Entries in Playoffs = Bad Idea (54)
Was just channel flipping and caught the end of a conversation between Steve Phillips and Colin Cowherd on some ESPN show. The gist of their conversation was that playoff baseball with days off isn't structured to determine what team is the best especially in relation to the regular season which has teams playing almost daily. Instead, success tends to shift to teams with impact players (read: the ones with the financial resources).
Its an interesting consideration especially when so much of the playoff talk in college football is about fairness and letting the little guy get in on the action. What programs have the resources to acquire the great bulk of impact players? The big guys, of course --- USC, Notre Dame, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, etc.
Whether that extrapolates to college football I'm unsure but I certainly think a playoff (just like the bowls) is distinctive from the regular season and is structurally set up to reward differently than what success in the regular season means. Not enough attention is paid to the distinctions. I think back often to Billy Beane's thoughts in Moneyball about only caring that he get his team to the playoffs in the first place because after that, playoff baseball was a crapshoot that no amount of his tinkering could really influence the outcome. That is, entirely too much outside noise gummed up the works to reward not necessarily superior teams but merely the lucky.
It blows my mind that postseason success could be much more random than about the atual ability of the various teams. Playoff advocates need to think long and hard about that consideration and try to find (if even possible) how to manage the randomness of it all, and if they can't find a smart way to do it, step back from the megaphone.
Look, I'm not anti playoff. There's a few that I think work fairly well but you have to structure them appropriately. In my mind there's simply no way, however, to appropriately organize a college football playoff.
Even in baseball where you have a series of games between teams, the randomness of the game is so large the format still doesn't always advance the generally superior regular season teams.
The NFL playoffs are great entertainment, but they're one and done. While there's certainly something significant to teams having just one game to advance or disappear, there's still so much noise to just a one game situation from weather to officiating to health to a million other factors. The only way in my mind to fairly reduce that and have the teams truly prove themselves beyond the noise (and not within the fog of it) is to play a series of games between them which is obviously unfeasible in college football.
The outgoing Pac-10 Commissioner speaks with ESPN's Ted Miller, here. Good stuff in the sense that his rare longevity among the conference commissioners offers some perspective of what leadership was looking at when he first started and how certain issues have evolved.
The fact that members of the Football Bowl Subdivision, by a wide majority, prefer a bowl system where 6,800 young people get to have a post-season experience and the aversion to a playoff that would quickly go to 16 teams. People talk about a one-game playoff or a four-team playoff -- it can't happen. We were forced in the BCS from political pressure to expand from eight berths to 10 berths.
Were there to be a playoff, you'd have to have 11 automatic berths [for every conference] and you'd have to have a berth for Notre Dame, and that would cut you down to just four at-large berths. Most years you'd have an argument about that. Then, with that many games, you'd have to play on the campuses of the higher seeded teams. You couldn't possibly travel teams week by week to a neutral site -- the NFL doesn't even do that. And no one really stops to reflect upon the fact that the NFL has all the playing slots through December and January [on the weekends].
So finding attractive playing times and dates and television availability would be a great challenge. So there are so many negatives to a playoff, to say nothing of probably the most important one which is the presidents do not want football being played into the second semester. It's not just missing class. It's the impact it has on the academic program of the institution. There's a long list of reasons these institutions favor having one game per team in the post-season and stopping it at that.
Take it away, Senator Blutarsky (emphasis mine):
This is where I think playoff supporters are on thin ice in this debate. It’s very easy to focus on what I call the competition side of this – making sure that every deserving school has the chance to play for an MNC – and downplay the economic side, the side that pushes for a redistribution of the wealth that college football generates. You can satisfy the former with a small scale playoff; you can’t satisfy the latter without an extended playoff controlled by the NCAA or some similar entity making sure that the moneys are spread more broadly throughout D-1. And an extended playoff is death to pretty much everything that makes college football unique.
