College football has lost its way because the media and couch potatoes want to turn it into a minor league NFL.
The sport has long been plagued by scandal. Cam Newton and Reggie Bush are only the latest in a long trail. Half a century ago it was written that Hugh McElhenny found his way to the University of Washington from Compton Junior College by following a trail of $20 bills.
But even with all that, college football had one big trump card over the pros: tradition.
College football is one of the few avenues for bringing together alumni and students. On game day, you’ll see a multigenerational crowd, from youngsters barely out of diapers brought by their parents to those in their 80s.
They’re brought together by the game, and by their loyalty to their school.
The old bowl system was a big part of that. The Rose Bowl was the oldest, starting in 1902. But the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl all had long histories, and they brought in the champions from their regions.
The media and couch potatoes, who had no connection with the schools, wanted no part of that. They wanted a playoff.
The university presidents and chancellors didn’t want a playoff, and they have the final say. So, as a compromise, we have the BCS, which nobody likes.
The system has ruined the bowls. The Rose Bowl, for instance, matches up TCU and Wisconsin. That may be a good game, but it has no connection with the area in which the game is played. Meanwhile, Oregon is playing in the title game in Arizona, and Stanford is playing in the Orange Bowl. Aaargh! It would be far better to have Stanford in the Rose Bowl, LSU in the Sugar Bowl and Florida in the Orange Bowl, but those teams are playing out of their areas.
One objection to the old bowl system was that it was all about money and there were all these little bowls with weird sponsor’s names. Well, guess what. It’s still all about money and the weird sponsor names are still there.
Check some of these names: Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl, Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, Chick-Fil-A-Bowl, GoDaddy.com Bowl.
This compromise certainly hasn’t satisfied the media-couch potatoes lobby which still wants a playoff.
The first question I’d ask is why is it so important to know who’s No. 1?
Again, this is not the NFL. Pro leagues set up playoffs to determine No. 1 because that’s what their sports are about. That shouldn’t be true of college football.
The obstacles to a playoff system are formidable. In basketball, it’s easy: Just select 64 teams and let them keep playing until a champion is crowned. Of course, the best team doesn’t always survive but college basketball isn’t as hard on the body as football.
For a football playoff, you’d probably have 16 teams, which means that two teams would have to play four games in addition to their 12-game regular season. That’s the equivalent of an NFL season, and most of the players will never play again.
So, we’re stuck with the BCS. Be careful what you wish for.