New college football playoff falls short

BY foxsports • June 21, 2012

Some of the decision-makers in college football today are celebrating this new four-team format to determine a national champion beginning in 2014.

They're calling it a "playoff."

It's enough to remind you of the defensive back who comes up to make a big hit and starts jumping around for joy while the referee signals a first down for the other team.

Nice try, but not good enough.

Instead of the Final Four, this is the Only Four. And that's a shame.

Anything with fewer than an eight-team tournament remains a disappointment. It's pass or fail. Eight teams or more, pass. Fewer than eight teams, fail.

The conference commissioners who announced their new system Wednesday in Chicago reportedly met for more than 100 hours during six rounds of meetings the past six months.

And this is the best they could do?

At the risk of being the party pooper, it shows just how inept the commissioners still are in this process and how poor the current BCS set-up is that some are accepting the four-team format as such groundbreaking progress for the sport.

The hope is this will lead to a real playoff of eight or more teams sometime down the road. It's just ridiculous that we continue to have to wait for that day.

Granted, four is better than two. But to go through all these negotiations, for the commissioners to act as if they've done such a great job and accomplished so much, then to see this end result, well, it feels like getting to the red zone and deciding to punt.

Not to come off as completely unappreciative, this four-team plan that the college presidents are expected to approve next week is certainly much better than the past 14 years of the BCS.

It's also superior to the "plus one" idea, where the top two teams for the national championship game would be determined after all of the bowls are played.

According to reports, the four teams apparently will be selected and seeded by a committee similar to what is used to determine the NCAA basketball tournament field.

Not all of the details have been officially announced yet, but the semifinal games are expected to be played within the current major bowls and the championship game will be bid on and awarded to a neutral site.

The top four teams will be selected regardless of whether they won their league championship. It will allow conferences (the Southeastern Conference, in other words) to have more than one team selected.

I guess we should be grateful to SEC commissioner Mike Slive for bringing us this far. He started pushing for a similar plan four years ago, to no avail at the time. But it's clear that Slive has emerged now as the real force among college commissioners, ahead of the Big Ten's Jim Delany.

Slive finally got his way with the elimination of the BCS and with many of the proposed key parameters in the new system. Still, even Slive came up short because four is the minimum next step to be taking at this time.

Most college football fans would prefer to see this become a legitimate playoff with at least eight, maybe 16 or even a 20-team tournament similar to the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision, previously known as Division I-AA.

An ideal way to organize an eight-team playoff would be to bring New Year's Day back to all its college football glory with four quarterfinal games featuring staggered start times (11 a.m. ET, 2:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.)

It would be the greatest day in college football again, if not the greatest day in sports, period.

The semifinals would be held a week later, perhaps on a Friday or Monday to avoid conflict with the NFL playoffs. One week after that would be the national championship game.

Meanwhile, the second-tier bowl system could remain intact, but all of the games would have to be played on or before New Year's Eve.

The obvious flaw in this concept is the continued long layoff between the regular season and the playoff quarterfinals.

I could live with that issue in order to give the second-tier bowls their month and to make New Year's Day more relevant again.

However, there would be no argument here in playing the four quarterfinals a week after the conference championships (that would be Dec. 8 this year), followed by the semifinals (Dec. 15) and title game (Dec. 22).

In fact, if there were at least eight teams to make it a real playoff, most fans could agree to whenever, wherever and however they decide to schedule them.

Just, please, stop pretending that getting to four teams is such a glorious achievement. At best, it's the equivalent of a moral victory.

Moral victories are still losses.


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