* The bowls are still involved in this thing, meaning shady kickbacks and fans/schools being extorted are going to continue being a way of life. Why couldn’t on-campus games work for the semifinals? They could. But cronyism, for the powers-that-be, is the clear winner again. It always is.
* It’s only four teams, meaning it isn’t inclusive, meaning when 12-0 Boise State is excluded, we’re going to be in the same place we always were. It needs to be eight. Heck, I think it needs to be 16. That it isn’t only fuels the fire for anti-playoff opponents (e.g. “How can a true national champion be crowned when you’re leaving out undefeated teams?”). This is perhaps less of a big deal when it’s Boise State, but what happens when it’s Florida State or Virginia Tech? The potential for regression is there.
* The money, as absurdly huge as it will be, still won’t filter down to the players in any significant way. This is the one thing we can almost certainly be assured of.
* The selection of the teams is going to be done by committee, meaning teams like Boise State and Kansas State, who regularly get passed over for BCS bowl games at present, will continue to be passed over going forward. It’s one thing to put a bunch of information into a computer, have it spit out four teams, and off we go. It’s another to have a group of flawed, group-thinking people making those picks instead. They’re going to get it wrong, and they’re going to get it wrong many, many times.
So this thing is a disaster, right?
Well, no. And I think it’s important to recognize that.
Let me start with the bowls, gross nepotism and greed included, and tell you why, as I explained in Eyeblack Odyssey, I think it’s good they’re surviving:
That pretty much sums it up. Their good will and charity are nice, I’m sure, but whether they do enough in their communities isn’t something I can really be bothered by. Likewise, I hate their insincere attempts to lie about their true mission, bribe power brokers, and fleece schools out of money.
But the point of the bowl game, as I see it, is to reward a team and fanbase for a good season. And it does that. So we all go to a warm location somewhere, we get to watch another football game, and when taken in total, roughly half the teams (and their fans) in postseason play (even with a playoff in place) end up walking away from the season on a high note, having won their final game.
So yes, I like that the bowls survived. I may not like their involvement in the playoff itself, but I think the bowls continuing to exist is a good thing — it creates fun for the players, fans, coaches, and everyone else involved in this whole silly affair.
Beyond that, it’s admirable to think that the folks in charge thought enough of the fans to not only admit that their postseason was broken, but to also do something about it. They may not have listened all that well on some of the finer points, but the majority of college football fans in the country wanted a playoff, and the conference commissioners and university presidents are giving them one. This is a good thing. It validates the power of the majority. It validates the idea that we can affect change with our leaders. It validates the relationship between the fans and their schools.
It makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
Now, I’m not ready to do cartwheels, but I don’t see how anyone can see this development as being a bad thing (unless their selfish need to see a different system, in other words, the end result, clouds their judgement on this matter). Whether this system is a good thing on its own merits or not, it is impossible for me to deny that the fans spoke, and the folks in power listened (again, not entirely well, mind you; but on the most basic level — “Playoff!” — yes).
But most importantly of all, the system on its own merits IS a good thing. Pitting the top four teams against one another to determine a national championship is good. It’s not as good as other options, but it’s without a doubt an improvement … and here’s where I explain why.
There is an idea, among defenders of the status quo, that a playoff may somehow produce an “unworthy” champion. That a clear divide will exist between No. 1 and No. 4, for instance, yet No. 1 will have a bad day at the office and anarchy (No. 4 winning) will ensue. To BCS supporters, this is the equivalent of a disaster.
That this idea, this ducking of teams to preserve some semblance of order, is so very much opposed to the concept of competition in the first place (which is what this whole thing is supposed to be about) is somewhat beside the point (though I do think it’s important to note). More critical in my mind is the hypocricy on display, which I will attempt to sum up thusly:
Why should No. 2 get a chance at a title if No. 1 has proven itself as No. 1 already?
In other words, why is a championship game even necessary to begin with?
There is no answer, other than the spirit of competition. And if we’re going to say the possibility exists that No. 2 could be a better team than No. 1 (Alabama should have proven this to us all this past January) and that those teams should settle it on the field, then there’s no Earthly reason why anyone should say unequivocally that No. 4 (or No. 3) is entirely unworthy of just such a consideration. If you’re going to “stage” a championship, more teams is good. Now, if you’re of the opinion the bowls should operate as they wish, with no end-of-season championship game being played at all, well, you’ve got an argument. I disagree, but that’s a discussion that can go on for days.
But any championship game qualifies as being a “playoff” — and a playoff featuring two teams is infinitely less interesting than one featuring four. If you don’t believe me, check back in two years when the ratings explode. The spirit of competition, and the theory that in any given game anything can happen, is why we watch. Adding two games with sudden-death implications to the mix for a total of three such games, instead of one, is what I’d call a win for fans of college football.
So, yes, it’s okay to say the playoff is a positive change. It’s okay to crack open some bubbly and do a victory lap.
(Let’s just keep chipping away and make this thing better next go around.)