It’s shortsighted to brush off the financial considerations here. Next week’s hearings are being conducted by the Senate Antitrust Committee. Whether it matters to its members or not, antitrust law isn’t about whether Utah gets to play in a title game. It’s about business practices, monopolies and money.
Ultimately, guys like Jim Delany don’t care nearly as much about Utah playing in that title game – and don’t forget that there’s nothing in the current BCS formula that prevents that from happening – as they do about having their conferences’ revenue streams reduced. That’s what’s at stake with these antitrust threats and that’s why I don’t think the Harvey Perlmans of the college football world should be so easily dismissed when they promise to defend their turf.
Friendly territory fortunately via one of the nicest, most fun commentators at my other gig at FanHouse, "Orange Chuck". The interview.
I discuss the 2009 season a bit, my gameday rituals, the BCS/playoffs stuff, the SEC, conference title games and Syracuse football among other items.
Its pretty fawning up at the top and I chalk that up to Chuck being just a really nice person. Enjoy.
First of all I am against an 8 team playoff. There is no way that you could find a single #7 team in the country the last 12 years that had a legitimate claim to being in the national title game. For more on why I think the College regular season is the most important in college football and why an 8 or 16 team playoff would ruin it, check out page 24 and 25 of this years magazine. College football changes on a yearly basis. I can see a proposal where the MWC and the Big East battle for the
AKA Senator Orrin Hatch is an idiot
No, the BCS doesn’t create the disadvantages; it merely amplifies them. The BCS isn’t the reason San Diego State can’t get a stadium lease signed and it isn’t the cause as to why the WAC doesn’t have the same TV contract the SEC does. In college football, the money flows where the attention goes.
If we want actual "fairness" in the upper division of college football, schedules need to be relatively even which means that the number of teams need to be reduced from the current 119 or 120 to something like 30-40 with everyone in equal-number divisions playing round-robin conference schedules. Even then a playoff built around single-elimination games would still be a tragic mess (take a lesson from every other playoff that isn't the NFL's or lower-division football, go to at least double elimination, better yet best of three between teams).
Of course nobody actually wants that to happen because that'd be the end of the bulk of teams in first division football and would end college football as we know it, which by the way has never been more popular in spite of all this hand wringing about the BCS.
Come on people, think about the issues for once and just enjoy the show, college football is wildly unique and enjoyable. In the end I think in most of our hearts we don't want true finality, as my friend Heisman Pundit's said many times the game is like a never-ending Constitutional Convention. Its the back and forth and discussion that has such great appeal in addition to the product on the field.
Q: How can you say the BCS has been good for the Pac-10? Oregon finished No. 2 in the polls in 2001 but didn't make the title game. USC was No. 1 in the coaches' poll in 2003 but finished No. 3 in the BCS.
A: Each conference has had some disappointments. . . . The BCS, through obvious great foresight of the commissioners who were involved, has been an extraordinary success in terms of the regular season being so strong. Television, attendance, everything about college football is much better than before the BCS started.
Q: Does it bother you that you are portrayed as an obstructionist by the pro-playoff crowd?
A: I primarily reflect the view of the conference. . . . If people disagree with that view, I don't take it personally.
I think many of the people who advocate a playoff have no real understanding in the difficulty of a playoff.
Q. Would that include the president of the United States?
A: Yes, and I don't think he begins to understand the difficulties of a playoff. I think he's probably very well-versed on North Korea and the Middle East but not particularly the college football playoff.
Q. Does it complicate the issue when someone so prominent goes public with his position?
A: I would be much more concerned if a president in our conference came out in favor of a playoff than I am of President Obama saying it.
It would be so negative for college football in my opinion that it just doesn't make good sense. Including the fact it would be 16 teams, not the four that many people advocate, because politically you couldn't stop at four, you couldn't stop at eight, you couldn't stop at 12. And even at 16 you'd have problems.
Q: Are you confident the BCS can withstand another legal challenge?
A: I am confident. We've had excellent legal counsel. And I trust lawyers from all over the country who comment that there's nothing illegal about it.
