By: Steven Leventhal, YourSportsFan.com Sports Director
What the BCS (or as we call it around here, the Bogus Championship Series) needs is a healthy prescription to remedy the only collegiate sport that, in reality, doesn't crown its champion on the field. Sure, everybody has a quick fix for what ails Division I college football. Since you can't please all the people all the time, however, perhaps you can please all the skeptics some of the time. Or maybe you can please all the pundits some of the time. Well, you get my drift.
College officials have long maintained a stance against having a "second season" in college football on the basis that they didn't want their student-athletes' (yeah, right) seasons to carry over into the spring semester. Funny, it never seemed to upset the basketball teams, whom I might add, play more than one game per week as opposed to their football counterparts.
A little investigative work by my crack staff yielded some interesting results. Only three of the Big Ten (actually Eleven) schools--Northwestern, Michigan, and Ohio State--resume classes the first week of January 2007. Four of them (Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Penn State) don't even hunker down and hit the books until the sixteenth of January. Wisconsin students don't emerge from winter hibernation until the 22nd. Lots of time for ice fishing, I guess.
If other schools have similar schedules, then college presidents whining about missed classes are obviously misinformed. So why not have a college playoff system, with games culminating the first weekend in January? What about those schools who might be in class? Well, unless things have changed dramatically in the 20-plus years since I graduated from college, very little work gets done in the first week of any semester.
But what about the early bowl games? Wouldn't they loose their luster? Sorry, but I don't excited anymore about the prospect of missing the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl or the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl. Although I must admit, I kinda miss the Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl, and there will always be a place in my heart for the Astro Blue-Bonnet Bowl. I'll explain the solution for the relatively meaningless bowls shortly.
First let's tackle the big issue. Suppose I have convinced you to let me cast a hypnotic spell over the football powers that be and force them to have a playoff. Who gets in? Realistically, we have to begin with eight teams. Why eight? For starters, four teams is too few, and secondly, I don't have enough pixie dust to sprinkle in the NCAA's eyes to make them allow 16 teams. In reality, an eight-team playoff makes the most sense because it would only take three weeks. Start it Christmas weekend and end it the first weekend in January.
So who gets to be in the elite eight? Why, the conference champions, of course. Three of the major conferences already have a playoff game (ACC, Big 12, SEC), so can't we talk some sense into the Big Ten (OK, Eleven) and find another school for the conference to adopt? What about Notre Dame? The Irish are halfway there. They already play Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Penn State.
Oh, but the Irish have a sweetheart deal with NBC. Yes, and they also play the service academies. (They should be docked BCS points for picking on defenseless Army, Navy, and the Air Force, and outscoring them 118-40 this year.) Find a way to give NBC a piece of the pie. Remember, we are working for the greater good here. What about the other nonconformist, out west? It's time for the Pac-10 to morph into a 12-Pac. Look under a rock or behind the bushes. There's probably a Lobo, a Ute, a Runnin' Rebel, or an Aztec that merits inclusion in this club. The Big East can square off against the MAC, and if needed, the WAC champ can slug it out with the Mountain West. Take that first weekend in December. You can have six or seven conference title games from Thursday through Saturday. I'm getting excited already.
Now you have seven of the eight contenders, all of whom survived a title fight. Then they take a short break for final exams. They are students, after all (wink, wink.)
This is where the BCS rankings come into play. Take the number eight-ranked BCS team, or the highest-ranking conference runner-up, and throw them into the mix. Use the rankings to create seedings. If a team with two losses beats an undefeated team, so be it. Win or go home. Everyone else moves up. Now take the seven big bowl games: Citrus, Gator, Sugar, Rose, Fiesta, Orange, and Cotton (forgive me, but I prefer to use the original names), and have each one host the title game on a rotating basis.
Historically, teams have had way too much time to prepare for bowl games anyway. Sometimes this produces mismatches in the BCS. Anyone remember January 4, 2000? Virginia Tech would rather forget about the 46-29 pounding they took from Florida State. What about the Sooner Schooner? Two years ago the wheels came flying off during a 55-19 pummeling at the hands of USC. I'll bet you won't see that kind of slaughter when teams only have a week to prepare for their second opponent.
Now let's get back to the other bowl games. After all, none of those riveting matchups wants to lose their luster if only eight teams have a shot at the national championship.
Here's the solution to that problem. Teams that meet the NCAA win requirements and finish out of the hunt are already slotted into bowls. For instance the Big Eleven's third versus the SEC/East's third, the ACC's fourth vs. the Big 12's fourth, and so forth.
Take all of those games and give them a point value. A #6 vs. #6 matchup would be worth one point, a #5 against #5 would be worth two points, #4-#4 three points, and so on. Whatever school wins the game, their conference gets the points. The system should be weighted to give the final seven games even more value. As the Bowl season plays out, the points are tallied. The last team left standing wins the national title, but the conference that racks up the most points gets a big prize as well--let's say a cool million in scholarship money from some big-time car, beer, or snack food sponsor.
Wouldn't it be great to see schools rooting for their rivals to win so that their conference keeps racking up pizza, soda, or insurance company-sponsored points? Such a system might even ratchet up interest in the bowl games reminiscent of March Madness. I can see it now….December Dogfight….Christmas Chaos….January Juggernaut.
Who's ready? Let's go bowling!