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« CFA'd Out | Main | Bureaucratic Efficiency »

ESPN's Full-Court Press

Probably the worst thing that could happen to any of the ESPN commentators is for the NCAA Division I presidents to adopt a playoff system, because at that point, they'd actually have to talk about the games. With the exception of John Saunders and Colin Cowherd, there's been a relentless drumbeat pouring forth, designed to browbeat us into submission and to accept the inevitability of a playoff in Division I.

In the aftermath of last weekend's games, you heard one talking head after another proclaim that now, now!, we'd finally spend time talking about how to adopt a playoff. As though they hadn't been doing that since before Appalachian State took Michigan out to the woodshed behind the Big House. On Sunday mornings, when John Saunders led off whichever segment it was asking about that week's upsets, the only over-under that mattered was how many words it would take Lupica to start whining about not having a playoff.

What garbage.

I loathe the thought of a playoff. I like the bowl system. I like the idea that volunteers spend weeks pasting certified organic material on chicken-wire, and then get up at 4:00 in the morning on the only cold day of the year in southern California to send their creations off down Colorado Blvd., giving free advertising that the people at the Norton Simon museum could only dream of, just to promote their fair city of Pasadena, and that they cap off the day's festivities with a football game.

I like the idea that New Orleans, and Miami, and Orlando, and Boise(!) all do the same thing. American civic boosterism is as old as the advertising brochures for Jamestown, and God love it.

I like the idea that every game matters, and that there's at least one sport in the country where we end the year with an argument rather than a coronation, which some years, the winning team doesn't really deserve, anyway. When Golic, who knows as much about college football now as George Washington would know about modern campaign fundraising, says that not every game matters. that LSU-Tennessee sure wasn't going to matter, because we all knew that once Oklahoma beat Missouri, it was going to be West Virginia - Ohio State, and wouldn't that be a tragedy.

The fact is, these guys just like to gripe, but they've been doing it so long, they've lost the tune, even though they still know the words. When they didn't like the polls, they pushed for computer rankings. When the computer took LSU and someone else over #1-voted USC a few years ago, they screamed about that. Now that he polls matter more again, they're off about how the pollsters don't know what to do. As I said above, if the college presidents actually devised a system, half these guys wouldn't know what to talk about.

I am not a fan of the BCS, but only because the current system robs the New Year's bowls of their meaning. If we're going to bow to the idea of a national championship, then go to what's been called a "Plus-One" system, where the two finalists are chosen after New Year's. I mean, hell, they're playing the title game on January 7th, anyway. Make it the first Monday night after the 7th, and then the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl mean something again. (The Cotton Bowl? Oh right, well, look, when your conference goes out of business, even all those New Year's memories of Keith Jackson can't save you.)

The old system wasn't perfect, and there's a reason things changed. BYU won a national title by going 13-0, playing absolutely nobody, beating a 6-5 Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl on Christmas, and being the only undefeated. Virginia got a Sugar Bowl bid in October and then lost 3 of their last 4 games.

Shabbat makes following college football hard. At least it did until ESPN and ABC started grabbing every week's big game and puitting on in prime time Saturday night/ They never would have done that with a playoff, because at least one of the teams playing would be going to the tournament regardless of the outcome. Have a tournament, and the Bowl games shrivel away, which would make Stephen A. Smith happy, but then you'd never see Boise State run a jaw-droppingly perfect hook-and-lateral against Oklahoma, or see Hawaii beat Georgia.

Tournaments are for small minds. Bowl games are for New Year's.

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