Old pal Bill Hancock, the pride of Hobart and executive director of the BCS, keeps saying it.
Old pal Tim Cowlishaw, an Oklahoman alumnus and sports voice of the Dallas Morning News, has said it for years.
Old pal Burke Magnus, well, I've actually never met ESPN's senior vice president of college sports programming but a swell guy I'm sure, said it this week.
Protect college football's regular season, they all say. Talk into the night if you must on ways to change the national championship process, but protect the splendor of the regular season.
My old pals have lost their way.
The regular season is what's wrong with college football. Not what's right.
The conference commissioners staged a BCS meeting Tuesday in New Orleans, and all indications are we're moving toward an expanded playoff. Perhaps a four-team model, with the title game matching two bowl-game winners.
Fine. Whatever. Sounds good. But don't lose sight of college football's fundamental problem.
The regular season is losing steam and fast.
First, all the exhibitions that plague the sport, mostly in September. Oklahoma-Ball State. Texas-Rice. LSU-Western Kentucky. OSU-Lafayette.
Alabama played three fresh-meat games: Kent State, North Texas and Georgia Southern. It's an epidemic and it's an abomination.
Worse yet, now the regular-season jewels don't matter.
LSU-Alabama in November was the game of the year. Except it didn't matter. Didn't matter that LSU won. Didn't matter that it kept Bama from an SEC title.
Oregon-Stanford was the Pac-12 game of the year. Oregon won at Stanford and went on to the Rose Bowl. Yet because the Ducks lost to Southern Cal, and because the Ducks had the guts to play LSU in a season opener, the pollsters had Stanford ranked ahead of Oregon going into the bowls.
Put a four-team tournament together for the 2011 season: Stanford in, Oregon out. That's absurdity.
The plus-one (four-team) model seems to have the most momentum. Since I agree that the regular season must be protected, even if everyone else seems to ignore its disease, here's a plan for a four-team tournament.
Make it open only to conference champions. Heck, you know me. I'd vote for an 11-team playoff. Champions of the 11 conferences. Give the big five leagues a bye, have the other six champs play first-round games and set up a nifty eight-team bracket.
But if you're going to stage a four-team tournament within the bowl system, you absolutely have to put some limits on it.
More for the Stanford elevation than the Alabama. To put it delicately, BCS voters are not very sophisticated. To put it accurately, they are dolts.
If college football is going to break from its whimsical tradition, make a clean break. Ignore the polls.
Let a duly-sworn committee name the four most-deserving conference champions and let's get going.
Conference champions carry weight. There's no subjecture. No debate. In the backwater leagues (like the Big 12) which stage no championship game, in the case of a tie, let the conference submit a team for consideration.
The big dogs would mostly rule. But not always. A Boise State could sneak in from the Mountain West. A Houston from Conference USA.
Best of all, it would do more than protect the regular season. It would enhance the regular season.
Every Game Counts, traditionalists like to say, even though it's not true. But more games would count if only conference champions could qualify.
If such a plan had been in place this season, consider the status going into Thanksgiving weekend.
Four teams in the running for the SEC title. Two teams in the running for the Big 12 title. Five teams in the running for the Pac-12 title. Three teams in the running for the Big Ten. Three alive in the ACC. Six alive in the Big East, not that the Big East had a sniff of producing a top-four team.
But while we're at it, take the 11-team model. Add in four alive in Conference USA and three in the Mid-American Conference. Plus already-clinched TCU (Mountain West), Arkansas State (Sun Belt) and Louisiana Tech (WAC). That's 33 teams still alive for Gridiron Madness and/or the national championship when the Thanksgiving turkey is carved.
Making conference supremacy mandatory eliminates October coronations. Alabama 2011, Oklahoma 2003, Nebraska 2001. All made the national title game without winning their conference.
All were great teams. No one debates otherwise. But they were anointed in early season and had to play their way out, not play their way in.
It also eliminates scheduling your way to the tournament. The dolts don't care that on the day Oregon played LSU, Stanford played San Jose State. They only care that Oregon lost and Stanford won. Details don't matter to simple minds.
So instead of scrapping the details, let's scrap the simple minds. Let's make every game truly count. Let's make my old pals happy. Protect the regular season, which could be the best in American sport.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.