Written by Joe Kleinsasser Tuesday, 07 December 2010 15:57
Politicians campaign for change, unless running for re-election. Once in office, politicians prefer the status quo. If college football were run like a democracy, candidates would campaign on a platform of having a playoff in college football to determine its national champion. Football fans are clamoring for a playoff. Sportswriters want a playoff. It doesn’t matter, though, because the difference between college football and the American political system is simple—fans don’t have a vote to bring about change. In fact, college football is not against the idea of playoffs, except at the Division I level. Divisions II and III have playoffs. Division I, however, is a one-game, winner-take-all format to determine a champion. Certainly colleges have an obligation to protect the amount of time student-athletes spend outside the classroom, although I’m not sure that’s the overriding factor in a playoff-less system. The fact is, you could easily shorten the regular season by one game and have an eight-team playoff without taking more time from the classroom. Playoffs could run from mid-December to mid-January, which would not affect class time, because most universities don’t have classes during that time anyway. The status quo seems just fine with those in charge of college football. If the status quo continues and championships are determined as they are today, the Boise States of the world will be on the outside looking in, no matter how many games they win. As Rick Reilly said, “They’ve beaten two BCS automatic qualifiers—6th-ranked Virginia Tech and 24th-ranked Oregeon State. Doesn’t matter. BSU could whip the 103rd Infantry and it wouldn’t get a sniff. The computers are in charge.” It seems that no matter how many games Boise wins, and no matter who loses above them, they can’t climb in the rankings. The fact that Boise lost to Nevada in overtime doesn’t mean the problem is solved. Others in a similar situation, TCU for example, might not be invited to the biggest bash in college football. As Reilly notes, “NCAA Division I football is the only sport in the world where continued, uninterrupted, hats-in-the-air winning doesn’t mean you keep progressing.” Oregon’s offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich, used to coach at Boise State. He said, “If they played anybody in the country, they could give them a game. One time? Against anybody? Absolutely, they’d give them a serious game.” If college basketball used the BCS to determine the national championship, Butler would never have played in the title game against Duke last spring. After all, they were only ranked No. 11 in the nation in the final AP poll and No. 8 in the USA Today coaches’ poll. And the computers thought even less than the humans did. One had them No. 12, another No. 22 and still another No. 26. Credit the 1978 Farmer’s Almanac for this insightful observation: “To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.” Butler was a No. 5 seed. Based on that, they wouldn’t have even qualified in a 16-team playoff format. As it was, they beat No. 1 seed Syracuse in the Sweet 16, No. 2 Kansas State in the regional final, No. 5 Michigan State in the Final Four, before losing to No. 1 Duke in a game that went down to the last shot. Butler coach Brad Stevens said, “There’s certainly all kinds of ways to argue it, but if you don’t have a playoff, you’ll never know. You’ve got 12 weeks of talking and never get to see what would happen. “The best thing about the NCAA tournament is that the talking doesn’t matter.” At the very least, college football could be more truthful, because it’s a stretch to call the winner of the BCS championship game a national champion.