College football needs a playoff. It needs a system that determines a true national champion, not one determined by a computer.
The Oklahoman has devised a way to have a playoff and determine a true champion without scrapping the bowl games. This system would eliminate the Bowl Championship Series and take some of its cues from the NCAA basketball tournament.
It would make the bowl matchups more intriguing. It would excite fans. And it would restore one of football's basic premises - deciding a winner on the field.
Here's how The Oklahoman's plan would work.
The regular season would begin during the first week of September. Teams would have the next 13 weeks, through Thanksgiving weekend, to play 11 regular-season games and a conference championship game.
At that time, the champions from the six power conferences - Big 12, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast, Pacific 10, Southeast and Big East - would receive automatic bids into the playoffs. There would be no Bowl Championship Series rankings, no power rankings, no guessing games.
Just conference champs.
Then a selection committee would hand out 10 at-large bids.
It would operate much like the ones used for men's and women's basketball. The committee, composed of administrators from schools that play Division I-A football, would gather during that last weekend of November, conference championship weekend, and select the at-large teams. The committee would select the 10 best teams that didn't win their conference, plain and simple.
Also, the committee would determine seeding and first-round games. The top eight seeds would play at home during the opening round.
All eight of those games would be played the first week of December and broadcast on national television. To accommodate television, the games could be spread over two days - Friday and Saturday, or Saturday and Sunday - or could be crammed into one super Saturday.
Quarterfinal games would be played the following Saturday. That is where the bowl games come in.
Two quarterfinals would be locked into the Cotton and Peach bowls every year. Despite being knocked out of the top tier of bowls by the BCS, those bowls are traditional, longstanding and strong. They would benefit by being back in the national-championship picture while also benefiting the playoff system.
The third quarterfinal spot would rotate annually between five second-tier bowls - Outback, Citrus, Gator, Alamo and Holiday - much like the national championship game rotates now with the BCS. Each of those bowls would host a national quarterfinal once every five years. In their off years, they would conduct business as they do now, offering invitations to teams not involved in the national-championship race.
The last quarterfinal spot would rotate annually, too. That quarterfinal, however, would move from each of the four major bowls - Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta.
As it is now, those bowls have an important game, the national championship game, once every four years.
Under The Oklahoman's plan, those bowls would go from having an unimportant game three out of four years to having an important game every year. One year it would be a quarterfinal game, the next two it would be a semifinal and the last year would be the finals.
Teams would take a week off before the semifinals, then play them on New Year's Day.
The finals would be the next weekend and could even be played on a Monday. And by that second week of January, we'd have a national champion.
A true national champion.
Having a true national champ is the main benefit of this system.
But there are others.
- The bowls. Every bowl, every single one, would better its situation.
Second-tier bowls that now have nothing to do with the national-title chase would have a part once every five years. The Cotton and Peach bowls, traditional bowls that haven't been included in the current BCS system, would regain lost prominence. And the BCS bowls would have an important role every year instead of every fourth year.
Even the bowls that have no part in the playoffs benefit. They have better teams to choose from because of the reduced number of bowls offering bids.
Think of it this way: Florida State wins the national championship through The Oklahoman's plan. The Seminoles play in the Gator Bowl in the quarters, the Orange Bowl in the semis and the Fiesta Bowl in the finals. Instead of playing in one bowl game, they played in three.
That, in turn, cuts down on the number of bowl teams. The teams with bubble records, 6-5 or 7-4, would be left out, and the quality of bowl games would rise.
Minor bowls don't have a part in the national championship scene, and under the playoff system, they still wouldn't. But they also wouldn't have matchups like Louisville-Boise State at this year's Humanitarian Bowl or Wake Forest-Arizona State in the Aloha Bowl. Instead, those bowls might get Mississippi State-Clemson or Purdue-Georgia.
Sounds a little more exciting, doesn't it?
- The fans. College football fans not only would have a feeding frenzy on playoff games and improved non-playoff bowl games but also would see better regular-season games.
