Tag Archives: NCAA

January Madness???!! Taking the College Football Playoff System Further

Let’s go back to September 1st, 2007, to the great state of Michigan (Whoo!). The fifth ranked Divsion (1-A) Michigan Wolverines are pitted against Division (1-AA) Appalachian State Mountaineers. The Wolverines are heavily favored by 27 points. After a hard fought game, the Mountaineers stunned the Wolverines 34-32, capping off what many deem to be the biggest upset in college football history. Never had a Division 1-AA school ever beaten an AP ranked team since the NCAA split itself into two divisions in 1978. To this day, even mentioning Appalachian State to a Wolverine fan brings up feelings of hatred and regret (being a Michigan State Spartan, I do it every chance I get!). Now imagine if this had been a championship game instead of the first game of the season. Imagine if this was the crowning achievement of a Mountaineer team that had fought with all it’s might all the way to the top and was finally crowned National Champions. Cinderella is in the building. The new four team playoff system that is being implemented in college football got me asking myself: Why can’t we just bring “March Madness” to college football?

The details that are coming through about the playoff system that is to be implemented in 2014 got me wondering what was to become of my beloved college football now that things are changing. The BCS is bullshit, it always was. The results of the polling and computer analysis always pissed off more people that it made happy. It wasn’t like the NFL, where the reason a team made the playoffs was obvious and easy to follow. In the BCS, teams were chosen based on a multitude of different reasons and factors which led to a large amount of confused fans, players and coaches. It was never as simple as a win-loss record.

The NCAA has finally heard everyone’s cry and has officially adopted a playoff. While I’m all for this, the playoff they intend to adopt falls short of the mark. A four team playoff is not enough to help ensure that a team from every conference has a fighting chance to make it to the National Title game. Essentially, conferences with historically less competitive schools still have no chance of making it to the Title game due to the perceived lack of competitiveness of their conferences. There are six automatically qualifying conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Big East, PAC-12) that get BCS bowl games bids because these are considered BCS conferences. The  remaining conferences (Conference USA, Mountain West Sun Belt West Atlantic Conference) are not considered BCS conferences, and basically have to go undefeated for a shot—just a shot—at a BCS bowl. Even an 8 or 12 team playoff would still leave a large field of teams that played really well, but were deemed not good enough to compete for the national championship. An easy way to remedy this would be to simply adopt the NCAA basketball playoff system, or the “March Madness” system. Seeds would be taken from every conference and an ensuing playoff structure would emerge and whittle down the field until a champion is crowned.

The system in which teams are selected would be essentially a clone of the current college basketball system. Separate schools into regions and mix and match teams based on quality, which would help equalize the skill level of each region. Then develop a 64 team bracket (68 if you include the first four) with 31 of those teams being chosen automatically by winning their conference championships (there are 32 separate conferences in college basketball. The football teams of each school can organize using the same conferences, with the extra one conference being used for the independent schools such as Notre Dame. The easiest table of all the conferences can be found on Wikipedia. The remaining 37 teams would be chosen by a selection committee. The selection committee would be fair because every team had the opportunity to win their conference and be guaranteed a position in the tournament. Any concern about biased and unfair treatment would be history. Of course, there’d be snubs like there is every year in college basketball, but compared to the outrage that the BCS causes every year, no tears would be shed.

The number of games played would increase drastically. This would greatly increase the amount of money flowing into college football programs. It’s estimated that with the four team playoff there would be an increase of roughly $500 million profit each year on television rights alone. Going by the 12-year contract, that could be $6 billion dollars in profit. Now imagine if we used the 64 team tournament which would end up being 64 more playoff games instead of just four (64 teams playing 32 games and on down the line until the national championship game=64.)

The NCAA has a contract with CBS worth $10.8 billion over 14 years for the March Madness television rights. That contract makes up 95% of the NCAA’s revenue. The BCS games averaged a 8.9 television rating last year, while March Madness averaged a 5.3. College football, and football in general, is much more popular than basketball. It’s unfathomable how much a network would pay for the rights to broadcast a “January Madness” for college football, but it’s a safe bet that it would be over the $10.8 billion CBS deal.

Overall, this four team playoff is a giant leap in the right direction. Unfortunately, the four team playoff will never stand. It will have to be expanded. Any change to the BCS is good, but after a few years teams and conferences will begin to question the fairness just as they did with the BCS system that is currently in place. Eventually it will need to be expanded to accommodate all the teams and give everyone that has the ability to earn a spot a fighting chance.

Some will argue that the tournament would add too many postseason games and make the season drag on too late, but in actuality, most teams wouldn’t play more than they already do as half the teams wouldn’t even make it into the tournament. College football currently has 35 bowl games following the regular season and they begin in the first week of December. By forgoing the break in between the end of the season and the first week of december, you’ll have ample amount of time to complete a complete tournament bracket in roughly the same amount of time it currently takes the entire football season to end. If you play a 64-team tournament and play one round each week starting the first week of December, you’d be down to 32 teams by the second week, 16 teams by the third week and eight by the fourth week. The following week would be the quarterfinals, followed by the semifinals and then the national title game, so the season would wrap up by the second or third week of January. Problem solved.

