Jan 12, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Well, that finally did it.
Take nothing away from Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s absolute shutdown of LSU, the limiting of a 13-0, no. 1-ranked team that beat the Rose, Orange and Cotton Bowl champs in the same year to a mere 92 yards of offense was convincing enough. Fine, we get it. ‘Bama is no. 1.
Yet the whole thing felt like a gigantic letdown. Instead of a dramatic resolution and redemption for a college football season gone mad on and off the field, we had a sense that, wait, that’s all? No one else gets a shot?
Perhaps the only good from this latest BCS monstrosity is that, really, the college football powers-that-be are wising up and realizing that, unless some kind of playoff is instituted, the SEC’s reign (of terror, many would say) over the sport will only get worse.
In fact, the tipping point may have arrived long before the Tide and Tigers hit the Superdome turf. Just the fact that two SEC teams, from the same division, were in the final, and the likes of Oklahoma State (an actual conference champion) were left out, was nauseating enough.
Add that to the BCS titles won by Florida, LSU, ‘Bama and Auburn in the five years leading up to this game, and the rest of the country started to take on the air of a junior varsity.
Some of that is due to resources and pure passion. On both fronts, the SEC towers above any other conference and any other region in America, and no playoff system will turn that around. But it might give someone else a chance.
Worst of all for the BCS defenders (whatever few of them are left), ‘Bama’s destruction of LSU also destroyed their entire argument for the system, the idea that the regular season is actually important, that every game counts.
Well, sure, those games count – except for the time when the Tigers beat the Tide in the regular season, in Tuscaloosa. Or when any other team played, for that matter, because regardless of what they did, they weren’t going to enter this closed shop.
Yes, it’s been said, but it must be said once more. Every other American team sport, and every other NCAA football division, has a tournament to determine a champion. No other sport waits a full month between the end of the regular season and its title game, with nothing but glorified exhibitions in between.
Of course the risk is run that, in any playoff system, the best team might not win. But we’ve long grown accustomed to it and made our peace, as long as it’s exchanged for a fair opportunity for as many of the best teams as possible to go for that title.
The supreme irony of this situation is that the SEC is to blame for it, but not because of on-field domination.
First, the SEC initiated the conference championship game 20 years ago. Without that, there’s no bout of expansion madness where rivalries, geographic boundaries and traditions get trashed by schools in the name of TV money, or the fear that they won’t get more of it in the future.
What’s more, it was SEC commissioner Mike Slive that helped to introduce the “plus-one” plan to the BCS years ago (and got nowhere with it), never dreaming that his league would grow so omnipotent, but just wanting his teams to have a better chance at the big prize.
As usual, if the move to a “plus-one” or some other form of playoff happens as early as 2013, it’s not because fans clamor for it or because it’s the right thing to do. It’s because of money and ratings. Any playoff just about guarantees both.
Bowl executives, many of them multi-millionaires with absolutely no incentive to change the system, have to know that their product stinks. Attendance is way down. So are TV numbers. Neither will get better unless the games have an actual impact.
Any season that leaves more questions than answers is fundamentally flawed. True, Alabama’s defense is incredible, but the likes of Oklahoma State or Stanford never had a shot at them. And the Tide beat far fewer ranked teams than LSU did, taking a virtual shortcut to the summit.
Exactly 12 weeks after the Tide left the Superdome floor holding the crystal football, another college team (maybe Syracuse?) will leave that same floor, and that same building, holding a trophy and a couple of nets, souvenirs of an NCAA men’s basketball title that no one will dispute because 68 teams had a chance.
Maybe by the next time New Orleans gets its chance to host another college football championship game, the participants, and the fans, will revel in the knowledge that, at long last, their sport recognized that the same formula could work there, too.
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