Games would mean more.
As it is now, one loss almost assures that a team has absolutely no shot at a national title. Two losses and a team is just fighting for a decent bowl. And on and on and on.
So as the season goes on, fewer games matter. Who cares who wins a game between 6-2 teams?
But if those teams still had a chance at an at-large playoff birth, the game becomes more meaningful for the teams and more interesting for the fans.
With a playoff system, a team could contend for a national championship with two or maybe even three losses. It might not win a conference title and an automatic bid, but even if it loses, a good schedule and quality victories could land that team an at-large bid.
That hope would raise the level of play and, in turn, fan interest across the country.
- The game. Winners in the game of football were never meant to be determined by a computer.
But that's what we've come around to. All these numbers - national rankings and power ratings, strength of schedule and won-loss record - are entered into a computer, whiz-banged around, figured into a concocted, cockamamie formula and spit out as the BCS rankings.
It's difficult to believe that Knute Rockne or Bear Bryant would have gone for this computer-driven brand of college football.
The game's winners and losers are meant to be determined by men, not mainframes.
While the benefits of a playoff system are numerous, there are bound to be opponents.
Heading that group would be the executive directors of the nation's 23 bowl games.
"I think what people have forgotten," said Derrick Fox of the Alamo Bowl, "is that bowl games have been in place for 80 years."
That tradition is something some folks don't want to lose. The bowls should remain independent, week-long extravaganzas, they say. It has always been this way and should not change.
One thing they certainly don't want changed is the economic impact bowls have on surrounding communities. During the last 20 years, an average of more than 55,000 fans have attended each bowl game.
And you'd better believe those folks have opened their wallets and checkbooks. They stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, go to clubs and spend, spend, spend. And they infuse millions of dollars into a bowl site's local economy.
Last year's Fiesta Bowl pumped more than $133 million into the Phoenix-Tempe area's economy.
That might not happen with a playoff system.
"The thing I would be concerned about," said Glen Krupika, the Independence Bowl's executive director, "is the schools in the playoffs, would they be able to bring fans to these games four weeks in a row?"
This isn't like the college basketball tournament, Krupika said. All a school would need is a few thousand fans to fill its seat allotment in a basketball arena.
"In football," he said, "we're relying on 12,000, 13,000, 14,000 fans."
And he might be right. Maybe fans would wait the playoffs out, wait and see if their team makes it to the finals before they would go. Maybe they wouldn't go spend their money during the quarterfinals or the semifinals. Maybe.
But if a playoff generated the kind of interest that basketball has, there would be fans from the area and the region. Now, the basketball tournaments rarely have a regional site that is not a dome. And those sites sell out. The fans may not be die-hards of the participating teams, but they go because they want to see good basketball.
Football fans would go because they want to see good football.
That argument, however, doesn't fly with Fox.
"People talk about not liking pro sports," he said, mentioning the indifferent fans. "That's something we try to avoid here.
"And if you start looking at a playoff, teams and fans are going to come in Friday, play Saturday and leave Saturday night. It's much more like a regular-season game rather than a bowl game."
Besides, Krupika contends that most folks really don't want a playoff.
"It's very much a media concern," he said. "There's not a whole lot of people on campuses who are great proponents of a national playoff."
Coaches and players and administrators not proponents?
"I'm a playoff guy," Ohio State coach John Cooper said. "Right now, who's to say Florida State and Virginia Tech are the best two teams in college football? Nebraska's playing pretty well. Wisconsin...
"Nowadays, if you lose one game, you probably won't have a shot at a national title."
It happened to Cooper's Buckeyes last season. They lost one game to Michigan by four points and had no shot at a national championship.
"Division I-A football is the only sport that doesn't have it," Cooper said of a playoff system. "If it's not good, let's cut out the Final Four. Let's cut out all those other finals."
That, of course, seems silly.
And the more you think about college football not having a playoff, that seems pretty silly, too.Archive ID: 789675