by NFL Gimpy (follow him on Twitter)
I’m going to shake things up a bit this week and talk a little about college football. Obviously the readers of site mostly dedicated to scouting for the NFL draft follow college football, so I doubt I’m going to confuse any of you. The two things in the world of college football right now that are blowing up sports pages are playoffs (PLAYOFFS?! in my best Jim Mora voice) and additional cash/stipends/Cadillacs for players.
Playoffs are the hot topic. The main proposal right now is a 4 team playoff and the big debate is whether or not it’s the 4 best teams, 4 conference champions, 3 conference champs and 1 at large, or some combination of that. The main thing you see is teams and conferences posturing for their own best interest, not the best interest of the sport. Quite frankly, this whole playoff scenario shows you what a joke the NCAA is. They have no control over their own teams.
The 4 conference champion model is so wrong it isn’t funny. It highlights the biggest problem with college football right now: money over performance. A 4-champion model will pretty much eliminate any chance a small school will ever have. Sure, normally the major conference champions are the best teams. However, I still think Urban Meyer’s 2004 Utah squad was the best in the country and they never had a shot at a national championship and wouldn’t under this model either. What the big players are trying to do is make sure only they have a shot.
I hate that. They already have built in advantages over small programs through fan bases, donors, TV contracts, etc. Now we’re going to essentially shut out anyone that’s not a big player from ever competing for a title? When you give those “little” guys a chance, magic happens. I’ll admit I’m not a huge basketball fan. I follow my alma mater and their key opponents and that’s about it. I still think March Madness is one of the top 3 sporting events in the country (the other 2 are the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup). Cinderella stories happen. Sure, the big programs have those built in advantages, but whether or not that matters is decided on the court.
The system is already rigged against small programs and the 4 champion model puts the nail in the coffin. Would you rather see Alabama or LSU get another title or would you rather see Boise State or TCU pull off an incredible upset? Unless you’re a ‘Bama or LSU fan, I’d bet most of you would rather see Boise or TCU. If you saw the 2007 Fiesta Bowl between Boise and Oklahoma, you’d know that is one of the most exciting football games ever. A hook and lateral to tie the game with almost no time left? Then go for 2 in the first OT to win the game? AND to win it on a statue of liberty play? That game was 5+ years ago and I still get pumped up just thinking about it. Now imagine that type of “nothing to lose” mentality in a national championship game? The big players are trying to take that away.
No matter what method of 4 team playoff they choose, it’s wrong. I’ve been on the 8 team bandwagon for a long time. I completely understand that a basketball style tournament can’t happen in football. But still, in any given season, can you find more than 8 teams who have a legitimate claim that they’re the best in the country? Even better, my proposal doesn’t change the bowl system, it doesn’t eliminate the BCS, it results in more $$, and small schools still have a chance.
Here’s how it works. You use the BCS ranking system and take the top 8 teams, however no more than 2 teams per conference. If you aren’t one of the two best teams in your conference, you aren’t #1 caliber. You don’t have to be a conference champion though and if you are one, it doesn’t make you a lock to get in. If Virginia Tech wins the ACC with a 9-4 record, they can’t rightfully say they’re top 8. However, if you do win your conference, you still have a very good chance.
You play the 2 rounds of playoffs the 2nd and 3rd week of December. You may have to mandate that the college season is over by the last week in November or 1st week in December to make it work, no big deal there. After those playoffs are over (which will be before Christmas), you announce which BCS Bowl (all 8 are guaranteed a spot) they go to. The 2 teams who win both of their playoff games advance to the Championship game to be played after all other bowls. The remaining 2 spots in BCS bowls should be filled easily enough with conference champs who weren’t top 8 or at large bids.
I do see a few flaws. First, the possibility of a playoff rematch in a BCS bowl. Technically, there are only 2 possible rematches and with 8 teams in the non-championship bowls, it should be easily avoided (unless a rematch is desired). Second, it will be difficult to honor past conference matchups in BCS bowls, such as PAC-12 Big10 Rose Bowl. Third, while I can’t figure out a scenario, a good team could get screwed out of a BCS Bowl. Then again, that happens every other year, so nothing changes there. There’s also travel and logistics issues for sending teams to their BCS bowls after the playoffs but that shouldn’t be too hard.
Still, the system is far better than any alternative or the status quo. I couldn’t find a recent example of a team that didn’t fall into my top 8 model that has a legitimate gripe over being left out. The big sticking point would probably be where games are played. I propose the higher seed gets the home game. Neutral sites will be too difficult for all fans to get to and you need to at least give some advantage to the team who had a better season. Sure, the away team has a disadvantage but I think that’s better than a ‘Bama-Ohio State game played in Arizona. Even with those passionate fans, seats would be empty.
Let’s give a few examples.
2011 playoffs: LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, Boise State, Kansas State and Wisconsin. Arkansas and South Carolina get left out due to 2 team per conference max. This enables Wisconsin to take the last spot. SEC will be upset, but B10 pleased. Boise gets a fair shot finally.
So the first round would be LSU-Wisconsin, Alabama-Kansas State, Oklahoma State-Boise State, Stanford-Oregon. How epic would those matchups be? Andrew Luck gets another shot at Oregon in the 4-5 spot. Boise against an epic OK St. offense. These matchups would be bigger than most bowl games.
2010 playoffs: Auburn, Oregon, TCU, Stanford, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arkansas. No more than 2 per conference this year and a mid-major (TCU) got a shot.
2009: Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU, Florida, Boise, Oregon, Ohio State. 2 mid-majors get a shot, a Big East team makes their way up, and traditional powers are still represented.
My system isn’t perfect, but I have yet to see a team with a legitimate gripe to get a shot when I look through rankings to see who goes and who doesn’t. Feel free to point out any holes I missed in the comments.
