TQ - What Can CF Learn From March Madness?

Posted Mar 11, 2008

What can college football learn from March Madness, and vice versa?

Past TQs
- Three Big Spring Storylines
- The Combines are missing ...
- Best & Curious Coaching Hires

- 2008 Wish List
- The 3 Big Bowl Questions

- What are you most looking forward to from the bowls?
- Did the BCS get it right?
- Who deserves a spot more, OSU or WVU?

- What BCS matchups do you want?
- LSU, Oregon or Kansas
- The leading 5 for the Heisman
- Early Pick It: LSU vs. Ohio State
- Three BCS sleepers
- Midseason Bests
- 3 Big Calls for the Second Half
- The biggest disappointment
- 5 most overrated teams
- I was dead/on right/wrong about ...
- USC, LSU or Oklahoma?
- Was the App St win good or bad for college football?
- 3 Sleeper Teams

- Predicting the Season
- 3 things we're sure of
- What to look for on Signing Day
- Bears or Colts?

- Early bowl surprises and trends
- 3 things to look for from the bowls
- Do you want the Alabama job?
- What are the 3 best non-BCS bowls?
- Who's 2nd in the Heisman race?
- Michigan-OSU rematch?
- Michigan or Ohio State?
- Should Louisville be No. 3?
- The nat'l title game will be ...
- The best one-loss team
- Rule changes to help the flow
- The Midseason Stuff
- The real top five ranking
- The early coach of the year is ...?
- These three teams are for real, these three aren't
- After 2 weeks, who's better, who's worse?
- 10 Greatest Quarterbacks of All-Time
- 10 Greatest Defensive Players of All-Time
- 10 Greatest Regular Season Games of All-Time
- 10 Greatest Playmakers of All-Time
- 10 Worst Heisman Winners
- 10 Greatest Bowl Games
- All-Time Offensive Team
- All-Time Defensive Team

Pete Fiutak     

Q: What can college football learn from the college basketball post-season and March Madness, and vice versa?

A: Contrary to popular belief, it's not like the college football bigwigs are totally dense. They know everyone wants a playoff. They know all the money that could be made, and all the excitement one would generate. They get that. But the bowl system is too powerful to simply cast aside, and even with all the self-interest involved that's keeping college football from figuring everything out on the field, there's a philosophical issue involved; people really do believe the Every Week's A Playoff cliché.

Everyone's going to be talking about the brackets and college basketball over the next few weeks, and while college football can't really have a December Madness, it doesn't have to be that long. Remember, people don't really care about the college basketball Final Four as much as you think. Of course the real sports fans do, but the casual fans don't. Don't believe me? Quick, who was in last year's Final Four? No, everyone cares about the first two rounds of the tournament, when their brackets are still intact and they get a diversion from their daily work lives.

While March Madness holds everyone captive for a month, it actually loses steam by the very end. All college football has to do is have a big two weeks, starting in late December and going through January 8th, to have an eight team tournament that would give a whole new meaning to the brackets. The exposure would be through the roof, and it wouldn't kill the bowl system.

Of course, there won't be a playoff any time soon. With that in mind, there needs to be a better selection process for picking the BCS teams beyond just the polls and computers. There needs to be a committee who puts together the matchups, including the national championship, that goes beyond the self-interest of the BCS bowls. The BCS formula needs to be involved, but it should be up to humans, not bowl people in yellow jackets, who decide the final showdowns. We would've had Georgia vs. USC in the Rose Bowl had cooler, neutral heads been involved.

For college basketball, there has to be a way to make the college basketball regular season matter again. Yeah, there are bubble teams who need the regular season, but if you're a fringe tournament team, you probably don't belong. While there's a movement to make the NCAA tournament much bigger and expand the field, the sport would be better if the tournament ditched about 17 teams and get down to around 48. Keep the automatic bids for the little guys, but keep the mid-range big conference teams out. It's not right that a team can theoretically be the seventh best in its league yet still have a shot in the national title tournament. College football has it right, for the most part, needing to win your league, or finish near the top, to get in the BCS.

Richard Cirminiello      

Q: What can college football learn from the college basketball post-season and March Madness, and vice versa?

: Three things college football can learn from March Madness.

1.  George Mason.  More teams vying for a championship equals more fun.  Sorry, BCS lovers, but a playoff system works for every party involved.  Now, I’m not suggesting some 16 or 32-team bracket that eliminates the bowl games and any shred of the sport’s tradition.  Eight or even four teams would work swimmingly at lighting a fuse under a bowl season that’s become increasingly bland and bloated.

2. Marketing.  From Selection Sunday to One Shining Moment, no sport on the planet does a better job of marketing its postseason and creating a national stir.  Capital One Bowl Week?  Nice try.  Of its 32 bowl games, college football generates non-local interest in one-quarter of its games, at best.  In March Madness, all but the 1 vs. 16 games are must-see events. 

