Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why the Bowl Games Won't Go Away and How I would Blow them up

Here are my three reasons that we are not getting a playoff system in 1-A football anytime soon, and after that my solution if they let me blow the whole thing up and start over.

There's a nice article in Sports Business Journal about the money in the bowl system. Sponsors and ESPN are pouring a ton of money into the present system. As much as ESPN likes to drive debate about playoff, they are financing the present system and promoting it big time.

There's money in it for the schools...fundraising folks and university officials from the school entertain donors and alumni, it's a one week gig, and everybody has fun, and half the teams go home victorious with hope springing eternal for the following year.

With a playoff system, hope does not spring eternal. With a playoff system, every team but one is playing "shouldawouldacoulda" and finding something to complain about from Jan to Aug. It makes the "will you give us money?" discussions harder in that situation. Plus, potential travel for 2-3 weeks over the holidays to suck up to boosters wouldn't be much fun.

For teams, it's about the extra practice. It's a huge benefit to have that extra 15-20 sessions that you get between your final regular season game and the bowl game. If you read the articles in the local papers, you'll find the bowl prep teams are having a lot of the underclassmen and second and third teamers get more reps in the early practice sessions. It's like an extra spring schedule. Put in a playoff system and that's eliminated.

Coaches are competitive, and they want to win their games and all, but in reality, a bowl that's not giving you a MNC is basically an exhibition game after the season. In fact, way back when, the MNC was announced BEFORE the bowls.

If I may go off on a tangent (it's my blog, I can if I want) we say the present system is screwed up. Roll back the clock for the bowl system setup 15 years. Your big bowl lineup would be: USC v Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, Texas vs. West Virginia in the Cotton Bowl, LSU vs , and Oklahoma vs Virginia Tech or Georgia in the Orange Bowl. More chaos there than what we have today. In a twisted way, we're better off, but still not solved.

How do you choose?
The concept that "we'll just pick 8 or 16 teams and solve this" has lots of do you get the teams?

The argument that "Division 1-AA, II and III do it" is valid, but flawed. The 1-AA playoffs picked 16 teams. They picked the top 16 eligible teams in 1-AA, per the coaches poll. The participants include Delaware, Delaware State (boy, I bet that's a heated rivalry), McNeese State, Wofford, etc. The average undergraduate population of the 16 schools, per my research at Wikipeida, is 10,798. The largest school represented in the 16 is UMass, which lists 19,934 undergraduates. Name the schools in the 1-AA finals this weekend.

On the other hand, I looked up the undergraduate population of the top 16 schools in the USA Today/Coaches Poll. The average undergrad population of these schools is 25,782. Twelve of the schools represented have larger undergrad bases than UMass. Why does this matter? When 1-AA announces their poll, and the State University of Central Kentucky gets the short end of the stick, not many people give a crap. When the 17th ranked Texas Longhorns (36,878 undergrads), or 18th ranked Tennessee Volunteers (2ok undergrad), are on the outside looking in, you not only have a ton of students and former alumni, but you have schools that the entire state identifies with.

The residents of Central Kentucky aren't even sure if they are in the Central, Northern, Eastern, Western or Southern part of the state. There's not nearly the allegiance. The schools aren't on CBS or ESPN family of networks every week. There's much less uproar. Have you seen anyone breaking down the 1-AA playoffs and stating that SUNY-Binghamton was screwed by not getting in? Exactly. Have you heard much uproar about the 5th ranked North Dakota State team, winners of two games this year against 1-A foes, getting left out of the playoffs because they're in a provisional year? No love for Grambling or Georgia Southern for being left out? I'm sure there were a couple of people upset outside of the immediate family, but they got over it.

One of the ways Grambling got over it was by cheering on LSU in the SEC Championship, and I'd venture that many Georgia Southern fans became huge Tennessee fans that week, pulling for the Georgia Bulldogs to get into the MNC game.

Think back to the Oregon-Okla game in 2006, the one with several officiating gaffes. The entire Sooner state was in disarray...the Sooner fans from being hacked, the Cowboy fans from laughing their butts off at their rivals misfortune. Fellow SHS alum and Sooner Pres David Boren even took a public stance of outrage. It was almost comical. If that's Eastern Washington playing the Ducks, no one cares.

That all being said, here's my proposal:

  • Divide the D-1A into four tiers. There are 119 teams, with one provisional, in D1-A. Put 30 in each tier. You can call the tiers, Premier, Upper, Mid American and Boone State and Friends for all I care.
  • Play 1 game at the first of the year as an exhibition game with a team out of your tier. Play 10 games within your thirty team tier.
  • The top 4 teams start a playoff. How do you come up with the four teams in the playoff? That's a selection committee. You have a coaches poll, sportswriter polls, some computer rankings and some backroom posturing, just like NCAA Hoops. Coaches poll doesn't come out until week five, each coach has a vote, and every voter's selection is published.
  • The bottom four teams are demoted to the tier below. The top four teams in the tier are promoted to the tier above.

The benefits of this: i) schedule is 13 games max; ii) aside from teams that fall way off the map (see Dame, Notre), the teams are playing peers and every week is a relatively competitive game - GameDay would have a smorgasbord to choose from every week; iii) there's new teams in the mix every year; everybody has a shot at a championship.

Why this doesn't make sense? i) it really blows up the bowls. But does that matter? Sure, the Rose Bowl has a tradition, and ditto for Orange, Fiesta and Sugar, own down to Cotton and the Holiday. Raise your hand if you will miss the Kotex Independence from Feminine Napkins Bowl. People don't remember childhood memories of the Meineke Car Care Bowl, or the Texas Bowl, or whatever; ii) it also doesn't make sense because left leaning bureaucrats would have to really tell North Texas and Louisiana-Monroe that they are in the D flight. Presently, they can be delusional at the first of the year that if all fell into place, they might make something beyond the New Orleans needs air conditioning bowl.

You may think my idea is wacked, but it's a better solution than this.

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