* * * * *
Then there’s the issue of paying players. This hasn’t been in the news much lately, but it all ties together. Why? It’s another power play by the big players in college football. Teams with thousands of donors, huge TV contracts, and 70-100k fans packing their stadiums every week have very deep pockets. They can afford to pay more $$ beyond the scholarships and current stipends. If we allow them to pay more, it gives the big guys an even bigger advantage.
Imagine you’re a recruit choosing between two schools. You love School A, the coach, the atmosphere, the system, possibility for early playing time, etc. You like School B, but the depth chart is a bit crowded, you don’t like the campus as much as School A, and you’re not sure the system is a good fit. However, School B can offer an additional weekly stipend of a few hundred bucks and School A can’t afford to. I don’t know about you, but $200-300 a week would have been a huge deal to me in college, so much that it would easily have sent me elsewhere (and trust me, I LOVE my alma mater) if the schools were comparable.
Combine a payment for players with a 4 conference champion playoff structure and you instantly kill chances for even teams in BCS conferences who don’t have huge budgets. Teams who can afford stipends will win even more recruiting battles over those who can’t. If you’re choosing between Texas and TCU without stipends, there are a lot of reasons to choose TCU. If TCU can’t afford stipends if they’re added, TCU has no chance at ever getting top flight players in Texas. Even in a great conference, they have no chance at winning recruiting battles in their own state. This is why I’m against direct stipends, it removes any chance the smaller programs have at making a run. If you allow only 4 conference champions into the playoffs and stipends are paid to players that most teams can’t afford to pay, this fan won’t watch college football anymore for entertainment purposes. The game will be ruined.
I will say that players should be able to own their likeness. One of the dumbest things imaginable is that colleges are allowed to make millions of dollars off of the likeness of their players but if the player sells a jersey or gets paid to give out autographs, they get punished. How does that make any sense? If you play video games like NCAA Football, you know that the video game can’t actually use player names and the cover athlete is always a player who won’t be in the game because he left college football already. I can’t understand why a player can have his height, weight, stats, football abilities, town of origin, etc. used in a game but since his name isn’t there it’s perfectly fine.
I’m not a big Terrell Pryor fan (as I showed last week) but he’s the prime example of what’s wrong with the system. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a liar and I have no respect for him, but what is innately wrong with selling your merchandise? In any world outside of the NCAA, what rules or laws did he violate? If I nail a presentation at work and someone wants to buy my tie for $500, they can have it. Sure there are taxes and such on the sale possibly, but the overall nature of it is completely innocent.
That’s why I support at least allowing the players to use their own likeness/brand/property for profit. USC QB Matt Barkley is one of the biggest names in college football right now and he can’t use his status to hold an autograph session? He can’t be on the cover of NCAA Football 2013? His name can’t appear in the game even though everything else about him is? Why can’t he autograph his jersey and use it as a down payment on a car? The NCAA makes claims like they’re protecting the amateur status of the game, yet I’m pretty sure the Olympics doesn’t have a problem with Michael Phelps assaulting my TV with Subway commercials, and the Olympics can be Nazis with amateur eligibility.
There of course is always possible abuse, such as a big fan paying $50k for a sock, but if you at least require all earned money as a result of your status to be reported, you at least can catch and put a stop on abuses.
So what do you think about playoffs, stipends, and the power play by the big players in football?
-If I’m Andrew Luck, I’m looking at my RB depth chart and wondering how the hell it’s possible I went to the NFL and my RBs got worse.
-Any NFL player who gets a DUI is an idiot. Any NFL player who gets a DUI and already had one previously is so stupid I wonder how he can actually think and walk at the same time. Justin Blackmon had a DUI in college and now got another one just recently. The 1st round pick blew a .24, which is triple the legal limit. I had a friend who bought a breathalyzer in college and we would always use it to see how drunk we were. I’ve blown a .24 or so before. You’re pretty drunk at that point, like off balance, slurred speech drunk.
It’s just so stupid for a player to get a DUI when A)They’re rich and can afford a cab B) NFL teams have programs where someone will pick the player up and drive them home free of charge and C) They’re famous and can probably get someone to drive them. Hell, I live in Pittsburgh and I’m not a Steelers fan. If I bumped into Steelers 1st round pick David DeCastro (OG from Stanford) and he asked me for a ride home because he’s drunk, I’d do it. I may ask him to get me Andrew Luck’s autograph too, but hey, when in Rome…
The point is. Blackmon is an idiot and I hope he gets his head on straight or else he’ll be in for a short NFL career.
-I’m going to throw some random 2012 season predictions into Quick Hits leading up to the season. I’ll try to be bold yet realistic. First one: The Bengals win the AFC North.
-Justin Forsett must have had very little interest on the open market if his best option was #3 RB in Houston. Unless one of their top guys gets hurt, he won’t see the field.
-I know the Cowboys said they won’t trade Mike Jenkins and that teams have made offers, but I think he’ll eventually be dealt. Someone is going to lose a CB in training camp and offer a 3rd and something else and that will be better than any compensatory pick they get, which would most likely be at best a late 3rd rounder.
-Poor Marty Brodeur. He allows 1 goal in regulation in Game 1, his team loses in OT. He allows 1 goal in regulation in Game 2, his team loses in OT. I don’t care what a goalie does throughout a game, if he allows 1 goal, you need to win that game in regulation. This applies to the Kings too, they’ve just been fortunate in OT. It’s a shame one of these goalies has to lose.
-The NFL is having some issues with their officials. I don’t think they have a leg to stand on. They get paid a ton of $$ to work part time. They’re already hunting for replacements. I’m not concerned. I think they’ll cave when they realize that the NFL can replace them without much fanfare.