Every major sports magazine and media outlet has recently called for a FBS playoff system. The BCS has survived for a decade, through sheer force of will of the BCS conference commissioners. But recently an inadvertent mistake has shown that the computer rankings portion of the BCS rankings need to be made more transparent or independently audited to assure accuracy.
The bowl system does maintain the excitement and meaning of regular season games that is sometimes missing in NCAA basketball and it should be preserved for athletes, students, fans, and charitable-minded bowl committees. But the frenzy and fan interest of March madness is certainly not found in the FBS bowl system. In addition many schools qualifying for non-BCS bowls lose money when attending these bowl games because alumni and fans do not buy enough tickets to cover the allotment demanded by the bowl sponsors. But, there is a playoff system that could be adopted next year that would make every special interest happy; the student athletes, the NCAA, the BCS and its conferences, the non-BCS conferences, the cities that host the bowls, the TV networks, and especially the fans. Here are its advantages:
1. Does not go beyond January 11 even with a playoff schedule with national Champion and runner up would play no more than 16 games. (12+4).
2. Utilizes the current BCS rankings system to seed a 14 team tournament therefore maintaining the excitement of regular season games and reward for schedule difficulty.
3. Keeps the current locally sponsored bowl system intact, but gives real meaning to 14 of the 35 of the current bowl games by making them part of a playoff system rather than just a destination year-end party.
4. It eliminates the league championship games of the 12 team conferences that may result in crowning a “champion” that does not have the best record in league play.
5. It produces even more income for NCAA and thereby an opportunity to help fund non-BCS conferences, but without hurting the income of the BCS conferences.
8. Provides for playoff games every other week during December to allow healing, preparation, and student academics/finals and home visitation.
Here is how my proposed FBS playoff system works…..
- 14 teams would be involved, based on a final set of BCS rankings published after end of play on Thanksgiving weekend. (Nov 27<sup>th</sup> in 2011).
- Teams in the six BCS conferences would not schedule games after Thanksgiving weekend. Only teams in the five non-BCS conferences (MAC, Mtn West, Conf USA, WAC, Sunbelt) or independents would be allowed to do so.
- None of current six BCS conferences would have championship games –instead they would sponsor all of the six round 1 playoff games.
- The FBS tourney would have four rounds - The two highest ranked teams in the Nov 27 BCS rankings would get a bye in round 1. In this way there would still be great motivation to be one of the top two teams, thereby assuring week by week interest and meaning during the regular season.
- Six Round 1 games would occur the first Saturday in December (Dec 3 in 2011) with four Round 2 (quarterfinal) games scheduled on a Saturday two weeks later. Two Round 3 (semifinal) games would be conducted two weeks later (typically on Jan. 2, 3 or 4). The FBS championship game would then occur Jan 9, 10 or 11. The fan interest and TV income for the 13 playoff games would far surpass anything currently available for FBS bowls.
- The seedings for the six Round 1 games would be as follows: #3 plays #14; 4 plays 13, 5 plays 12, 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10, and 8 plays 9 with game locations decided by the closest site going to the higher seed.
- For the four Round 2 Quarterfinal games the seedings would be: #1 plays the lowest seed winning in round 1; #2 plays second lowest surviving seed, with the next highest remaining seed playing the third lowest remaining seed and so on.
- Round 3 becomes a Final Four spectacular with the two semifinal games played at two of the four traditional BCS bowls (Orange, Rose, Sugar, Fiesta). Note: the four schools losing in round 2 quarterfinal games would play in the other two traditional BCS bowls not hosting semifinal games. The four current BCS bowls would annually rotate which sites would get the round 3 “Final Four” versus “consolation” games similar to how they rotate today with the BCS championship game and at-large bowl picks.
- The 6 teams losing in Round 1 would also be guaranteed participation in one of six other “Major” bowl games (Cotton, Outback, Gator, Capitol One, Chik-Fila, and Alamo) thereby preserving the major bowl game experience for each and the income for those conferences and bowl committees.
