Tuesday, January 02, 2007

There is a precedent

Twenty years ago, a network with a lot of cash to burn decided to buck tradition and give people what they wanted: a matchup between #1 and #2. They got it in spades. A great game, a victory for the good guys, and the start of a new tradition (and soon, with the end of the Southwest Conference, a seat at the big boys' table).

Sure, the Fiesta Bowl is the antithesis of the college presidents' argument against a playoff: it has little tradition, it has always been about the money, and it's been played pretty much whenever the organizers wanted it to (not that there are classes that week, but you know what I mean). And that's why it's eventually going to lead us to a playoff.

Eventually, one of the networks is going to realize that the BCS has never really resolved any of the issues put before it, and that no non-BCS team will ever play for the national title. They'll talk to the five outsider conferences and some of the second-tier bowls, maybe even to some of the BCS bowls. And then they'll march into the NCAA's office with an SMU-sized briefcase of cash (maybe Craig James can carry it - who was jabbing him this week about money? Someone in the studio ...) and lay it out on the table:

  • Eleven conference champions. The NCAA won't buy into a system that doesn't include all conference champs.
  • Five at-large teams, decided by a selection committee as in the other sports, and seeded the same way. No special exemption for Notre Dame. They can earn their way in like everyone else. Maybe this is why they've lost what, seven bowls in a row?
  • Opening-round games at the higher seed so that students have one last chance to catch their teams in the playoffs.
  • Quarterfinals at the Cotton, Citrus, and Gator Bowls (a nod to tradition and warmer climates), plus one of Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta, with the highest remaining seed playing in that game.
  • Semifinals and finals at the remaining three bowls, rotated as they are now.
  • Games played every Saturday, ending with the first Saturday in January and starting three weeks prior. The NFL will gladly concede the Saturday-night time slot if it conflicts with wild-card weekend.
  • The bowls not involved in the playoffs will continue as before, although they may have to loosen their tie-ins somewhat. Not that this would hurt anything - how many teams from the SEC? Really?

It'll happen. Wait and see. In 2010, the first year after the four-year sequence of the extra-game BCS, we'll have a I-A playoff. The NCAA won't take the games away from the BCS during the current cycle, or else the bowls that didn't get the extra game won't agree to it.

The avalanche has begun. It's too late for the pebbles to vote.

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