The only thing the federal government could do to force the issue, I think, would be to cut off funding for higher education. Well, that isn't going to happen.
Just moments ago on College Football Live, ESPN's Joe Schad outlined the three-point defense by BCS officials as they head into a Congressional subcommittee hearing tomorrow.
1)The regular season must be preserved as the key entity of the game
2)Several bowls would fail if a playoff were enacted
3)The logistics to install a playoff aren't there
Not a bad start.
I'm definitely against a playoff although I have problems with the BCS, which I think I'll get to soon. I think there's ways to remedy the BCS that keeps it in line with college football tradition and avoids a playoff.
Great article today by ESPN's Ivan Maisel. He advocates those in charge of the BCS go on the offensive.
I second the call.
The commissioners are populists, too. What none of them did, or has done with any effectiveness, is mount a vigorous defense of the BCS.
None of them has pointed out the correlation between "fixing" the BCS and whose ox is being gored.
Actually found this via another link at Smart Football (great site). Some love from The Blue-Gray Sky's J-DUB. Many thanks, especially considering I've been gone so long.
Read the entire thing (really, read it), but in the name of vanity the relevant CFR part here:
Have to admit that I'm partial to this site because, like me, it does not want to see a playoff in college football. Before you condemn us, look who else is part of our coalition: Chuck Klosterman, Mike Greenberg and Megan Fox (okay, I'm just guessing on that last name).
Time to return, I suppose.
Watching ESPN's College Football Live, John Saunders just told Colt McCoy he's against a playoff. Who knew?
“I think it is about time that we had playoffs in college football. I’m fed up with these computer rankings and this and that and the other. Get eight teams — the top eight teams right at the end. You got a playoff. Decide on a National Champion,” Obama said.
The fact that a game like USC-Oregon State game can impact so many other schools has pushed television ratings higher and is keeping stadiums full. And as long as the TV ratings are high and the stadiums are full, there is no motivation (other than fan unrest) to go to a playoff of any kind.
But if we had an eight-team playoff in place, that Oregon State victory would have barely created a ripple outside of the Pac-10.
Claiming a playoff won't dilute the regular season is an idiotic lie, and Barnhart accurately realizes it.
Fresno State is thriving from a postseason model that actually works
- Caption under a photo in this article by Rivals.com's Kendall Rogers
First things first, let's get this out of the way: I really like college baseball. Love the ping of the bats. Love the tradition. Love the College World Series, even. But college baseball boosters are fooling themselves if they see their sport as some great model of equity and fairness. Equally foolish is pretending college baseball's championship is superior to anything, particularly college football's.
Some celebrate the elevation of the little guy like this year's champion Fresno State. It's a great story, and I don't want to detract from that, but pronouncing their rise as why the college world series is superior to say, college football, is laughable. Fresno State was a good team, not a great team in a year with several great teams like Miami and Arizona State. That both they and fringe top 25 opponent Georgia were in the final speaks volumes to the inefficiency of college baseball's postseason model.
Their ascent proves just how open the model is, but what you gain in inclusion, you lose in, you know, accuracy. College baseball's championship ends up being more fabled than college football's when it's all said and done. I do give credit to college baseball for going to a "best of three" championship series, but that's nothing compared to Major League Baseball's "best of seven" and that model is itself deeply flawed. Too much statistical noise and factors outside of the actual quality of a team work their way into the actual outcomes when the only control is double elimination in regionals and best of three in the championship.
Thus: Fresno State and Georgia instead of say, Arizona State and Miami.
Did I mention just how flawed the actual allocation process is? The tournament committee continues to use the horrid and inaccurate RPI in selecting teams, and then unfairly allocates where those teams end up, working against western squads in particular. But college football is the bad guy. Right.
