I’m worried about the future of college football (and why I’m glad Penn State got snubbed)
The media is lining up against the four-team College Football Playoff, and it was inevitable.
It’s beginning to look just like the groupthink against the BCS that ultimately led to the 4-team playoff. I can neither confirm nor deny if Dan Wetzel is working on his follow up book titled Death to the Selection Committee.
The sports media and college football thought-leaders won’t stop until we have an expanded playoff similar to the NFL. You know, the least messy version of selecting postseason participants.
I don’t deny that the system is messy. It’s very much that, and an eight-team playoff with guaranteed slots for conference champions with a few at-large bids would clean up everything.
And make college football much less interesting at the same time.
The college football media is so consumed with righting the wrongs of potential deserving teams being snubbed from the postseason that they’re willing to kill off everything that makes college football fun, interesting and gloriously controversial.
The BCS was already killed off, and the four-team playoff will undoubtedly face a similar fate sooner rather than later.
College football has always had a unique ingredient that made it different. That ingredient was subjectivity.
Teams in different conferences not only play different styles of football, but they play different schedules. Comparing teams in different parts of the country is difficult to do with any degree of objectivity.
The polls have long been the attempt for us to catalog and rank which teams are better, even though a large degree of subjectivity was consistently involved.
The polls are amazing. The polls are ridiculous. It’s college football.
The first attempt to give us a championship game between the two best teams in the country was, of course, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Computer formulas were involved in an attempt to reduce potential regional bias and keep some degree of objectivity. But then of course we had computers choosing our champions, which was unacceptable. The criticism was immediate and consistent throughout the lifespan of the BCS system.
The pushback against computer formulas, of course, led to embracing the idea of a selection committee. Humans actually watch the games! These people are much better than a computer!
When the Playoff arrived, it was met with unanimous glee. Finally we would decide the champions on the field!
Championships should be won on the field. Not in a boardroom. Congrats to Bama, Wash, Clemson, and Penn St on being the 4 most deserving.
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) December 4, 2016
Oops. Maybe not?
It’s fascinating to see the vast majority of the media root for the removal of subjectivity from the process when the messiness of college football provides near-unlimited fodder for columns, radio segments and more.
And here’s the thing I believe is often missed: The discussion is fun.
We’re not debating how many weeks Roger Goodell should suspend some guy for smacking his girlfriend. We’re not talking performance enhancing drugs policy. We’re debating which teams are better! Isn’t that one of the most core elements of being sports fans?
So, yes, very soon, we’ll likely move to an eight-team Playoff. We’ll have conference champions locked in, and then have three at-large teams.
Will there be some debate over the three at-large teams? Sure, but it won’t be anything close to what we just saw. I mean, really, how worked up are you going to get debating which three-loss team is better?
We’ll also begin to have some really average teams in the playoff as a result of winning their respective conferences. Who’s excited for a repeat of the 2012 five-loss Wisconsin team winning the Big Ten?
But at least we’ll have a clean system. Killing the potential for a good team getting snubbed is the only thing that matters nowadays.
We’d rather have mediocre teams involved if it means ensuring we have all good teams involved.
I believe one of the key misunderstandings in how college football is covered is how important the messiness and subjectivity is to the success of the game. It’s a huge part of what makes this game interesting. It’s the driving force behind 95 percent of our college football-related conversations with our friends.
If you didn’t notice, interest in sports is rarely about the actual play of the game on the field or on the court. Sure, the die-hards might talk about zone coverages or what offensive coordinator is drawing up the best schemes, but the masses talk about the game surrounding the game.
When the conversations around the game cease to be fun conversations (e.g. NFL), or worse yet, they cease to even exist on a national scale (e.g. MLB), look out. Interest will start to decline.
But that won’t be the main problem. It’ll just be a symptom of the problem. The real problem will be that we’ve made college football to be just like the NFL. We’ll have killed off everything that made college football glorious and unique.