And so it all will end on Monday night. Whether Ohio State or Oregon wins the first ever CFP national championship is almost irrelevant to the fact that there will be a champion decided on the field who had to play more than one good team in order to get there. TCU and Baylor fans have a right to complain (TCU, more so in my opinion) that their teams should have had this chance. But there can be little doubt that this system, while not even close to perfect, brought about massive interest to the game, and among other things helped college football “reclaim New Year’s Day.” Or did it?
New Year’s Day was spectacular. The Cotton Bowl kicked things off with that stupendous Michigan State rally to beat Baylor. The Rose and Sugar Bowls, being the playoff games drew huge TV numbers. Numbers that would equate with many NFL games. And yet, college football is set to throw all of it away in the name of tradition.
You see, starting next year, the semifinal games won’t be played on January 1. They will be played on New Year’s Eve. How is that possible given what we just witnessed? Well, blame the Rose Bowl, and to a lesser degree the Sugar Bowl and ESPN. The Rose Bowl, in its negotiations, said under no circumstance would it ever leave its late afternoon slot on January 1. And that when it wasn’t hosting a national semifinal that it would keep its Big 10-Pac 12 match-up. The Sugar Bowl signed its deal with ESPN guaranteeing it the late slot on Jan. 1 featuring the SEC and Big 12, when it wasn’t hosting a semifinal. So next year, all that greatness we witnessed on New Year’s Day will instead take place on New Year’s Eve, and in fact in most years of the 12-year cycle of the CFP that will be the case.
I don’t know about you, but I do know a lot of people who work on December 31 during the day, and I know even more people (especially those with significant others who might not be as attuned to college football) who like to go out on the night of December 31 and don’t want to hang at home and watch TV.
In the understatement of the year (the trophy can be retired on January 9), college football has always had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era. First it was the Bowl Alliance, then the BCS, now a four team CFP, that has to, relatively quickly expand to an eight tram playoff since leaving out a team from a Power 5 conference is not good for relations amongst a group whose mistrust for each other knows no bounds. But as long as the CFP exists, the conferences have to come to the understanding that it’s the playoff that matters. Not the whim of the conferences or the bowls. Rose Bowl, you’re not in the playoff this year? Step aside. Sugar Bowl? You too. People weren’t watching the Rose Bowl to watch the sunset behind the San Gabriel Mountains (although it is a breathtaking view); they were watching Oregon and Florida State play a game that actually meant something, not just a glorified exhibition. And the Sugar Bowl has no right to be dictating terms, since it’s history has seen it play on New Year’s Eve (The famous Notre Dame 24-23 win over Alabama). New Year’s Day during the day (remember Alabama’s famous goal line stand vs. Penn State in the 1979 game?) as well as New Year’s Night. New Year’s Day (2r January 2 when the NFL plays on January 1) is the biggest stage college football provides, why would it want to play it’s most important games at any other time? Because some bowl committee wearing garish blazers tells them to? It’s insanity.
I have to believe, I want to believe, that the powers that be see the folly of all this and will make it right. In the meantime, enjoy the finale to the best post season college football has ever had. And know the possibilities.