Daily Archives: January 8, 2008

College Football News: Go Playoff Style?

This headline caught my eye this morning while I was getting my morning caffeine fix; I’m posting the news article in its entirety because AJC.com has a tendency to require a “registration/log-in” after certain pieces are online past a specific number of days.  I’ve also bolded red particularly thought-provoking sentences.  

Adams to push NCAA for playoffs

UGA president, who also chairs key NCAA panel, calls chances ‘at least 50-50’

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/08/08

 University of Georgia President Michael Adams says it’s time for the NCAA to replace the confusing and controversial Bowl Championship Series with an eight-team college football playoff — and he’s in position to help make it happen.

Adams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he has written a letter to NCAA president Myles Brand that advocates a seven-game, single-elimination tournament run by the NCAA, which currently has no say in the BCS process. The Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar bowls would become quarterfinal games in Adams’ tournament.

Playoff proposals from fans, journalists and even coaches have become as familiar across the college football landscape as marching bands, and University of Florida President Bernie Machen tried and failed to get his fellow SEC presidents to back a playoff last June. But Adams contends this is the first time an administrator of his standing — he’s the chairman of the NCAA’s executive committee — has pushed such an idea.

He says many of his fellow college presidents are ready to support it after years of rejecting a playoff, and believes chances are “at least 50-50” it will pass.

“I do think I’m in a position where I can get a formal conversation started at the point where it needs to take place, and that’s at the NCAA Division I [level],” Adams told the AJC in an exclusive interview. “Ultimately, I think we can come up with a better system.”

Adams’ goal is to have a playoff system adopted within “a year or two.”

Establishing a Division I-A playoff would not require a vote of NCAA member universities but would require changes in NCAA rules. A playoff plan would have to clear various committees with a mix of stakeholders, including coaches, athletics directors, faculty representatives and university presidents. Final approval would have to come from the Division I board of directors, a group of 18 university presidents, each representing a different conference. Adams is the SEC’s representative on the board.

Adams said he reached the conclusion that the BCS is unworkable and unfair not because Georgia wasn’t chosen to play in Monday night’s BCS title game but because the BCS bowls yielded such unattractive pairings. The Bulldogs beat Hawaii 41-10 in the Sugar Bowl and USC beat Illinois 49-17 in the Rose, but the match that could have been made — Georgia versus USC in the Rose — didn’t happen because the Rose chose to further its long-standing policy of pairing a Pac-10 team against a Big Ten representative.

“I don’t think this year’s series of games in [total] reflect well on the process, maybe less so than in any time in recent memory,” Adams said.

‘It’s not working’

The BCS has been in place since the 1998 season, its stated mission being to generate a championship game while preserving the bowl framework. But more than half the BCS title games have left it uncertain as to whether the two best teams were chosen for the game.

Over time, the BCS has tweaked its selection process and has added a fifth game to accommodate schools from the smaller leagues (such as Hawaii, from the Western Athletic Conference), but Adams believes there can be no real fix to such a system.

“A lot of people wanted this to work,” he said, “but I’m just convinced that it’s not working and that it’s not going to work and it’s fundamentally flawed, given the bowl arrangements with the various conferences and all of those cross-currents. I think what I’m suggesting is the fairest way, first of all for the [players]. …

“When you look at the entity that has the best track record in the country of running playoffs, most would agree it’s the NCAA. We run it in 30-some sports. You can argue who the 64th or the 65th team is, but nobody argues that Florida didn’t deserve to be the basketball champion.”

Adams’ scenario calls for the top eight football teams to be chosen and seeded by an NCAA selection committee. The four quarterfinal games would be played in the existing BCS bowls on New Year’s Day, with the semifinals to be staged the next week at unspecified locations and the title game the week after that. Said Adams: “I think this is the way that offends the most the least.”

Under his plan, Division I-A would have a smaller version of what already exists in Division I-AA, which has a 16-team football tournament; Division II, a 24-team tournament; and Division III, a 32-team tournament.

The non-BCS bowls, such as Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, would remain unaffected, Adams said. And, to lessen the burden on players, he would advocate scrapping the recently added 12th regular-season game.

What convinced Adams the BCS needs to be junked? “I listen to kids a lot. … There’s a growing sentiment among student-athletes that they would like to see a playoffs, and there’s a growing sense among the presidents that there are some inequities built into the present system — and some fairly serious inequities.”

Such as? “The bowl games this year … They ended up with some really screwy games.”

Mood shifts

School presidents have long been viewed as anti-playoff. Few wanted to see football carry over into the spring semester, and many are less concerned with crowning a “genuine” champion than with preserving the idea that football programs should complement schools’ academic missions, not overshadow or distort them.

