Archive for Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Commentary: Who needs playoffs? BCS worked

January 9, 2008


— The buzz didn't reach the Bayou. The BCS national championship game didn't generate much electricity because there was a consensus that neither LSU nor Ohio State was worthy of participation.

The whiners were out in full force.

And I can tell you that the Tigers' 38-24 victory over the Buckeyes won't change their minds.

But I also can tell you that the BCS got it right - again.

You can't fault Ohio State for the Big Ten's collective malaise. You can't fault LSU for persevering through injuries much of the season.

But this will be remembered as a national championship game without a widely accepted national champion emerging. The cries for a playoff - or, at the very least, an apologetic plus-one format - will intensify in the wake of college football's craziest season.

The 2007 season wasn't just tumultuous. It was hypnotic. It seized our collective attention nonstop from Appalachian State's miracle at the Big House on Sept. 1 to West Virginia's collapse at home against three-touchdown underdog Pittsburgh on Dec. 1. Teams ranked in the top five lost to unranked teams 13 times.

The playoff whining simply isn't grounded in reality.

And nothing's going to change any time soon.

The major bowls are business entities, created as tourism vehicles for southern California, south Florida, New Orleans and Arizona. The argument that there's more money in a playoff system - through TV rights - ignores the fact that tourism dollars would be lost.

This isn't about championships. It's about control.

The four major bowls and the six major conferences aren't relinquishing that power. They added two more BCS invitations merely to keep Congress and the anti-trust police off their backs.

What the critics don't understand is that the BCS was born as a marketing tool to increase college football's exposure and the popularity of the bowl system. If, as a result, it could place the two most deserving teams on the same field on the season's final night, then that was an added bonus.

The 10-year-old BCS achieved its objective.

College football is the only sport where a season-opening game in September carries the same weight as a season-ender in November or December. There's a 12-week playoff season. It might serve as a single-elimination process one season. But it was a double-elimination for the Buckeyes and a triple-elimination for LSU this season.

The BCS has moved the game away from its parochial roots. The Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 and their legions of passionate supporters rarely overlapped before. Everything in their minds revolved around, respectively, the Rose, Sugar and Orange bowls. But now there's greater interest in what happens elsewhere, increasing TV ratings and generating more revenue.

It's an imperfect system, but perfection doesn't exist.

Some still favor a playoff system under the pretense that it involves more teams in the championship process. But how could anyone look at the 2007 season and think it wasn't inclusive?

There were as many as 16 teams in the playoff chase, needing a win to move forward in the BCS "tournament."

Missouri and Kansas, perennial afterthoughts, each had legitimate opportunities for the national championship. Missouri defeated Kansas head-to-head.

That was a playoff game.


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