Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman was sent to Washington as the sacrificial lamb for Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Utah's push to rectify the woes of the BCS. Perlman made it clear that the BCS is here to stay for the forseable future; the television contracts with Fox and ESPN are based on the current framework. But Perlman did admit that the BCS "may be unfair."
Say what you will about the government getting involved with college football. While it's clear that there are far more issues for the government to be involved in (the Bush recession, the Obama deficits, health care reform, Iran, North Korea, Afganistan, etc.), I find the idea that congressional opposition somehow justifies the BCS laughable.
And with all due respect to Chancellor Perlman's academic reputation, his track record in matters related to football is even lower than Congress's approval ratings. After all, this is the man that gave Steve Pederson an endorsement and a contract extension, then was forced to fire Pederson three months later, claiming that he had no idea of all of the problems in the athletic department. Which isn't a big deal by itself: Perlman is supposed to be in charge of the entire institution, and Nebraska-Lincoln should be much more than the football program.
So why trot Perlman out in front of Congress? It sounds like he did a great job of reciting the BCS talking points in a heated situation, but it won't convince anybody to change their opinions.
We all know why the BCS exists in it's current form: the Presidents want it and while few agree, there also is little agreement as to what to replace the BCS with.
There are two solid reasons to maintain the current structure:
- The tradition of the bowls (history, plus 60+ teams get to participate, with half of those teams finishing the season with a victory)
- The length of the season (a team that plays in a conference championship game will play 14 games; 15 if they play Hawaii)
The problem is, of course, unless there are two and only two teams worthy of consideration for a national championship, the BCS fails. The BCS has tweaked and tweaked their formula after complaints in 2000 (Miami) and 2001 (Colorado & Oregon), but the sad fact is that no matter how you tweak the formula, as long as there are more than two worthy candidates (see USC in 2003 and Auburn in 2004), the system fails.
If you're a fan of chaos and controversy, the current system works. For everybody else, blech.
What's the solution? I still maintain a playoff is not only the correct solution, it's the inevitable solution. Make no bones about it, while Congress may not force the issue, if Utah and the Mountain West take it to the courts, they'll likely win in the end.
The bowls will likely struggle to survive in a post-BCS era; they'll be relegated to an "NIT" like situation. Some teams will stay home in the postseason, to be sure...but they'll probably be better off for it. Many bowl games only pay the NCAA minimum of $750,000 per team, which frequently doesn't cover expenses for teams to travel...especially when the bowls require teams to purchase tickets. Attendance at many of these lower bowls is pathetic as well; played in converted baseball and soccer stadiums and sponsored by credit unions and infomercial products (how soon before we see the "Shamwow! Bowl"). The bowl system "jumped the shark" when the Independence Bowl was sponsored by "Weed Eater".
No, the bowl structure is an antiquity that really needs to go away. Nebraska fans may miss spending New Years in Phoenix or Miami, but don't particularly want to remember Shreveport. But what if the consolation prize was another game in Lincoln occasionally? Imagine New Years Day being filled with multiple simultaneous college football games once again, but rather than games from warm weather sites, what if the games were in Lincoln, Madison, Ann Arbor, or State College? More fans would attend, to be sure.
Here's my proposal:
Eight team playoff, with the first two rounds at campus sites in December. All teams go into a bracket like in March Madness, with the four winners playing in week two in predetermined matchups. (Winner of #1 vs. #8 seeds play the winner of the #4 vs. #5 seeds; winner of #2 vs. #7 plays the winner of #3 vs. #6.)
Winner gets three weeks off, and they'll play in the college national championship game in early January. Why three weeks off? First of all, there have been complaints about player fatigue. Secondly, three weeks allows fans to make travel plans. (People who think that the bowl structure could be modified to support a playoff have never traveled to a bowl game with their own money.)
What happens in the interim? Simple: the NIT of College Football. Bowl games, or whatever you want to call them. Anybody with a winning record is eligible to play one more game. It could be a bowl game...or it could be on campus. My guess is that teams will make much more money playing these games on campus than at bowl sites, but if the Rose Bowl wants to continue to match up a Big 10/Pac 10 matchup, they're certainly welcome to if teams from those conferences agree. They'll probably survive. The Fiesta and Cotton Bowls will probably also survive, since they'll be able to put together some attractive matchups in attractive locales. But rather than playing the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, those teams could play at one of their home fields in front of their home fans.
So what you get is the best of all possible worlds:
A true national champion
A holiday season filled with college football
Traditions can remain