The League

Leonard Shapiro
Columnist

Leonard Shapiro

Washington Post sports reporter, editor and columnist who has served on the NFL HOF Selection Committee.

Ivory tower idiocy

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The BCS sort of got lucky this year, what with two high profile programs going undefeated and meeting for the national championship. Still, whether it's Alabama or Texas hoisting the trophy Thursday night, this is a system that could be so much more compelling.

I'm sitting here this week in south Florida, where the Orange Bowl match-up between Georgia Tech and Iowa doesn't even get front page treatment in the local newspapers and is barely mentioned on the local newscasts. Of course, they'll sell the place out, mostly with fans of the two schools, but there's been no buzz whatsoever around here for a bowl that clearly deserves better.

This year, and every year, any BCS bowl that's not hosting the title game faces much the same problem, a situation that could so easily be remedied it makes you wonder how some of these genius college presidents ever made it through freshman English.

They're the villains of this piece, a group of head-in-the-clouds academics totally out of touch in their ivory towers with the vast majority of fans -- including presidents and members of Congress -- who would love to see a playoff system put in place.

The NFL obviously has it just about right -- three weekends of riveting postseason drama preceding the Super Bowl. The colleges could easily emulate that formula, simply picking the eight best teams, seeding them in four quarterfinals, two semifinals and a title game at eight different bowl sites that would rotate every year. All the games would be scheduled in the same four to five week period when the vast majority of colleges are shutting down for the Christmas break.

Spare me the caterwauling about student athletes needing to focus on academics over football. When graduation rates start exceeding the 90 percent mark, maybe the colleges could make a case for it. But make no mistake, in the vast majority of Division I schools, its football first, anything else second, no matter what the presidents would have us all believe.

Of course there would be flaws with an eight team playoff; a worthy team might well be left out of the mix. But that alternative is far better than what we've got now, where a school like Boise State goes 14-0, beats an undefeated team in their final game of the season, and still feels cheated out of a national championship.

They deserve better, and so do we.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  January 6, 2010; 3:24 PM ET  | Category:  College Football , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Cornell almost beat #1 Kansas last night in NCCA Men's Basketball. Does anyone care? Would the game have mattered at all had Kansas lost? No, because there is a playoff.

When you add a playoff, you destroy the greatness of the college football season, that every game matters no matter when it's played. From Boise St-Oregon and USC-OSU in September to UF-Bama and Nebraska-UT December, all had title game implications. Kansas-Cornell? Who cares?

Posted by: rjohnson2842 | January 7, 2010 4:57 PM

RJohnson2842,

Everyone cared about Kansas-Cornell. In fact, ESPN constantly CUT AWAY FROM THE GMAC BOWL to check in on the Kansas-Cornell game.

The Kansas-Cornell game is, in fact, perfect evidence against your point. The game was interesting because it's precisely the kind of win that could have
catapulted Cornell into the Tourney come March. That gives the Kansas-Cornell basketball game more meaning than any Kansas-Cornell football game will ever, ever have.

As for the people who would argue that a playoff "destroys the regular season"....I guess none of you ever watch the NFL. But, the rest of the country does. Every Sunday. Even when their team has no chance of making the playoffs.

And if you think that under a playoff college football teams could just phone-it-in during the regular season, think again. Look at the records of the top 8 teams as of the last BCS ranking - none of the teams had more than 1 loss. So, the "ruin-the-regular-season" argument is basically about a single, regular season game. Because teams MIGHT be able to lose a single, regular season game and still make the playoffs, the ENTIRE season is ruined.

That makes no sense. Which game do you "choose" to lose? An early game? Welll, what if you legitimately get defeated later? A late game? Well, what if you lose too badly to be selected?

In the end, the argument against the playoffs makes absolutely no sense. If you want to vote for a champion, take up figure skating. In football, let the kids decide things on the field.

Posted by: dsk36 | January 7, 2010 5:24 PM

I hate the BCS too, but it *is* an improvement over the debacle back in 1994 when Nebraska and Penn State were undefeated #1 and #2 but they were contractually obligated to play in different bowls. Under the BCS, they would have played each other. So the BCS fixed one small problem, but created a host of new ones.

Posted by: TJ1743 | January 7, 2010 9:27 PM

Take the top eight teams using the BSC rankings and have a playoff. Start two weeks after the last game for the quarters, a week later for the semi's, two weeks later or New Years Day for the semi's and a week later for the National Championship. The other bowl games could still pick up the other teams outside the top eight like this year.

Due to the rankings, a loss during the regular season could be devastating, so each game in the regular season would be very important. The question would be would a top team schedule a tough opponent as there non-conference game???

Posted by: rmk3551 | January 7, 2010 11:19 PM

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