There's No Playoff Scenario that Works

Jim Delany doesn't care too much for those young men from Tuscaloosa.
If you've been paying any attention to the college football post-season debate, you've certainly heard/read the comments by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany regarding his feelings on teams that don't even win their divisions being eligible to participate in the purposed playoff system said to replace the current BCS system. He never mentions any school by name, but it's pretty clear who he's talking about.
"I don't have a lot of regard for that team. I certainly wouldn’t have as much regard for that team as I would for someone who played nine conference games in a tough conference and played a couple out-of-conference games on the road against really good opponents. If a poll doesn't honor those teams and they're conference champions, I do."
It's pretty very obvious he's talking about Alabama, who in 2011, won the BCS national title without even winning their division or playing in the SEC championship game. Call it unfair, which it is, but it's also the system we have to live with. Don't hate the playa.

However, as a Michigan blogger and well-documented fan, I would like to kindly ask B1G commish Delany to please stop picking a fight with the best team in the best conference in college football. Especially since in less than 4 months Michigan is set to take the field in Jerryworld in primetime against said SEC team.

Please and thank you.

Now, I must admit that I think Delany has a point. And I'll also admit that there is almost no scenario that includes any sort of playoff format that is not biased or unequal in terms of it's fairness. Every conference is different. Every division in those conferences are different. 4-team playoff system, 6 teams, 8 or 16 doesn't matter. It's never going to be fair.


Because the college football season is not set up to maximize a playoff format. Teams don't play enough games. Think about it. In the NFL, teams play 16 games, and there are only 32 teams – 12 of which make the playoffs...4 division winners and 2 wildcard teams in each conference.

In college football, a purposed 4-team playoff which will choose it's teams from 6 conferences (B1G, SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big East and ACC) spanning 66 teams (currently). There is no way, in the current 12-game season format with the ranking system we have, that a field of 4 teams can accurately be chosen.

Insert argument about how strength of schedule should be weighed heavier in the BCS formula here.

To do it the right way, a drastic revamp of college football from head to toe would be needed. This would include elimination of computer polls and the "human element", realignment of conferences and divisions (which would kill off the bowls), drastic lengthening of seasons, and all-likely the elimination of some teams from "automatic qualifier" status.

Surely an NFL-like playoff system would emerge from the wreckage – which would be more-fairer, but would never happen because of things like school administrators, academic obligations of players, conference television and current bowl contracts and the like. Basically, there's too much red tape involved for any real post-season system that would be considered "fair". So what we end up with is a the product of the equation where an ideal playoff system is divided by the current BCS system in order to keep the money train rolling without compromising the integrity of conferences and tradition (i.e. bowls).

To put it simply – not a real playoff.

Michigan AD Dave Brandon knows this, and is suddenly okay with it. (Via MGoBlog)
Dave Brandon, January 16th($):
"This whole notion of a playoff is ridiculous because I don't care what you come up with, it's not going to be a fair playoff. You've got a bunch of teams that don't play one another and play different competition and in different time zones in different conferences in different stadiums in front of different crowds and different weather and suddenly at some point in the year you are trying to arbitrarily decide which one is better and which one deserves to be in a four-team playoff or a six-team playoff."
Dave Brandon, May 3rd:
"I'm not opposed to 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3, plus-one concept," Brandon said. "I don't see it as a true playoff system. It's a clever way to come up with one more football game. I'm not sure I call that a playoff, but if it makes everybody feel better, call it a playoff."
Of course he's not opposed. It's not in his, or Michigan's, or the Big Ten's best interest to be opposed. The south (the SEC) is in the driver's seat in any college football playoff debate. It's a tough look in the mirror for proud conferences like the Big Ten and the Pac-12, but the quote from DB above shows that the geographic reality is starting to set in. Time for everyone to get on board or get left at the station. And no one wants to be left at the station. There's no money at the station.

Never before has college football been more profitable to everyone involved (except the players, but that's a different debate altogether). And if they can add another game to sell to the networks, why not?

But never before has there been more debate on how justified the process of choosing a national champion is. Even back in the bowl coalition days (before 1998), there was debate, but never talk that the system was broken, it was just "the system". It was outdated. You could make the argument that the only thing the BCS has added to the debate is the idea that they tried to fix it and missed the mark big time.

So what's the short-term solution? Revamp the BCS to a plus-one format. It's not perfect, but it's the best a large group of well-paid administrators can come up to appear as if their working on something with without interrupting revenue and keeping everyone who's on the take happy.

It's one big cup of compromise. All that's left is to hash out the details like how we choose which four teams get in, and how the current bowls will be dealt with and who will host the semi-final games...the schools or the current bowl sites? You know, little stuff.

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