Sunday, October 21, 2007

A modest proposal for crowning a true national champion

Sunday night I had the pleasure of speaking with Spencer Hall, AKA Orson Swindle of the wickedly hilarious and Peter Bean of Burnt Orange Nation of on their weekly internet radio show/podcast. The subject was one of our favorites here at Saurian Sagacity, the so-called national championship. If you are interested in the subject you should read Mergz' excellent series on the matter that begins here.

Anyway, you can download the EDSBS Live podcast from last night here. My segment begins at the 1 hour and 16 minute mark. In any case, I advocated for a playoff system and Orson gave an impassioned argument against it in which he uses his extensive vocabulary to great effect.

I thought I'd follow up the discussion with a model for a playoff and some counterarguments for Orson, though my major was in economics not English so I won't be using any words with origins in 14th century astronomy.

The first thing you should know is that I realize that this is a TOTALLY UNREALISTIC PLAN and that what I am advocating for WILL NEVER HAPPEN. So save the comments and the email to that effect. For just a few minutes suspend your disbelief and dream with me.

So with no further ado, here's my 8-step plan for crowning a legitimate national title, and improving the game of college football:

1. Create a governing body that will be responsible for running all of the competitive aspects of the game. The NCAA can still enforce the eligibility requirements and all of that stuff. We'll call my proposed governing body the College Football Competition Committee (CFCC).

2. The next thing that needs to be done is to whittle Division 1A down to 96 teams from the present 119. For you folks that weren't math majors that means we need to demote of 23 teams. Don't ask me which ones, but some criteria for demotion might include the recent additions to D1A and those that have had the most futility over the last 10 years.

3. Division 1A would then consist of eight 12-team Conferences. The current 12-team conferences would remain intact. That's the SEC, Big 12 and ACC. Some conferences only need to add 1 or 2 teams. Notre Dame is a logical fit for the Big Televen which would be renamed the Big Tweleven. The remaining conferences would be merged and purged. Perhaps we'd have the MACWAC or the Mount Western Athletic Conference.

4. Each conference would have two divisions and a conference championship game. The conference champion would then be seeded in an 8-team tournament that would crown the national champion. The seeding would be determined by a selection committee, kind of like the basketball tournament. But the committee could only control where teams are seeded since all the teams would have played their way in.

5. The games of the tournament would be held in cities that host what are traditionally the top tier bowls. There are 4 such cities: Pasadena, New Orleans, Miami and Phoenix. There are 7 games in an 8-team tournament. The games would rotate year to year with 3 of the 4 cities hosting two such games each year. The one city that hosts only one game in a given year would host the championship game.

6. The eight conference runner ups would be matched up by the selection committee against each other and play bowl games in what are traditionally the 2nd tier bowl cities. The remaining bowl eligible teams will be matched up by the selection committee and play in the 3rd tier bowl cities. The outcome of all the post season games would determine the winner of a "Commissioner's Cup" for bragging rights about which is truly the strongest conference.

7. Communism. All post season money is shared EQUALLY among all eight conferences. I am a staunch anti-communist but in the case of athletics, I am Karl Marx.

8. Out of conference scheduling in the regular season will be conducted by the CFCC. Each team will have a designated out of conference rival they play every year and the rest of the games will be scheduled in a model similar to pro sports where the better finishing teams face a tougher schedule (meaning they would play teams that similarly finished well the previous season). Out of conference wins and losses won't count against the teams in the hunt for the national championship since you have to win your conference to get in, however they would be considered by the selection committee in the seedings for the tourney and the pairings for the bowls.
Now before you begin to tear the idea apart, consider the following benefits of this system:
1. The importance of the regular season is not diminished. In fact the importance of conference games (and the traditional in-conference rivalries) will be heightened since winning your conference is the ONLY ROUTE to a national title. Look at the logjam in SEC east this year and you will see that every game is important.

2. This system is blind to a program's history, storied or otherwise. Nobody can say a team doesn't deserve to be in the tourney because all 8 teams will have won their way in by being being the best in their conference. If USF wins the new 12-team Big East, then nobody is going to keep them out of the picture because they have only been playing for 11 years. No sweetheart deal for Notre Dame.

