The NCAA basketball tournament was an 8 team bracket 30 or so years ago. Today, it has ballooned to 65 teams, and there are many coaches who are pounding on the table demanding that it go to 96 or 128 teams. Scope/Mission Creep is unavoidable.
But that's not my biggest concern.
My issue is related to the NCAA's fundamental inability to develop a system whereby the "Best" eight teams make the playoffs. To architect a playoff system for college football today would require so much compromise, consensus building and caveats to get sign off, avoid Anti-Trust Law Suits from small conferences and to include all the appropriate TV Partners that it would create a dramatically more frustrating system than what we have today.
To create a playoff of 8 teams, the NCAA presidents would have to agree to certain compromises with each other to get the deal done.
- 1. They would give preferential access to non-BCS teams who met certain criteria. This is done today with the BCS Bowls, and it is done entirely to avoid law suits. There is no way a playoff vote passes without a Boise, Hawaii or Utah having access if they crack the Top 8 or 10 in some sort of poll.
2. They would still give ND preferential access. This is done because the NCAA presidents can't count. They have 119 votes to Notre Dame's 1 vote, but they still cave to ND's demands for no apparent reason other than fear and TV.
3. The six BCS conference commissioners would NEVER sign off on a deal whereby their conference champ was shut out of an 8 team playoff. There would have to be automatic access for regular season champs.
The final regular season poll from 2006 was:
- Bowl Champ. Series Poll 2006:
1. Ohio State (Big 10 Champ)
2. Florida (SEC Champ)
5. USC (Pac 10 Champ)
6. Louisville (Big East Champ)
8. Boise State (Top Non-BCS Champ)
10. Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)
11. Notre Dame
13. West Virginia
14. Wake Forest (ACC Champ)
- For the sake of argument, let's swap Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
- Let's also assume that Notre Dame gets a waiver for the playoffs that ensures they make the 8 team bracket if they finish in the Top 10. For TV reasons, this is a VERY likely scenario.
- Let's also assume that a Top 8 non-BCS conference team gets an automatic bid into the playoffs. This is another likely scenario to avoid lawsuits, and to get the non-BCS conference teams to vote for the tournament.
- #1 Seed Ohio State as Big 10 Champ
#2 Seed UF as SEC Champ
#3 Seed USC as Pac 10 Champ
#4 Seed Louisville as Big East Champ
#5 Seed Oklahoma as Big 12 Champ
#6 Seed Boise State as top non-BCS team
#7 Seed Notre Dame by virtue of finishing in Top 10 poll
#8 Seed Wake Forest as ACC Champ
In 2004, the at-large teams in a playoff would've been #4 Texas and #6 Utah. Cal (#5) and UGA (#7) would've been left out of the bracket in favor of #21 Pittsburgh and #13 Michigan (conference champs of their respective leagues). In 2005, #5 Oregon would've been shut out of the playoff system in favor of #22 FSU. And, there are other examples of a #6 or #7 team being shut out of the system for a team ranked sub-10 team.
Is that really more "fair" and less "frustrating" than our current system? Is that really "settling it on the field?" Is that the best way to "discover who is the best team?"
I can't see how.
If you were building a system from scratch to decide a college football champion, you would definitely use a playoff system. Unfortunately, that ship sailed about 70 years ago. We have to recognize the realities of college football today. They would have to build a system that addresses the needs of various constituents with conflicting agendas and historical biases. And committee driven, compromised process won't get you a better end result.
As for a 4 team "Plus 1" system....what good is that? Last year, UGA and USC were likely the two better teams in college football, and they finished 5th and 6th in the final BCS polls. Some sort of polling / mathematical system would be used to see the Top 4 teams in a Plus 1, and it likely wouldn't be very different than the BCS Poll. If last year's team UGA doesn't get to play for the title, then what good is a Plus 1?
-- MGoBlog's 6 Team Playoff Format - MGoBlog (2006)
-- 8 Team Playoff Won't Work? - FanBlogs