CFP System a Flawed Mess
I was walking off my flight at DFW Sunday afternoon and was mulling over the just released CFP final rankings list of Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State as the anointed “playoff four” for the first year of this marvelous new system for college football. There was a dad and his son, the kid was maybe nine or ten years old, next to me and we were discussing how TCU had won its final game by 52 points and subsequently dropped three spots in the rankings (a college football first I promise), how I thought Baylor deserved to be in instead of Ohio State, how he thought FSU should still be ranked No. 1 since they never lost, and how we both wondered why Oregon got the golden ticket in without anyone really questioning it. His son looked up at him and asked “Wasn’t the playoffs supposed to fix all that?” Ah from the mouth of babes……
So did the committee get it right with their four selections? I don’t think so, but I’m sure you’ll find a dozen thumbs up for every dozen thumbs down when wading into this discussion, at least if you take your poll outside the state lines of Texas that is. What needs to be the focus is how screwed up the system still is, not whether the committee screwed up or not….although I would like one of them to explain to me why they had TCU jumping Florida State up to No. 3 last week only to kick them firmly with pointed toe between their little lizard legs this week. That aside, as mind boggling as it is, I’ll throw out the opinion that in some ways it’s now actually worse than it was before in the BCS era.
Worse you say? I do. And I say so from being a Horned Frog myself. In the previous system TCU would be heading to another BCS bowl game in Glendale, or New Orleans, or Miami, or Pasadena, and the entire Frog Nation would be thrilled. Eight teams would feel as if they accomplished something tremendous instead of just four, and deserving teams from non power conferences (like the Frogs in the 2011 Rose Bowl when members of the Mountain West) would still have a chance to compete, which is never gonna happen in this system. Instead it feels as if TCU is an after thought sent packing to Atlanta on New Year’s Eve, a disappointing end to what was truly an amazing season by a squad that started the year unranked and outside the top 25. Maybe it’s because the wound is still so fresh – we’ll see. But the players for TCU and Baylor deserve better, and so do their coaches, students, alumni and fanbase. You won’t convince many in the Lone Star State that a true “undisputed” National Champion will be crowned on January 12, no matter what CFP Director Bill Hancock tells us. Personally I would have loved to have TCU join Baylor in the Cotton Bowl this year, and have the winner throw out a “let’s play one more” challenge to whoever wins the “other” championship tournament (I’m just kidding…kinda).
The selection committee members, for their part, were put in an absolute no-win situation. There was no right answer, only wrong ones. They were given the assignment of choosing between three teams that were all equally deserving, depending on what metric system you wanted to throw at the wall and how skilled you were at comparing apples to oranges. And they ultimately did what anyone would do in that situation – they took the easiest and safest route out. They went with the program with the huge student body and alumni base following, the big-time football resume and name, and an athletic department that generates so much revenue it could buy and sell TCU and Baylor – the actual universities that is – not just the football programs. Unfortunately for TCU and Baylor, they’re the tiny little private schools that don’t have a national following. The Committee also made a statement by only picking teams that won an actual conference championship game, which the Big 12 was precluded from having by….wait for it…… you guessed it, college football, because they only have 10 teams. If No. 3 TCU had played No. 6 Baylor in a Big 12 Championship Game Saturday night, do I think the winner would been sitting in the mix right now instead of the Buckeyes? Not sure, but I think it’s entirely possible. There is no doubt that after an entire season of rhetoric of claiming to look at each team’s “entire body of work,” the Committee put an unbalanced amount of emphasis on the very last game of the season. And so the Buckeyes are in.
My partner in ScoreBoard, Rob Scichili, asked me what I thought would have happened if the two schools from the Big 12 were Texas and Oklahoma, instead of TCU and Baylor. Did I think the Big 12 would still be shut out? I’m not sure, but I think the Big 12’s chances would have increased, and that bothers me too. Houston (or in this case Fort Worth and Waco) we have a problem. Politics, clout, influence and Lord knows what else unfortunately still play their part in college football, and it’s still the big boys who will get the nod in this selection mess of a system when all else is equal; simply because they can bring more dollars to the table when its time to go bowling, and that’s a shame.
I could get into why I think Baylor deserved the 4th spot after completing their season with a solid win over Kansas State, and how I think their signature win over TCU was more impressive than Ohio State’s win over Michigan State. Or that Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech at home was “worse” than Baylor’s road loss to West Virginia, or how I think TCU actually had the most impressive season overall. But that’s my point in all this. It shouldn’t matter what I think. Or what Condoleezza Rice, or Tom Osborne or Barry Alvarez or any of the committee members think. It’s all just opinions anyways and everyone’s got one, and you know what they say about that. Dallas Cowboys great Drew Pearson said Sunday night that they “need to get the suits and ties out of the mix, and let the players and coaches decide the championship on the field, not in the meeting room.” I couldn’t agree more. Let figure skating and gymnastics have the judges.
The very first thing I thought of when they announced the change to a four team playoff system was that one of the five power conferences was going to to get screwed, and the Big 12 took a rear-end double dose of it Sunday. And it’s not just an emotional kick to the gut for TCU and Baylor, which it certainly is, it’s a huge financial hit to them and their Big 12 brethren as well. What’s frustrating is it would be so easy to fix. Just go to an eight team field (no 9th ranked team will ever have a legit claim to be in the mix for a National Championship), include the conference winners of the five power conferences (Big 12 you’d need to get you act together on this one), and add three at large teams. Heck, this year only one at large team would have solved the problem. The additional revenue for the sport would be huge, you could still use the bowl games in the same way, and you could truly have it played out on the field. Easy peasy. Oh and get rid of the ridiculous committee with their weekly clandestine meetings in Grapevine, TX. Just use the AP Poll, its been around since the 1930s and it will work just fine (they actually got it right in my mind by the way, voting Bama, FSU, Oregon and Baylor in that order).
I love the quote on the CFP website “The new postseason structure creates an exciting four-team playoff that preserves the best regular season in sports and protects America’s rich bowl tradition. It does not go too far; it goes just the right distance and respects the academic calendar while limiting the number of games played by student-athletes.” It goes just the right distance……(I don’t get to use my “LOL” often enough in writing so here it is LOL). It’s as funny to me as the Big 12’s marketing slogan all season long, One True Champion, even as Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was declaring TCU and Baylor co-champs. And if Hancock and his cronies are truly worried about the time commitment for the student athletes as they claim (I get to use my LOL again here), I could show them how they could do it without adding an additional week as well. I’m happy to sit down and chat whenever they’re ready.
If I can live in my imaginary world for a second, where all things are good and noble, how great would it have been if the committee members exited their final meeting and declared they had a three way tie for the 4th spot, and college football just needs to add another game. Seriously. How awesome would that be? Or what if (again Rob’s idea), one of the mega sponsors of this mess, like Texas-based Dr Pepper, came out and demanded that two teams be added to the mix this year – think that might get some positive press for a company like never before? I know it’s not reality, but you can’t convince me it couldn’t be done. It just won’t. And that’s a shame, because there are two deserving teams deep in the heart of Texas that have had their hearts stomped on by a still ridiculous system.