TQ: Can Football Playoff Become Madness?

Posted Mar 26, 2013

What can the new college football playoff - for good and bad - take from the NCAA Tournament?

Tuesday Question 

College Football Madness? 

Q: What can the new college football playoff - for good and bad - take from the NCAA Tournament?

By Richard Cirminiello    
The postseason matters, but not at the expense of the regular season.

For years, college football has had a postseason issue, from a bloated slate of hard-to-sell bowl games to lagging attendance and TV ratings. Only hardcore fans are tuning into December events, and you stable models aren't built on the backs of the converted alone. College football needs to find a way to spice up its postseason, with the new four-team playoff representing a certain step in the right direction.

However, the moment that college football attempts to emulate college basketball, it's doomed to a gradual decline from its current product. There's not a lot that the bowl season can steal from March Madness, because the two are an Apples-to Dells comparison. College basketball, for better or worse, is defined by March. College football's identity comes from those glorious Saturdays that begin in early September and end in early December.

Here's a stark reality that the college football powers-that-be can never forget: An enormous chunk of fans who've reveled over the past few days in the exploits of Florida Gulf Coast and La Salle and Louisville didn't watch more than 30 minutes of college hoops prior to championship week. You know why? It's all a lead-up to March. Football cannot allow that to happen, instead protecting every ounce of sanctity that exists in the most riveting regular season in American sports. You want to extend to eight teams at some point in the future? Fine, but that's where the growth of the playoff must stop.

March Madness is an animal of different stripes. And college football will suffer harsh consequences if it attempts to artificially reenact it in December and January. Scale back the number of bowls, eliminating the possibility of 6-6 participants, and celebrate the fact that the regular season still rocks, and some form of a playoff is almost upon us.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

It's simple: that there can be so much excitement/revenue generated from a simple, post-season tournament.

For too many years, our sport's highest division has had its post-season co-opted by powerful, private promoters. They have controlled the message to school presidents by incestuously weaving themselves into the fabric of college football...going so far as to facilitate a culture of bonuses to school executives and coaches even while the schools themselves regularly, and in total, lose money on participating in the post-season bowl structure itself.

Much like the one cent coin, those days are over.

Today, the revenue generated by college football – and more to the point, the potential untapped revenue – is simply too great for these promoters to squash it any longer. To hoard it any longer. At a time when our universities are struggling with budget cuts and desperate for additional revenue streams, the potential of a college football playoff can no longer be ignored.

No longer can men like Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany testify that while he recognizes a playoff would generate more money for everyone, including his own conference, he wants the status quo so he may control the beneficial differential advantage his conference currently has over the others.

These men are dinosaurs. This rationale, not only dangerous to a single conference but the long-term health of the sport, is as useful as Betamax.

Sadly, this shift is not about what's right. It's not about a just way to arrive at a champion and give the fans/players/sport what they deserve. It's simply about a realization by the school presidents (promoted by the influential media executives) that they are leaving too much money on the table.

But that's fine by us. Whatever is necessary to get the logjam broken and take the important first step.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

The Good:
More Teams- While a four-team playoff is a good start, expansion of the field would involve more fan bases, more television watching, and a tons more excitement to what's coming to college football (not to mention more coin). There's no way to expand the college football playoff to anything approaching the volume of teams for the NCAA Tournament, but why can't we get eight to twelve teams in this baby?

The Pod System- As a way to reward the upper seeds, the NCAA Tournament Committee places deserving teams at sites that are closer to home. Yeah, the bowl structure is in place, but there could be a problem getting fans to shell out the dough to go to back-to-back bowl environment sites. Let's put the initial round closer to home, let fans get there on more modest means, and then set things up for the whole enchilada at the site everyone will write blank checks for.

No Automatic Qualifiers- Cinderella might go dancing occasionally during March Mayhem, but in college football, you've got to throw away the slipper for a pair of work boots. No more ticket to the ball for teams that catch lightning in a bottle over those that have run the gauntlet of a season.

Bye Bye Quick Turnarounds- Oh, it's a lot of fun to watch good ‘ole State U play twice in a four-day period, but that doesn't always result in the best team winning. You can't do that in football for a couple of reasons. First, the physical demands of the game wouldn't allow it, and second, you want time for both teams to come to the party dressed to the nines in preparation.

By Matt Zemek

The biggest lesson the new college football playoff should take from the NCAA tournament, for reasons that do not always reflect well on basketball, is that the quality of a team's schedule should be assessed based on high-end wins more than anything else. College football's new playoff needs to reward difficult non-conference schedules and impressive non-conference wins whenever possible. This won't affect a 13-0 SEC champion, but it will affect the debate for the third and fourth semifinal slots when there's a 12-1 Big Ten champion and a 13-0 Mountain West or Big East champion in the mix.

The NCAA tournament is better than the BCS because teams get to decide championships in an athletic competition, not a political one. This has been said for years, and it remains relevant. However, there's certainly cause for concern as college football contemplates how to select teams for its 2014 plan. The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee was fine in terms of selecting teams this season, but it did a horrible job of seeding them.

Ask Oregon, Gonzaga, UCLA (which should have been seeded two slots lower due to the Jordan Adams injury), UNLV, San Diego State, and Colorado State (which should have been a 6 instead of an 8 and got a horrible draw with Louisville). The RPI needs to be blown up, largely because it is a system that's easy to manipulate, as in the case of the Mountain West Conference, which got shredded the past few days. When college football looks at the potential pitfalls of a selection system for its four-team playoff, it has to honor high-end wins.

New Mexico and Gonzaga did not beat what one would call a high-end team this season in non-conference play. Gonzaga beat Kansas State, but the Wildcats - playing a virtual home game in Kansas City - looked decidedly second-tier in their loss to La Salle on Friday. If you're going to get a top seed in a bracket, you need Miami's high-value wins (Michigan State and Duke), nothing less. If college football won't honor the importance and centrality of high-value non-conference wins (flowing from the value of high-difficult non-conference scheduling), the sport won't learn the lessons it needs to take from the NCAA tournament.