3. We'll finally get to see top programs from different conferences play each other because they will be compelled to do so. This is another way the regular season will not be diminished but instead improved. No more cupcake games.

4. This system really does give more programs the opportunity to compete, not less as Orson argues. For one thing the have nots will be getting more money. The haves will continue to have more because of their larger stadiums and better TV contracts but the have nots will be better off. Kind of like MLB under the current luxury tax system. That's why Jim Delany would never allow something like this.

5. The first tier bowl cities will benefit because they will host two games during 3 out of every 4 years; and in the year they only host one, it will be the National Championship game.

6. The 2nd and 3rd tier bowl cities don't lose anything. Their games will be as relevant or irrelevant as they have always been.
There's probably a few other good reasons to do this but the main one is that the country will have a legitimate national champion for the first time. It will be legitimate for all of major college football because the road to it is open to any team that simply keeps winning. The path to it will be equally clear for all teams and subjectivity is almost completely eliminated from the equation. Because something like this makes a lot of sense, IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

By the way, I think this will generate much more money for college football overall than the current system. Perhaps some teams will earn less because they are currently in a privileged position but the point is to make it fair. Far more teams will benefit than lose out.

And I stand by my comment to Orson about not caring about the national championship under the current system. It was nice winning the so-called national championship last year, but more because everyone thought the Gators were overmatched and didn't deserve to be on the field with Ohio State. I honestly don't care about the crystal football as much as I care about the SEC title. At least as long as we have the current farce where the opinions of people like Kirk Herbstreit are used to crown the champion of the best sport ever invented: college football. We deserve better.


Anonymous said...

Step 1. I believe the organization should be named the Competition Committee for College Phootball, or CCCP.

This then ties into Step 7.

Henry Gomez said...

Excellent sir.

Gator Duck said...

Besides, CFC's are bad for the environment. :)

Seriously, I really, really like your proposal. I, too, believe it is logical and would improve the game. Hopefully, it will happen within our lifetime. It IS doable.

The 32 team superconference with 4 divisions of 8 teams is far less likely to ever become reality.

Anonymous said...

Times have changed.

It's not like the old days when we could do anything we wanted.

A refusal is not the act of a friend.

If Don Gomez had all the referees, major school ADS, conference chairman and all the BCS officials, then he must share them, or let others use them.

He must let us draw the water from the well. Certainly he can present a bill for such services. After all.....we are not Communists!

Derek said...

I like this idea.. but would take it further. Pare D1 to 80 teams.. Eight 10-team conferences.. Round robins for regular seasons... NO regular season cheapening conference championship games.. And demotion ala the EPL

jimcaserta said...

Your system isn't totally out of the realm of possibility. You've got the power (bcs) conferences:

conf winners go to 8 team playoff, 2 at large - which could or could not go exclusively to conf champs from the non-BCS conferences. You could or could not exclude non-champs. From last year, you would have had UF, LSU, USC, Louisville and Boise to choose from for a 4 team playoff! I say write a system that excludes ND unless they join a conference, and lean towards only taking conf champs. The problem with that is who would have been the 8th conf champ last year? BYU @ #19 w/2 losses?

Next step is probably an 'and 1' system.

Anonymous said...

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Whereupon the gatorduck would come into the possession of, and be trained as an assassin by, an anti-communist of Cuban descent, fly to Havana and finish Castro off in a cacaphonious melee of death rolls, quacking, cigar smoke and flying feathers.

squareturd said...

While I like the overall plan, I have a few problems. First, having only conf champs in the playoffs is a necessity (at-large's screw things up). But non-conference games during the regular season will be diminished and could possibly fade away.

Also, reducing the number of eligible schools to 96 won't last long. The plan needs to accept more teams, not less, as parity grows.

I like having 10 conferences with 12 teams each, and using a bye-week (similar to the NFL) to reward higher-seeded teams. 6 teams get byes, the bottom 4 plan in the "wildcard" round.

Also, I think seeding should be based ONLY on non-conference games (where strength-of-schedule should be a big factor).