“As far as a playoff system, there will not be one,” Ohio State President Gordon Gee recently told reporters. “They will wrench a playoff system out of my cold, dead hands. It’s too much like moving toward having universities being farm clubs for the pros.

“I think most university presidents would have the same opinion. What are there, 118 [actually, 119] Division I-A schools? I would suspect 110 presidents would vote against it,” said Gee, formerly the chancellor at Vanderbilt.

What makes Adams believe enough presidents will share his conclusion? “I think the [collective mood] was shifting before [the day of the BCS selections]. I think some of the shifting has been going on for some time. I think this year has impacted a lot of people,” he said.

“I think we’re closer to [a playoff] than we’ve ever been. The biggest resistance is likely to come from the Big Ten presidents, and even that may be mixed. Surprisingly, I know of several in the Pac-10 and the Big 12 and certainly [in] the SEC, the Big East and the ACC you’ll find some growing support for something, whether it’s this or a plus-one [a one-game playoff after the bowls].”

The ACC, SEC, Big East and Big 12 are open to discussing a plus-one format, the commissioners of the ACC and SEC told the Football Writers Association of America on Monday. But the Pac-10 and the Big Ten have been opposed, partly because they want to continue sending their champions to the Rose Bowl most years.

“We favor the current BCS format because it matches one and two while preserving the bowl system,” Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen told the Journal-Constitution. “We oppose a plus-one format because teams would be seeded out of their traditional bowls.”

Not everybody shares Adams’ view that opinions are changing in favor of a playoff.

“There is no substantial sentiment among university presidents and chancellors to move to a playoff system,” University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer told the Journal-Constitution. “It would seriously disrupt the academic calendar, diminish the significance of the regular season, reduce the success of the many communities which support the present bowl system and do little to provide more decisive evidence of the most superior team,” added Frohnmayer, who used to represent the Pac-10 on the board of directors and the executive committee.

Adams believes Brand will respond to his proposal by appointing “a committee to take a hard look, given what has happened this year and the fact I’m asking to put it on the [NCAA] agenda. Clearly there are TV contracts out there that would have to be honored or renegotiated, but I would think in a year or two we could get something done.”

A year or two would be fast, by NCAA standards.

“Changing college football is like turning around a big battle ship,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said. “It takes time.”

Fox’s contract with four of the five BCS games — the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls, and the national championship game — runs through 2010. Fox Sports President David Hill said Monday he has no objections to a change in the championship format. Complicating matters: the fifth BCS game, the Rose Bowl, has a separate deal with ABC that runs through 2014. So if the NCAA wanted to start a playoff before 2014, it might face legal obstacles if the Rose Bowl isn’t on board.

Sour grapes?

The NCAA’s annual convention will be held this week in Nashville, but the agenda for that, Adams said, is already set. He does, however, believe a process to consider his proposal will be in motion before his two-year term as NCAA executive committee chairman ends June 30, 2009. “It will either be moving forward or be dead by then.”

Adams claimed the NCAA has never officially considered the matter of a major-college football playoff, but he said, without being specific, “I know them to be willing to help on the issue.”

In a letter scheduled for release today, Adams wrote: “This year’s experience with the BCS forces me to the conclusion that the current system has lost public confidence and simply does not work. It is undercutting the sportsmanship and integrity of the game.”

Adams, who sparred with influential members of the Georgia fan base over the departure of popular athletics director Vince Dooley in 2004, said his proposal should not be read as a reaction to UGA’s failure to reach the championship game this season. The Bulldogs were No. 4 going into the final weekend, but did not move up to No. 2 in the final BCS rankings despite losses by No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia.

“I think that allegation [of sour grapes] will be made,” he said. “I could make an argument pro or con for us being in the national championship game. … We were very happy to be in a BCS bowl. We could’ve been passed [up], like Missouri. We had a lot to be thankful for, and I can tell you that’s not what’s driving this. I said three years ago I thought there was a real danger of the BCS falling apart as a result of its own weight, and I think that has increased each of the last three years.”

What chance, Adams was asked, does he see of his proposal becoming reality? “I think it’s at least 50-50,” he said, “and it’s a higher percentage than that of people who feel that something needs to be done.”

Source: AJC.com 

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So, what say you?  Should the BCS stay as it is (or perhaps undergo a kind of re-alignment)? Or, should the BCS go playoff style?  I can see why university administrators would be opposed to a playoff system. I can see why coaches, players, fans, and athletic departments would be willing to give it a try.  Either way, there’d be a lot of chaos that would need to be calmed and categorized.