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Berry Tramel: Regular season is what's wrong with college football

If college football is destined for a four-team, plus-one playoff, make only conference champions eligible. That way, every regular-season game really will count.
by Berry Tramel Published: January 10, 2012

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.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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