid Winner, Orange and Bid Winner. But I also think that, so closely removed from a number of scandals in bowl committees and the possibility that there wouldn’t be enough programs with 6 wins to play in all the games that currently existed, it’s not a great idea to add even more of these post-season situations.
- And now the conference expansion shuffle begins anew. Perhaps not immediately, but watch what happens as the “matrix” gets solidified. If being a conference champion is a high priority (the B1G proposal), then you can bet that major independents will start looking for new homes. If strength of schedule is a key aspect, schools will start jumping to more prestigious conferences in order to fit in. Looks like Boise’s wait might have actually been a good idea.
- Hope You Like Cupcakes. If schedule strength ISN’T important, or if some sort of “margin of victory” comes back into play, then you can bet that the huge out of conference games will become a thing of the past. It might also explain why some folks are not as interested in a B1G PAC challenge anymore.
- And finally- Gene Smith approves. That should give folks pause.
For the record, we’re excited for this “four team event” or “PL4YOFF” to take effect during Braxton’s Senior Year, and will be cheering like crazy and arguing like mad before, during, and after.
But in the midst of the celebration, let’s remember that there’s a lot of things to be worked out, and a lot of ways this can still go pear-shaped. As someone said on Twitter earlier- the first time three SEC teams make the four team playoff, or your favorite team gets left out, all bets are off.
But at least it’s a step in the right direction.