I’m glad Rick Morrissey said it first last Friday in the Tribune so it wouldn’t seem like just another attack on Barack Obama. Because Obama is wrong: We do not need a college football playoff system. In fact, we should roll back the BCS and just go back to the old-fashioned and glorious bowls before they were bastardized beyond recognition. Let’s go back to the future. Here’s why.
1. The fact that college football is pretty much the only athletic endeavor of its kind that doesn’t crown a champion after a playoff is a quaint and unique characteristic of the sport that should be cherished. It’s a big part of what makes college football popular – the weekly debate about the polls and end-of-season debate about who is really No. 1. Must we homogenize everything? We tried that with baseball stadiums in the 70s and found that ballparks like Fenway and Wrigley endure because, for whatever odd reasons, they came to be shaped certain ways. The same with college football. The lack of a playoff system is one of the great hallmarks of the college game. Are we really less well off as a civilization because we don’t crown an official champion (BCS notwithstanding)? Is this really an injustice?
2. Teams that win championships aren’t necessarily the best teams anyway. It’s fun to watch playoffs and championship games in sports, and to see who wins it all each year. But every year in at least one major sport the champion probably isn’t actually the best team. That’s life. So it’s not about, say, justice for the young athletes. It’s just about your own entertainment. Wah, Wah, you don’t get to see playoffs! Deal with it.
3. The nature of college football – hundreds of teams playing weekly over just a few months – makes it impossible to have a true playoff system. Oh, maybe you could start the playoffs from Game One, and slate every school in the country into a bracket. But it just won’t work. The NCAA basketball tournament is one of the great sports events in history. You can’t do the same with football. Maybe if you got rid of non-conference games you could patch something together, but the logistics are unpleasant at best.
4. The bowl games are one of the great charms and traditions of college football. Greed and the perversity of the BCS have tainted them. Let’s restore them to their original glamour. The Rose Bowl should be the Big Ten champ against the Pac-10 champ. And so on. Maybe every five years the Rose Bowl teams play in the Sugar Bowl, and so on, just for a change. But was there really anything wrong with the bowl system as we knew it? Only that it didn’t crown an unambiguous champion. That was the beauty of it.
5. The BCS sucks, and in a playoff system, you would still face an unpalatable selection system (Obama says “pick eight teams.” Okay. How?)
Some things that seem broken actually aren’t, and never needed fixing in the first place. College football – at least when it comes to bowl games and playoffs – was one of them.