3. The Selection Committee.  Hey, it may never be perfect, but I love the concept of an appointed selection committee, a star chamber of some of basketball’s best minds.  The BCS process is too convoluted for the average fan to follow and too inconsistent on a year-to-year basis.  Forget the polls and the pollsters, which are unreliable, and too often, uninformed.  Put a bunch of football junkies in a room don’t let them out until they get it right.  

Three things March Madness can learn from college football.     

1. There can be too much of a good thing.  Do we really need 65 teams to determine a champion, while still giving the little guy a chance?  March Madness ought to strongly consider scaling back the number of teams, leaving the ACC’s eighth-place team at home.  Think of how much better it would make the NIT.

2. The regular season matters, giving every weekend a playoff feel.  As the college basketball regular season comes to an end, the games can get somewhat tedious, as anticipation for conference tournaments and the Big Dance grow.  Save for a handful of bubble teams, three-quarters of the post-season teams are already known.  In college football, the opposite is true, with schools needing to avoid a slip up in November and December to land a BCS bowl berth.

3. The Bowls (especially the January ones).  March Madness is good clean fun, but nothing tops the pageantry, tradition, and overall experience of a New Years’ Day bowl game.  The Rose Bowl in Pasadena vs. the Final Four in Minneapolis?  In terms of pure sports enjoyment, it’s not even close, especially if you’re fortunate enough to do it in person.

Matthew Zemek

Q: What can college football learn from the college basketball post-season and March Madness, and vice versa?

A: College football definitely has more to learn from hoops than the other way around.
The only thing hoops needs to learn from football is that if you stage big events (namely, conference tournaments), they need to mean something. The conference tournaments in basketball are good for generating excitement, and in theory, they're supposed to separate NCAA teams from NIT teams. However, an analysis of the past several years suggests that these postseason conference clashes are woefully undervalued by the selection committee.
Just a few examples:
2001: Georgia, barely over .500 (with a worse overall record than Arizona this year, 16-14), lost in the first round of the SEC Tournament against LSU, but still made the field... AS AN EIGHT SEED!
2006: Air Force loses prematurely in the Mountain West Tournament, not even reaching the final at a time when its bubble status was very uncertain. The Falcons get an invite anyway, as a 13 seed, the last at-large in the field of 65.
2007: Kansas State wins a classic "battleground game" against Texas Tech (a 4 seed vs. 5 seed quarterfinal) in the Big XII Tournament, but still isn't invited to the Big Dance.
These examples are off the top of my head. Give me the bracket sheets for past NCAA fields and the conference tourneys that preceded them over the past decade, and we could come up with many more cases in which the committee viewed a conference tournament result as irrelevant.
In just about every other respect, though, the basketball postseason outshines college football. Three reasons only begin to tell the tale.
First, basketball offers significant cross-pollination of matchups. To make the NCAA Tournament, you need to beat good teams inside and outside your conference. To win the NCAA Tournament, you have to beat teams outside your conference to make the Elite Eight, after which it's possible (though still not likely) that you'll encounter a conference foe. Hoops always gives its fans the satisfaction of knowing that a national champion really is a national champion, a victor over various kinds of teams from all corners of the country. Football needs to demand that BCS hopefuls have more demanding non-conference schedules, and work to create such matchups if possible.
Second, basketball is willing to play a full month of postseason games, whereas football is only willing to play one postseason game per team.
The NCAA Tournament and the BCS are both huge money grabs for college sports. The difference is that basketball doesn't pretend to limit the amount of games based on a hypocritical appeal to athletics. Hoops is willing to stage a monthlong extravaganza, a sports carnival, because fans love it. If you're going to have a carnival, you might as well make it honest, pure and fan-friendly. Hoops gets this; football doesn't. As Martin Luther once said, "If you're going to sin, sin boldly."
Third and finally, basketball has the Final Four, the best championship event in all of sports. This simple concept, if adopted by football, would create a TV powerhouse that would please millions of college football fans.
There's nothing quite like the Final Four among major sporting events. Even if football wanted to imitate the Final Four, it couldn't quite duplicate every single aspect of college basketball's championship weekend.
There's no other high-profile sport in which four teams gather in one location to play back-to-back games for a shot at a championship. There have been some occasional whispers and mumbles--never with any real substance or weight--in favor of the NFL having neutral-site conference title games, but until that happens, the Final Four has something entirely unique.
The very notion of having "National Semifinals" gives the Final Four a level of stature, significance and size that other events just can't match. The presence of four teams with distinct identities gives the Final Four annual flexibility as an entertainment product. Some years (1993, 2007), the Final Four is a heavyweight gathering. Other years (2000, 2006), it's a showcase of surprises. In most years, it's something in between. All things considered, the Final Four remains fresh, relevant, interesting, and free of politics, all things that have destroyed the BCS over time. Sure, a football Final Four would involve plenty of politics, but the mere act of staging three more games in a TV- and fan-friendly way would reduce (not eliminate, but reduce) complaints about college football. That's something worth doing in this day and age. 




Unauthorized use of ad tag