- The BCS conferences would give up their championship games; with those current championship sites instead hosting one of the six round 1 games. To make this possible the proceeds from the Round 1 games would go to the 6 major BCS conferences (ACC, SEC, Big10, Big 12, Big East, Pac10/12) regardless of who is participating in the games, as do the proceeds or anticipated proceeds of the league championship games today.
- All tourney games would be held on neutral “fair-weather” fields to assure competitive games and quality fan experiences.
- For the remaining bowls for 2011, by 4pm Sunday Dec 4, the Capital One, Outback, Gator, Cotton, Chick Fila, and Alamo Bowls (in that order) would fill their fields with one team ranked 15+ with their other participant of course being a college team losing in Round 1. After 4pm on Dec.4 teams ranked 15+ (those teams not selected by a bowl before 4pm) are picked to fill out remaining bowl games not involved in the tourney, in the same manner as they pick today.
Here is how it plays out next year and beyond if this system is adopted….
2011 Round 1- Six games held on Sat. Dec 3 with Host conference in parentheses.
Games held in: Atlanta (SEC), Indianapolis (Big East), Tampa (ACC), Los Angeles (Pac10/12), St Louis (Big10), Houston (Big12). NCAA and host BCS conferences would conduct the Round 1 games and split proceeds with participating teams each guaranteed at least $3 mil.
2011 Round 2 Elite “8” Quarterfinals– Saturday Dec 17 with supporting Bowl Committees in parentheses (skipping Dec 10 due to prepare and to take academic final exams)
Games held in domed or fair weather minor bowl sites: Detroit (Little Caesars), Orlando (Champs Sports), San Diego (Poinsettia), and St. Petersburg (Beef O’Brady). NCAA would conduct these Round 2 games along with the host bowl, each of which should earn $8-10 mil a piece in net earnings and guarantee each participating team $3 mil. The four Bowl committees and any of the five non-BCS conferences NOT conducting a championship game would receive $1mil each from proceeds of these quarterfinal games from the NCAA who would retain any remaining “profits”.
The FBS tourney skips Dec 24 weekend to rest, prepare and enjoy holidays with family; All other bowls are conducted as is currently the case except for Little Caesars, Poinsettia, Beef O’Brady, and Champs Sports Bowls which would have already been conducted as part of Round 2.
2011 “Final Four” Semifinals – Saturday Jan 2, 2012 (4pm and 8pm EST) in Pasadena (Rose) and Glendale (Fiesta). Note: on Dec 18, New Orleans (Sugar) and Miami (Orange) get their pick of losers from Round 2 with Orange picking first because it doesn’t have the championship game in 2011. Same $18-20 mil payout per participating team/conference as is currently the case for a BCS bowl. NCAA is not involved monetarily in these games or the championship game.
2011 National Championship – Mon Jan 11, 2012 SuperDome (New Orleans - Sugar) with winners of Round 3 final four semifinal games participating
For the 2012 season the final four sites would rotate and therefore be: Glendale (Fiesta) and New Orleans (Sugar); with the FBS Championship in Miami (Orange) on Friday Jan 11. Pasadena would (Rose) have the first pick of round 2 losers
In 2013 the Final four sites would be New Orleans (Sugar) and Miami (Orange); with the FBS Championship in Pasadena (Rose) with Glendale (Fiesta) having first pick of round 2 losers
In 2014 the Final four sites would be Miami (Orange) and Pasadena (Rose); and the FBS Championship in Glendale (Fiesta) with New Orleans (Sugar) having first pick of round 2 losers
In 2015 you return to 2011 rotation/scenario
So, what is not to like? All the bowls continue, but many are now meaningful; student athletes get time to study and heal, super conference championship games are gone but the conferences don’t suffer financially, nor do their host cities, lastly, the driving and disruptive desire to create 12 team super conferences is also reduced by not having seductive “Championship” games. Granted the five minor conferences are still “minor” but at least they now have a shot at the BCS title and a BCS bowl game!