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College football's eggheads leave us with same mess

ST. PETERSBURG

Scratch another career possibility off my list.

And it's a shame because I would have enjoyed being a college football czar.

But, alas, I do not have what it takes. Not after seeing how conference commissioners demonstrated a wisdom so rare that I can't even begin to explain its origins.

You see, they had a chance to refine college football's postseason system this week. It did not require lengthening the season. It did not mean adding another game. It did not mean doing away with the bowls.

It simply turned two of the nation's most prestigious bowl games into national semifinals with the current BCS title game bringing the two winners together for the national championship.

In other words, it created a faux Final Four without messing with the tradition (held dear by many fans) or the economics (savagely protected by university bigwigs) of the current bowl lineup.

What could possibly be better?

Apparently, an utterly meaningless bowl game at Tropicana Field.

And there you go, because only a freakishly superior intellect could make sense of that one.

These conference officials looked at the college football landscape and decided that any move toward a truer national championship was not advisable, but they wholeheartedly agreed to add bowl games in St. Petersburg and Washington so the world's remaining 6-6 teams did not feel so mediocre.

Several commissioners offered explanations afterward, but I'm still waiting for one that makes sense.

• The but-there-still-would-be-controversy argument: This one is delicious. The basic premise is that since they are not creating a true playoff, what good is a miniplayoff with an expanded field of contenders? Which is sort of like saying, why brush your teeth if you don't have time to floss too?

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese pointed out LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech would have been the semifinalists last season, which means Georgia and USC fans would have cried foul.

He's right. But would you prefer the Nos. 3 and 4 teams being snubbed, or the Nos. 5 and 6 teams?

Look, four teams is not perfect, but it's better than two teams. Just as two teams was better than one team, which is what we used to have when the polls decided the national champion.

• The if-it-ain't-broke-why-fix-it argument: Another dandy. Ask Auburn fans if they think the system has no need of repair. The Tigers were 11-0 in 2004 but did not get a chance to play for the national title because Oklahoma and USC were ranked higher. With four contenders in the field instead of two, the Tigers would have at least had a shot at the title.

• The it-will-cheapen-the-regular-season argument: I don't even know where to begin with this one. The entire season will be exactly the same except for one change in the final two weeks.

Instead of using polls and com­puters to pick the two national championship candidates, the polls and computers will pick four candidates. That's it. Virtually nothing else changes.

You use two bowls— alternating between the Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose — as the semifinals and the BCS title game remains in the same place.

• The bowls-make-everyone-happy argument: This is the worst of the bunch. Somehow, college football leaders have convinced everyone their sport is different. They stage 34 bowl games as if they are a legitimate postseason and, this way, 34 teams can end the season on a winning note.

It is, in a word, absurd.

The idea of competition is to eliminate teams until you reach the very best. The regular season weeds out most of the contenders. The postseason is supposed to weed out the rest, not provide fake trophies and atta-boys.

Too many people in college football want to give the illusion that they had a successful season even if they did not come within a whiff of the national championship. Anything that smacks of a playoff threatens that illusion.

They don't do this in basketball, baseball, hockey or any other sport. Why does college football get treated like your 6-year-old's T-ball league?

The worst part about the decision of the commissioners this week is that the proposed postseason format left everything else in place.

It wasn't radical. It didn't put bowls at risk. And it would not have been a hardship on student-athletes.

All it would have done was make New Year's bowl games far more enticing, and get us a little closer to ensuring the best team in the nation finished on top.

But I suppose that didn't make enough sense.

John Romano can be reached at (727) 893-8811.

College football's eggheads leave us with same mess 05/01/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2008 5:18pm]
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