Meet the New Boss | By Andrew Booth

ON THURSDAY AFTERNOON A FOUR-TEAM PLAYOFF SYSTEM for college football was voted on and approved by a presidential oversight committee[1], and the decision was met with much fanfare from the media – talking heads, bloggers and radio hosts alike.  “The tyranny of the BCS is over!”  “Finally, the little guys are getting their fair shake.”

But are they?

This new system would have the top four teams, as chosen by a selection committee, play in semi-final games dispersed around the existing bowl games on New Year’s Day with the two winners playing for the championship one week later.  Everything sounds well enough, words such as “playoffs” or “semifinals” can soothe some critics, but how will this work in practice?  As in anything, the answer can be found in history:

On December 6, 2009, the top eight teams of the AP Top 25 were as follows:

1. Alabama (13-0); 2. Texas (13-0); 3. TCU (12-0); 4. Cincinnati (12-0); 5. Florida (12-1); 6. Boise State (13-0); 7. Oregon (10-2); 8. Ohio State (10-2)

December 5, 2010:

1. Auburn (13-0); 2. Oregon (12-0); 3. TCU (12-0); 4. Wisconsin (11-1); 5. Stanford (11-1); 6. Ohio State (11-1); 7. Michigan State (11-1); 8. Arkansas (10-2)

December 4, 2011:

1. LSU (13-0); 2. Alabama (11-1); 3. Oklahoma State (11-1); 4. Stanford (11-1); 5. USC (10-2); 6. Oregon (11-2); 7. Arkansas (10-2); 8. Boise State (11-1)

In 2009 it seems to work well enough, with four undefeated teams from BCS conferences[2].  But a) do you honestly think that the SEC would have been fine with a one-loss Florida team, a loss that occurred against the number one ranked Crimson Tide in the conference championship, missing the – quote un-quote – tournament?  And what about Boise State?  This system that is supposedly saving the Davids of the world figures to leave them out yet again, and again in 2011.

And then there’s 2010, whose top eight is more crowded than the stage at a Broken Social Scene concert.  The top three work out well enough, but you cannot be naive enough to think that Stanford will accept that Wisconsin or Ohio State were better or vice versa, and why should they?  If only there was a way for these teams to play each other to qualify for this tournament.  Oh but who has the time to watch a six or eight team college football tournament?  Nobody in America in January, that’s who!

There will be a honeymoon faze with this playoff, of course, as there is with all things.  When Kevin Durant and the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City they were awful[3], but did the fanbase care?  Of course not!  The OKC fans were the nerdy guy in high school who suddenly started dating the hottest girl in his class.  Sure she can’t hold a conversation, but damn, have you seen how hot she is?  For the people of Oklahoma City it turned out she had a fantastic personality as well, but who is to say the same thing happens with this college football playoff?  Within five years I guarantee enough teams will have been left out that the masses will be up on their soapboxes rallying for a larger tournament, but oh wait, this agreement is locked in until 2025.  Hmm, doesn’t that kind of seem like a – wait for it – oversight?[4]

Whereas the Oklahoma City fans were the overachieving nerd, I feel like college football fans are falling into the psychology of somebody just out of a  long, abusive relationship.  We’ve been getting battered by our ex for the past decade, so the flaws of the new guy really don’t seem that bad in comparison.  I personally fell in love with college football following Boise State’s masterpiece against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.  I happened to be in Phoenix visiting family for that Christmas and ended up at the New Year’s Eve pre-game block party and was instantly captivated and absorbed by the sheer passion that football fans hold for their teams[5]. Every gameday is a party, and every game a Game 7.  But it’s a Game 7 with no pay-out.  As sports fans we like to believe that if you win you move on, and if you keep winning you’ll keep moving on until there’s no one left to beat.  In college football, you win until the season ends, and  then somebody decides if those wins were impressive enough.  It’s the same as it was, only with four teams instead of two, and the convenient luxury of being able to call your system a playoff.

College presidents aren’t dumb.  They know you hated the BCS, and that a change was inevitable.  Yet they managed to make such a small change that the college aristocracy – Mike Wilbon’s “cartel” – is still controlling where the money flows[6]. But it still is a step in the right direction, even if such a small one, and one that will take a decade to change.  As the system works and doesn’t work, and people begin once again clamoring for playoff expansion, maybe, just maybe, the system will grow once again, and the real tournament can begin.

Andrew Booth is a fourth year junior that owns an 85% winning percentage in Freecell solitaire, wants to sail the Pacific and writes sports. He has also been known to be an insufferable Canucks fan.


[1]This slays me.  We’ll get back to this.

[2]Why does “BCS conference” directly translate into “good” in college football?  I don’t underst – oh right, money and politics.  My apologies.

[3]23-59, including a 3-29 start

[4]You’re welcome.

[5]Such passion was never displayed so vividly as when a group of Sooners grabbed me, demanded who I was cheering for (you’ll never guess who I told them), and upon hearing my answer decided I was partying with them the rest of the night.  I was 16, and at that very moment decided I would be going to school somewhere football crazy.  Oops.

[6]SPOILER ALERT – it’s not to the workforce.  But I digress.

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