Interesting exchange here between SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and Florida State President T. K. Wetherell. Excerpted from The Wizard of Odds:
Recent comments about a playoff system by Florida State president T.K. Wetherell sparked the ire of SEC commissioner Michael Slive. "Let me always be very clear to tell you I don't agree with the Florida State president," Slive said. "President Wetherell's statements were counterproductive, because those who support a plus-one do not support a playoff. I never said playoff. I never used the 'p' word."
That strikes me as terribly naive, if not an outright con job by Slive.
As noted many times on here, a four-team "Plus One" will never last. Too many forces will be at work and eventually stretch that thing out to something bigger than envisioned. It's sort of like where if you buy a property, you're buying whatever else is associated with it including neighbors and dead bodies (see Funny Farm). Slive should know better, as several of his fellow conference commissioners have gone public with concerns about a Plus One eventually expanding into a full-blown playoff.
He's correct in that he may never (to our knowledge) us the "p word" when talking about a Plus One, but indirectly he really is. The Plus One is effectively the gateway to -- shudder -- a real playoff in college football. I don't think Slive is so naive as to not realize what the extension of his Plus One plan is. This of course makes me suspicious that although publicly he's not saying the "p word", in his heart that's what he is working towards. Hopefully I'm wrong, but Slive's no dummy, he has to know the down-the-road inevitability of a playoff if a Plus One is arranged.
(Via: The Wiz)
As in generally the case, great finds from Get The Picture.
NCAA President Myles Brand in a Q&A with the Houston Chronicle.
Q: What do you see as the major issues against having a college football playoff in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A)?
A: I’m not inside those discussions, but let me give you my best sense of the matter. I think those (school) presidents take very seriously the regular season. They don’t want to, in any way, threaten the regular season and turn football into a tournament sport. Basketball is a tournament sport. They want to put the emphasis on the Saturday rivalries. That’s where the fans show the most interest. They are very much concerned about moving toward an NFL-type playoff system.
Bonus talk about money, and how elusive it might actually be despite proclamations to the contrary of mad scrilla come the day a playoff is created:
Q: Only six Division I programs are making money. How long can this go on?
A: I don’t know how long. Presidents’ lives are short — 4 1/2 for a public university and 6 1/2 for a private university. So presidents turn over. Eventually, you may get another group that thinks differently, so you can’t forever go forward with this. I don’t know if it will change. I don’t think in the near run it will. I don’t think there is as much money in (a football playoff) as people think. [Emphasis added.] A lot of the revenues are coming in through ticket sales and TV contracts on the regular season. I think you’re going to continue to see good TV contracts in the regular season. If you had a playoff, what would the size of those regular-season contracts be?
Chew on all that for a bit.
ALSO: Georgia Sports Blog comes out against a playoff. The list of people against a playoff in college football continues to grow. A decent handful of them are listed under "The Coalition" on the menu at left.
Mike Greenberg, in this month's ESPN The Magazine:
I may be the lone holdout who likes the current system. A college professor once told me the only interesting questions are the ones with no answers. Every other sport wraps things up, but debates about which team was best continue long after a college football season is over.
Auburn went undefeated in 2004 -- can you say they weren't the best team in the country [they weren't - Ed.]? We'll be discussing it for years to come.
Few fans of the Premier League like to use the word "playoffs," and for good reason. English football emphasizes the league season above all else. You can only determine the best club in the league by having all the clubs play each other in a big home-and-away series. To give the league title to a club that got on a hot streak in a post-season tournament is tantamount to blasphemy.
In other words, their focus and attention is on the regular season just like college football. It's a point of emphasis. When you emphasize the postseason (as happens in the NFL, MLB, college basketball, NBA, etc.), the regular season is cheapened dramatically.
When you emphasize the regular season (like college football), the postseason is cheapened. At least with college football, there are bowl games plus the big ticket BCS games and the BCS title game. It's the best of both worlds, but because it doesn't look or smell or taste like the NFL some people are upset.
Look, this is how our game is played. College football is what it is because it has found a way to produce an incredible regular season. The EPL has their way of doing things, with great success. To each their own.