This system would ensure that every team has a fair shot and making a run at the National Championship. The Championship would become more fluid and exciting like March Madness is, and it would be done in a completely fair manner. College football needs a dramatic make over if we as fans are legitimately concerned about the fairness of the game. Coaches polls and computers shouldn’t decide who get to compete—wins should determine who get to play for the Championship. This system would ensure that the team who wins when they must get the recognition they deserve. Couple the added fairness and competitive nature of the tournament with the astronomical level of financial benefit and it would be foolish not to implement this new playoff system.

Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelPakkala

Death By Fire To Penn State

“No price the NCAA can levy with repair the damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims,” said NCAA president Mark Emmert as he handed down Penn State’s sanctions. In the aftermath of the Freeh Report—an independent collection of evidence, accounts, and interviews following Sandusky’s child molestation charges—new details of Penn State’s implicit cover-up of Sandusky’s abuse were recounted. Although Penn State only broke one rule, “lack of institutional control” (this is a criminal case, not an athletic one), the NCAA has given themselves the power to punish the football program.

The sanctions imposed are a $60 million fine to be donated to a child abuse charity (about $13 million less than the program’s revenue), a forfeiture of all wins since 1998, and a four-year postseason ban; football players can transfer to other schools without penalty, and the Penn State athletic department is placed on probation. Never before has a program been punished to this degree. It’s worse than the Death Penalty, which is when the NCAA bans competition in a sport for at least one year. Joe Paterno, who’s name and legacy has already been lit on fire, has now had his records burned. The program is now financially crippled, and with transfers looming and no postseason to offer to recruits, bringing in Penn State quality players will be impossible. These sanctions are a slow death by fire, when a quick decapitation is needed.

Penn State football is irreparably ruined. The reputation of the university and the program has already been tarnished, but these sanctions impose logistical harm. The school is now defined by Jerry Sandusky, and the football team is too. Although the NCAA sanctions are unprecedented, the act of handing them down isn’t a problem—it’s the sanctions themselves. The NCAA should have closed down the football program altogether. If they really felt the need to be involved, a decisive blow should’ve been dealt. Instead of delivering a slow, painful fall, a swift death would’ve been more appropriate. Football will continue at Penn State, but only in a sad, hollow shell of itself. Every game will be a reminder of Sandusky. Why even let that happen?

The NCAA is making the entire case about football without any regard to the victims. The $60 million donation is nice, but it’s only a small gesture in the grand scheme of the situation. Football is now overshadowing everything. History will remember Sandusky as the footnote that led to the death of Penn State football, instead of the evil man who ruined lives. All we’ll remember are the “ruined” careers of football sportsmen, instead of the victims. This case was never about football, but that’s all anybody seems to care about. When Penn State’s students rioted on campus following Paterno’s firing, it was all about football. “JoePa is Penn State.” Really now? For Penn State’s students to forget about football, and to be re-cultured and rewired into students—not football-driven maniacs—the program must die now. There’s a crisis of culture at Penn State that the NCAA is bent on exacerbating.

When Paterno arranged a lucrative pay-out some 15 months ago, before the story went public, it was all about protecting him, the program, and therefore the university. Institutions like Penn State are effectively run by the football program, because of all the money, attention, and power, and students it brings in. Isn’t school spirit and the football team central to a Penn State experience? What is the school now? Sandusky’s showers are more famous than Beaver Stadium. This could’ve happened to any team at Penn State, but if it was the swim team coach who was molesting children, no way it gets covered up. It’s a story that comes out, gets attention for a week, and then dies. Penn State lives on. Because the money and power of the football team was linked, Sandusky got away with his perversion for decades.

The NCAA has an elephant that isn’t even in the room yet. College football programs have grown to be too rich, too powerful, and out of control. The value of an athletic scholarship has been bastardized by TV contracts and merchandising. College football doesn’t exist for students to get an education–it exists as a free talent-evaluating service for the NFL, and for the pockets of the university. Right there is why Paterno and Penn State’s braintrust covered the whole thing up. But are they as immoral as their peers? No university or athletic department would ever admit this, but would they have done the same thing if they were in Paterno’s shoes? Would they’ve called the police at the cost of their football program? Men have done worse to maintain wealth and power, and with so much of it in the college game, there can’t be many morally sound men left.

The NCAA and Penn State should be trying to find solutions, not sanctions. Penn State will probably sue the NCAA for handing down these penalties without legal standing, meaning this quagmire will continue to drag on. The longer this is an issue, the longer it will take for the victims to heal, and for Penn State to heal. The NCAA’s ego is getting in the way of a humanistic tragedy, just like how Paterno’s prevented him from calling 9-1-1. Only a power-drunk organization like the NCAA could put itself ahead of a crime. They genuinely believe that they’re above the law. The best price the NCAA can levy is either total, immediate action, or none at all. Focus on the victims, not on football.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49