Why a 'plus-one' was shot down; post-Perrilloux LSU and more
Fortunately, the College Football Mailbag does not have to apply to the NCAA to be granted a sixth year of eligibility. Even if it did, that first year, when I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants, could probably qualify as a redshirt season. And in hindsight, I'm fairly certain I wrote the entire 2005 season with a misdiagnosed shoulder injury.
Cincinnati's Ben Mauk still has a far better case, but fortunately, the only people the Mailbag needs to appeal to is you, the readers. Based on the steady stream of e-mails I've been receiving over the past month, it seems most of you were welcoming its return. So away we go ...
Normally I open the first Mailbag of the season with a bunch of rules (keep your questions short, don't be generic, blah, blah, blah), but most of you get the drill by now. Besides, I'm already making an exception to one of my cardinal rules -- the one about no BCS talk until at least October -- because this is the first chance you've had to chime in on last week's news that the "plus-one" cause is officially dead. Not surprisingly, plenty of you had things to say about it.
I don't get it! How can anyone think the BCS as it stands "is in good health?" At least a four-team playoff would be a start. It seems like the university presidents influenced the commissioners, which I also cannot comprehend. There is a lot of money to made.
Steroids in baseball is stupid. No playoff system in [Division I-A] football because of a few power controllers is beyond ridiculous. We hear about steroids every hour. How come the public doesn't hear about the rediculosity of not determining a college football champion in the same manner that all champions are determined?
For pure amusement's sake, I actually took the time to Google the world "rediculosity" -- only to find out that it is in fact a word (unofficially). Damnit. Luke Winn would have known that.
I certainly understand why fans were frustrated with last week's decision -- I myself was very much in favor of moving to a plus-one. And while I am not a full-on playoff guy, I respect those who are.
What drives me absolutely bonkers, however, is that no matter how many articles (or books) have written about this subject, no matter how detailed an explanation we provide, there is still a large segment of the public that continues to make blanket assumptions about what's best for the sport without taking the time to truly digest the issues behind this "rediculosity."
Believe me, it's not about the money (the commissioners know full well a playoff would generate infinitely more revenue than the current system). And despite what some presidents would have you believe, it's not about academics (if it was, they wouldn't hold a tournament in other sports). Quite simply, college football's leaders universally believe that the regular season is more important than the postseason.
When the commissioners spoke last week of the BCS' "good health," they did so in the context that it's been an immeasurable boon to the season as a whole, as evidenced by rising attendance and TV ratings. If there's one thing the commissioners made abundantly clear last week, it's their belief that a gripping, 12-week regular season with an often-unsatisfying finish is still preferable to a fool-proof postseason that risks devaluing the 12 weeks before it.
I know a lot of people don't buy that argument, but look at college basketball. Each year, at the beginning of the season, many of the best teams in the country square off in various preseason tourneys (the NIT, the Maui Invitational, etc.) -- and only the most diehard fans pay any attention to it.
Meanwhile, on Sept. 13, USC will play Ohio State in football, and the entire country will be watching. The same game would take on far less significance were there to be a full-on playoff. As long as both teams ended up winning their conference (or finishing high enough in the rankings), the result would have no effect on anything. And remember, most major athletic departments are funded primarily by football revenue, chiefly home ticket sales. As soon as fans start tuning out those early-season games (and they would), there goes the cross-country team.
Personally, I don't believe a plus-one would have that effect -- it would still take a near-perfect regular season for a team to finish in the top four -- but anything beyond that would. Which is why, when the commissioners stated last week that their primary concern about a plus-one was that it would open the floodgates to an eight- or 16-team playoff, I can't say I disagreed.
Am I the only person who is not a president of a conference or university who doesn't want a playoff in college football? The one thing playoffs don't do is determine the best team out of a group. The Giants taught us that just a few short months ago. I love hockey, but it doesn't start getting interesting until the end of April. I say long live the BCS! Or whatever keeps every week of football worth watching.
Actually, this is far from the only e-mail I received along those lines.
If I had any pull with the folks at Gallup (and if they weren't so preoccupied with this whole election thing), there's a public-opinion survey I'd love to see them undertake. A whole host of largely unscientific polls have shown there's about a 70-30 split among sports fans between those who want to see college football go to a playoff and those who don't. I don't doubt that to be the case.
But what I want to know is, among that 70 percent, how many are diehard college football fans, and how many are more general sports fans who follow college football no more closely, if not less, than they do baseball, the NFL or the NBA? My entirely unfounded theory is that it would be much closer to 50-50 among the diehards because they're more apt to recognize exactly what I described above.