The Big Ten, a conference which moves with all the speed of a glacier and thinks with all the decisiveness of that sculpture with the guy holding his chin, has declared that it's comfortable exploring the possibility of a four-team college football playoff.
In the Big Ten's world, that's the equivalent of a revolution.
Now we know for sure that an expanded playoff is coming. Big Ten schools would burn down their libraries before they would mess with their Rose Bowl relationship. If the Big Ten is getting on board, the ship is sailing.
But before the playoff crowd takes to the streets in revelry, be forewarned. A four-team playoff, in any format, bowls or no bowls, will not solve the fundamental problem of college football.
The opinion problem. The subjective problem. The beauty-contest problem. The problem that has plagued this sport since leather-helmet days.
College football relies on what people think. And that's bogus, no matter what kind of playoff format you unleash.
It's a cultural curse that is dang near impossible to shed. We see that not just with the sport's clinging to the polls, but the fortification of the polling process. The polls mean more than ever.
A four-team playoff in 2011 would have been no better. Including anyone's level of satisfaction.
The insipid BCS produced an LSU-Alabama national title game in the two-team playoff format. A four-team BCS would have changed nothing and solved the same. Stanford, a team absolutely undeserving of consideration ahead of Oregon, playing at LSU. Oklahoma State playing at Alabama, an unjust death sentence for the Cowboys based on locale.
Assigning teams home playoff games based on opinion is unjust. College football pollsters are at best lemmings and at worst blockheads. Very few show tangible evidence of intermediate thought.
The AP voters, who don't matter anymore, don't know beans from squash. But at least they're cleaner than the coaches, who vote their bias with indomitable consistency. And the Harris voters are worst of all; those guys couldn't find Boardwalk if you spotted them Park Place. The computer programmers are only marginally better.
And yet we're going to let them decide where the OSU-Alabama game is played? We're going to let them declare that Stanford is better than Oregon, when the opposite has been proven true?
This is why the eternal quest for a college football playoff staggers. We keep trying to fit a playoff into this culture of polls and opinions. Scrap the polls, scrap the opinions, then proceed.
Look to the great post-season formats and why they always deliver.
* The NFL. Pro football is merit-based. You win your way in. You win your way to special consideration, like playoff home games. The NFL seedings are determined by the clarity of numbers, not the cloudiness of human minds.
Gripe all you want about the 9-7 Giants making the playoffs and streaking to another Super Bowl. The rules were set, the policies in place. The Giants earned their way. The only earning currently going on in college football is the automatic berth to a BCS bowl by conference champions, which is routinely criticized.
The NFL, of course, has the blessing of centralized scheduling. The G-Men did not get to select their schedule. Compare that to college football, where as much as one third of a particular team's season is absolute exhibition and where schedules are nowhere close to uniform.
* March Madness. Ah, you say, the 68-team bracket is a monument to opinion. And you're right. The same scheduling problems in college football affect college hoops, mandating opinion if you want a bloated tournament.
But the format minimizes opinion. When you have 68 teams in, you're guaranteed one thing: no deserving team is left out. A ton of undeserving are admitted, but no deserving team is omitted.
And the effect of seeding is tempered by the NCAA's revelation of 20 years ago that no team gets to play on its home court. OSU-Alabama on a neutral field would be interesting football. New Orleans, Houston, Arlington, doesn't matter. OSU-Alabama in Tuscaloosa or Stillwater almost surely would leave us still mystified on which was the better squad.
Put March Madness on home courts, and the NCAA basketball committee is not determining matchups, it's determining results. Northern Iowa can beat Kansas in front of a pro-KU crowd at the Ford Center. Northern Iowa cannot beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.
Putting a college football playoff on neutral fields – be it four teams or, my personal preference, 10 (just conference champs) – would be rough on the fans. Not as many fans from Oklahoma could get to a game in Kansas City or Phoenix or Nashville, as opposed to the game possibly being played in Stillwater or Norman.
But let me get this straight. We schedule games against Savannah State and Florida A&M. We kick off at 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. We play on Thursday nights.
And now you want to start worrying about the fans?
If we want a legit college football playoff, we've got to minimize the power of decision-makers. Got to expel this beauty contest culture that pervades college sports. This culture that what we think is more important than what we know.
Here's an example. NCAA basketball committee chairman Jeff Hathaway, a Big East adviser, talked the other day about how committee members try to watch as many games as possible.
“Certainly you need to watch teams play…” Hathaway said. “That gives you some further insight. How a team looks is crucial, and we get out and see games throughout the season. We need to go beyond the numbers.”
How a team looks? What does that mean? What difference does that make? What are they looking for, who makes bank shots instead of swishes? Who smiles after victories? Who keeps their shirttails tucked in?
That's the same cultural problem with college football. We care what a team looks like as much as we care what a team does. We go so far beyond the numbers, we forget them.
This should be a zero-sum process. Instead, it becomes a collage of opinion and unsophisticated analysis.
You want a real college football playoff? You want a good one? You want it to be legit?
We've got to go past two teams, everyone agrees. But four teams, 10 teams, 16 teams? Irrelevant details until you solve the pressing problem. Creating a system whereby teams earn their way in, and we tell pollsters and computer programmers to take a hike.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.