BCS Announces Four-Team Playoff—Now What?

 

The greatest sport in the world is finally getting a playoff. Are you squealing right now? Because you should be.

The seven-letter word that college football officials refused to say for so long is now their favorite. Last week, BCS officials and conference commissioners announced their plan to move to a four-team playoff beginning in 2014. You guys, that’s only two seasons away.

While most of the details still have to be ironed out, the fact that the old BCS system is getting overhauled is the best thing to happen to college football in a long, long time. For years, fans complained that the BCS produced lackluster matchups, left deserving teams out in the cold, and favored the big guys over mid-conference squads. Too many “what if?” scenarios were left each year to satiate.

Now college football is giving the people what they want. Over the next few weeks, the conference commissioners will take their plans to their schools’ presidents to decide just how the whole thing will be set up. What we know right now is that automatic qualifier spots will be gone, and so will the rule limiting the number of possible same-conference teams in BCS bowls to two.

More complicated are the issues of seeding and the sites of the games. Several commissioners want the semi-final games to be hosted at the higher seeded team’s home stadium, while others are of the opinion that the semi-final games ought to be played at the pre-existing BCS bowls (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Rose).

While having the semi-final games on college campuses would be an intense experience, the latter option will probably win out because, as we all know, cash rules everything and those BCS bowls have a lot of sway in that department.

Even more complicated is the seeding issue. Does the BCS, or whatever it will be called, take the top four teams in the nation at the end of the season, regardless of conference, or does it take the top four conference winners? There are plusses and minuses to both.

Taking the top four teams would be the most “democratic,” but it also leaves open the possibility of conference bias. On the flip side, taking the top four conference winners would ensure everyone gets a shot, but then, stronger conferences (the SEC comes to mind) would be left with only one representative. Either way, there will still be debate as to which four teams ought to be included in the playoff.

That might sound like a downer, but consider two important factors of that last sentence: instead of two teams, there are now four, and it’s for a playoff. The post-season arguments might still be there, but it’ll be harder to argue that the national champion wasn’t at least deserving.

Perhaps the biggest impact this will have is on the quality of the games. The past few national championships have lacked the fireworks we’ve come to expect from a game of such importance.

In this writer’s opinion, a lot of that is due to the fact that the national championship is played nearly five weeks after most teams wrap up their regular season. By the time the teams take the field in January, they’ve often lost momentum and gained rust. By putting in a semi-final game beforehand and moving up the final a week, teams will be able to stay in better form and the games will benefit from it.

So yeah, there’s a lot to still be figured out, but for now, fans should be excited that change is coming. It’s said that change is scary, and it can be, but this change isn’t nearly as scary as the idea of the BCS continuing as it has been for the last decade plus. It’s a great time to be a college football fan.

Photo courtesy UT Athletics.

 

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