With college football thriving, BCS officials have no need for 'plus-one' (cont.)
To the large segment of the public that have long clamored for college football to adopt a full-scale playoff, Wednesday's news will presumably cause only more furor. ("The fans who sent me e-mails after last year's game will send me e-mails again this year," said Tranghese.)
It's important to note, however, that the commissioners have never been empowered to even discuss a playoff. As has been long chronicled, the vast majority of university presidents across the country -- the higher-ups to whom the commissioners ultimately answer to -- adamantly oppose a so-called "NFL-style" playoff and have made that abundantly clear to their respective commissioners.
Slive, however, had received authority from the SEC presidents to at least "explore" the possibility of a plus-one game. His league suffered the indignity in 2004 of seeing its undefeated champion, Auburn, get excluded from the BCS title game, thus prompting his interest in the concept.
Despite the long-stated objections of at least two commissioners -- the Big Ten's Jim Delany and the Pac-10's Tom Hansen -- Slive and his staff spent months researching and working on the plan he laid out Wednesday. At a meeting with reporters afterward, he seemed visibly dejected to see it go down in flames. "There's a bit of a letdown," he acknowledged.
In the same breath, however, Slive espoused much the same message as the other commissioners, one that much of the public has a hard time digesting but is indisputably true: That in its first decade, the BCS has been very, very good for college football.
TV ratings are up. Attendance is up. The sport is arguably more popular than at any time in its history.
Amidst that backdrop, you might see why the BCS honchos don't necessarily feel any sense of urgency to rock the boat. Both Fox Sports president Ed Goren and ABC/ESPN senior vice president for college sports programming Burke Magnus made appearances this week, and both expressed their overwhelming desire to win the next BCS contract, regardless of format. The executives for all four bowls expressed their satisfaction with the system as well.
Meanwhile, the BCS has stabilized itself dramatically since its earlier, "Wild West" days. The formula used to compile the standings, which the commissioners found themselves altering on a near-annual basis at first, has remained unchanged the past four years. And while there is cause for "controversy" nearly every year, it's also been four years since the last perceived "injustice" (Auburn).
"The reality is there's unanimity [among the commissioners] that we've made a lot of progress in the past decade," said Delany. "College football has probably grown more in the past decade than any other sport."
Much of that popularity can be attributed to the drama of the sport's regular season, much of which has been enhanced by the creation of a unified national-title game (how quickly we forget that prior to 1998, No. 1 vs. 2 bowl games were hardly an annual occurrence). Protecting the sanctity of that regular season remains an overriding concern among the commissioners and was cited by several in expressing their reluctance to embrace the plus-one.
"College football has the best regular season of any sport anywhere," said Slive, "and you have to be very careful about that when you're thinking about the postseason."
But does anyone -- even the commissioners themselves -- truly believe that adding one more game would in any way devalue the regular season? Of course not. And while they might not express it officially, it's no secret that the heads of all but the Rose Bowl would embrace a plus-one because they know it would double the chance of their game carrying national-title implications.
Comments made Wednesday by Tranghese, Beebe, Delany and Hansen all carried a similar theme, one that should send the clearest message yet to all those who think college football should conform to the masses. That is, they really, really do not want a playoff, so much so they won't dare even touch this seemingly simple, four-team edition.
"I have no doubt that if we adopted this seeded one vs. four/two vs. three, as soon as team five and six got left out, they'd be screaming to expand to eight, then nine would get left out and we'd be headed for a [16-team] playoff. Philosophically, we just don't believe that's in our best interest," said Tranghese. "I know that's not what a lot of fans want to hear, but they're not responsible for crafting what it is we have in college football."
What we have is a sport that, by almost any quantifiable measure, is thriving. When 90,000 people are showing up to watch a scrimmage in April, you know something must be going right.
What we also have is a flawed postseason that continually frustrates and angers a large segment of the fan base -- that then happily show back up on fall Saturdays, either in the stands or on the couch with their clicker.
Like it or not, it's going to stay that way through at least 2014.