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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

A college playoff still has problems


Last week, the long national nightmare for most college football fans, otherwise known as the BCS, came to an end. Starting in the fall of 2014, Division I-A college football will have a four-team playoff. While many college football fans rejoice, here are four reasons why there still are matters to consider before calling this a victory and why this particular fan is already lamenting the end of the BCS.

The playoff is not going to stay at four teams
My biggest argument over the years for the BCS and against a playoff system is the fear a playoff would hurt the importance of college football's regular season. There is no better, no more meaningful regular season in all of sports than college football.

Every game matters. One loss could ruin your season. To win a national title, you have to be good each and every week as opposed to getting hot at the right time of the season. The current system is why you might stay up past midnight on a Saturday in October to watch what you thought was going to be a nothing game turn into an undefeated powerhouse such as USC on the ropes against a big underdog. You know if USC loses, you can pretty much cross it off the list of national contenders.

Put it this way: Those of us who never really wanted a playoff always said college football does have a playoff: It starts with the first game of the regular season.

Well, for those of us worried a playoff will ruin the regular season or, at the very least, make it less significant, a four-team playoff is a compromise we’re willing to make. A four-team playoff doesn't change the importance of the regular season. Every regular-season game remains crucial. One loss, and you certainly risk missing out on a berth.

But here is the concern. Most fans aren't going to be satisfied with a four-team playoff. Soon, they are going to start begging for eight teams, then 12, then 16. The four-team system is supposed to stay in place for a dozen years. But you know if enough people complain and, more important, there's more money to be made, officials will find a way to expand the postseason. This could be the first step of a slippery slope.

The more teams you invite, the more teams want in
I would argue that most seasons under the BCS, the two most deserving teams did end up meeting for the national championship. Occasionally, one or two other teams would make a decent argument that they should have had a crack at the title game.

But if you have a four-team playoff, you could end up having six, seven, eight or more teams that have an argument. In other words, there are more teams that can make a case for being among the four best teams in the country than there are teams that can make a case for being among the two best in the nation.

You just watch. The first time there are three or four teams tied for the fourth-best record in the country, people will start clamoring for an eight-team playoff. Then the regular season will be diminished just so we can add a couple of two-loss teams to the playoff mix.

Take last season. Know who would have been No. 8 in an eight-team playoff? Most likely a Kansas State team that was 10-2. Do you really think the Wildcats were anywhere near the same level as Alabama or LSU? Were they an elite team? Did they deserve to compete for a national championship with Alabama and LSU?\

The answers: no, no and no.

boise.It won't help the small schools
Some cries about the lack of a playoff in recent years came from schools from nonmajor conferences. The little guys -- such as Boise State, TCU and Utah -- complained they weren't given a fair shot to compete with the big boys from the SEC, Big 12 and so forth.

Many who wanted a playoff system would point to the NCAA basketball tournament and how Cinderellas such as Gonzaga, Butler and George Mason had just as much of a chance as the Dukes, Kentuckys and North Carolinas. All they needed was a chance to play.

But a four-team system really does nothing to improve the lot of the little guy. Major conferences still will get most of the consideration. And if strength of schedule is going to be considered, why would a team from a major conference ever play an upset-minded program similar to Boise State or Utah?

If you're Florida and have to potentially go through a murderer’s row of teams such as LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, why would you schedule another pain-in-the-neck team outside the conference such as Boise State? And without beating top teams such as Florida, a team such as Boise State doesn't stand a chance of getting playoff consideration.

Who's picking these teams?
The four teams are going to be selected by a panel of … well, we don't know exactly. It could be a panel of active school presidents and/or administrators. It could be former coaches and athletic directors. It could be sports writers and broadcasters. Maybe it will be a combination of all of the above.

The problem would be whoever is picked to be on the committee will have biases and conflicts. After all, they're only human.

University executives such as presidents and athletic directors have rivals and conference ties that could influence their thinking. Will former coaches, say guys such as Florida State's Bobby Bowden, pay close enough attention to make intelligent, educated decisions?

Some on the committee might give more weight to SEC schools than Big Ten schools. Perhaps Pac-12 teams won't be seen enough to be considered. Some might believe one conference shouldn't have two teams in the playoffs no matter what.

True, the current system takes into account voters with biases, but the point is the human element still is involved. And it's easier for people to agree on who the top two teams are as opposed to agreeing on the top four teams.

trophy.Final analysis
I'm in the minority, but I never had a problem with the BCS for two reasons. One, it preserved the integrity of the regular season. And two, while you could argue there might have been a team left out that deserved to play in the national title game, you could not argue the two final teams were undeserving. Ultimately, the national champion was a valid one and won the title on the field. I'd rather have the BCS than a four-team playoff, but I'd rather have a four-team playoff than one with eight or more teams. If everyone can promise to be happy with a four-team playoff, I promise to be happy with it, too.

[Last modified: Monday, July 2, 2012 10:19am]


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