In unveiling college football’s future postseason Tuesday, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said “a four-team playoff doesn’t go too far. It goes just the right amount.” With all due respect, allow me to challenge Steger’s numbers.
By the playoff’s 2014 advent, the Bowl Subdivision will include approximately 130 teams. So at regular season’s end, three percent of those squads will compete for the national championship.
Just for fun, let’s project that three percent on other sports.
The NCAA basketball tournament bracket would shrink from 68 to 10. Think Jim Nantz and friends at CBS would approve?
Say farewell to awesome stories such as George Mason, Butler and VCU. Heck, say goodbye to national champions such as Florida in 2006, Syracuse in 2003 and Arizona in 1995 — none was among the top 10 entering the NCAA tournament.
Two modern-era champions weren’t ranked at all entering postseason: Villanova in 1985 and Kansas three years later.
A three-percent ratio in professional sports leagues would, essentially, eliminate the playoffs. One team from among the 30-something would stand alone at regular season’s end, based on record, poll and/or computer printout.
An absurd notion, to be sure. So let’s double the three percent, which would take us to a two-team postseason, much like pre-1969 baseball, when the American and National League winners advanced to the World Series — oh, and Series games were played during the day.
Talk about radical change.
Of baseball’s last 10 champions, three would have reached an old-style World Series: the 2009 Yankees, 2007 Red Sox and 2005 White Sox. In 2003, eventual Series winner Florida finished 10 games behind Atlanta in the National League East.
Neither of the NBA’s two most-recent champions, Miami and Dallas, was its conference’s top seed. The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup this year as a No. 8 playoff seed.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany intoned Tuesday that college football has the best regular season in sports, “and we intend to keep it that way.”
The NFL and its legions of fans might disagree, and none seem to fret that having 10 of 32 teams in the playoffs devalues the regular season. The New York Giants backdoored into the playoffs with the league’s 10th-best record last year and won the Super Bowl.
Green Bay in 2010 charted a similar course. Seven teams had better records than the Packers during the regular season, but on the first Sunday in February, Aaron Rodgers and friends hoisted Vince Lombardi’s trophy.
I get Delany’s concept, though the Bowl Championship Series’ “every game counts” mantra has worn thin. A bloated college football playoff would reward mediocrity, much like the current bowl system, replete with 6-6 and 7-5 teams.
But the austerity of a four-team bracket is far too severe.
For example, based on the selection criteria Steger and ACC commissioner John Swofford outlined, a four-team playoff last season would have included LSU, Oklahoma State, Alabama and Oregon. But certainly Stanford, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Boise State would have been credible title contenders.
Moreover a postseason that showcased quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Tyler Wilson and Kellen Moore would have enthralled fans.
The classic case was 2009, when Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Texas Christian and Boise State survived the regular season unscathed. The Broncos likely would have been odd-team-out in a four-team playoff, as they would have been in 2006, despite a unblemished record they enhanced with a classic Fiesta Bowl conquest of Oklahoma.
Spare us the cliched excuses about an eight-team format interfering with second-semester academics. Simply start the tournament earlier and eliminate the needless, four-week respite between the regular season and playoffs.
I don’t question the good intentions and efforts of Steger, Swofford, Delany and colleagues in dragging an archaic sport into the smart phone era. It was a welcome baby step.
I just question their math.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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