The highest level of college football is finally getting a playoff. This is something for which I have advocated, including co-developing the Enhanced Bowl Season to incorporate a 12-team playoff within the existing constraints of the power structure. The conference commissioners did better by ceding a little power/control for the long-term good of the sport (and ultimately themselves). I still have issues with a 4-team system, but many of the flaws I noted can be reduced breaking with the status quo.
I’ve disagreed with some actions of Jim “the bulldog” Delany and Mike Slive over the years, but there is no denying the deftness with which they’ve navigated many competing interests. They’re smart men and have done an excellent job representing their conferences’ interests. By moving to a playoff, they continue to do so – Delany estimates that this will bring 3-4 times the current revenue, an estimate that may be conservative. Further, this will make the regular season even better by keeping more teams in the hunt for a national championship longer into the season. More importantly, it may help stem the tide of cupcake scheduling for fear of getting a loss.
It looks like there will be a selection committee to choose the four tournament teams. There are many problems with that, but a positive will be removing the influence of the polls. They will still exist, but they will go back to being interesting fodder for debate. The selection committee will surely be influenced by them, but will process them through mental filters.
To be clear, this change is the result of pressure from the outside:
- Pollspeak.com shed light on the inherent flaws of human voting and advocating for transparency. The world is better when those with power provide transparency (c.f., Arab Spring, US government, Google).
- Playoff PAC consolidated the opposition and put forth a focused counter case.
- The media played a huge role with blogs (How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the BCS) and books (Death to the BCS)
- Larry Scott brought cultural change and the willingness to take on sacred cows.
- Federal & state governments got involved
- And don’t discount the bowls who sewed the seeds of their destruction through avarice and corruption.
The new playoff won’t be perfect. It may not even be good. Fans, pundits, and critics will still rightfully howl. Biases will still permeate the selection committee and power interests will still work to be maintained. But it will be better. This is progress toward fairness on the field. Decades of lowering my expectations make me happy about that. But watch this space sometime after 2014 for more complaints.