by John Furgele
Happy New Year to all, may 2010 be a prosperous one. And, like most January 1s, there was a lot of football to watch and digest. And, unlike most, I like the college system the way it is. While most clamor for some type of playoff system to determine a national champion, I am not one of those “guys.” Would I enjoy an 8, 12 or 16 team playoff? Yes. Do I need a playoff to quell me? No.
As we know, American sports are fascinated by the playoffs to the point where regular seasons are considered boring fodder. In the NBA, we already know that either the Celtics, Cavaliers, Lakers or Spurs will win the finals, but we have to put up with an 82 game season that features the always bad LA Clippers and the woeful New Jersey Nets.
The same goes for the NHL. It is a long season, a season that can be revived but not saved by the annual Winter Classic. In a month, the NHL will take a break as some of its players head to Vancouver for the Olympic Winter Games. Is that a pleasant diversion or another exampleof dragging out the season?
College basketball hasn’t even started conference play and already, most have lost interest and will simply wait for the NCAA Tournament to commence. Is that a good thing? I think not.
College football has always been unique. Rather than select teams for a playoff, they allow more than half of them to play in bowl games. And, I for one, don’t mind. I don’t see anything wrong with picking two teams, bringing them to a city where they are shown a good time, given some nice gifts and then they play a football game against a like opponent. And, some of the smaller bowl games provide the best drama. Idaho beating Bowling Green 43-42 in the Humanitarian Bowl is the classic example.
Yesterday’s Outback Bowl showed the good side of the current bowl system. You had two teams in 8-4 Northwestern and 7-5 Auburn. Both teams had something to prove. Auburn wanted to right themselves after a good start and Northwestern wanted to win a bowl game for the first time since 1949. The result was a 38-35 overtime shootout win for Auburn.
As much as a playoff system would highlight the game and please the fans, it would ruin all the other bowl games. The Gator Bowls, Capital One Bowls and Liberty Bowls would become NIT like, or worse, would be eliminated altogether.
College sports confuse me anyway. I still don’t understand how playoffs fit into the college experience. Do they really need to determine a field hockey, soccer or cross country champion? Is it necessary to transport these teams to obscure locations to determine a national champion? And, while having Fresno State travel to Louisiana Tech for a WAC football game is a necessary evil, is it necessary for the soccer team to do the same?
Why can’t college sports be more regional? Have the teams play colleges within a four or six hour drive and after a 12 to 20 game schedule, call it a day and go back to being students. Does the NCAA soccer season have to start in August and run through the third Sunday in December?
I still think the Ivy League way is the way to go for football and all sports. Each Ivy team plays seven conference games and three nonconference games for a total of ten. After the ten games, the season is over. The team with the best conference record is crowned the champion. If more than one team has the same conference record, then multiple champions are crowned and that is it. No postseason and every kid gets to go home for Thanksgiving dinner with his family.
The bowl system allows for more rewards. Now, Florida can shake off a disappointing SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama by pounding Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. I’m not sure how excited they were, but the Gators did get the chance to end on a fresh note. The same goes for Ohio State. All the Buckeyes do is play in BCS bowl games and three times, BCS Championship Games (winning once), but because they have come up short in recent years, they get ripped. Yesterday’s 26-17 Rose Bowl win over Oregon had to feel good. And, that is what I like about college football, the chance that they can 34 emotions. With a playoff system, only one team can be happy, and furthermore, the teams that don’t get into the playoffs will be angry.
Personally, I like the old system better. I liked the fact that on New Year’s Day, you really didn’t know who was going to win the AP or Coaches titles. There were times where the number 5 ranked team, because of events, ended up being number one on January 2. You don’t get that now. Now, the winner of the BCS title game is number one, rendering the rest of the BCS bowls meaningless. I’m not sure if that’s the way it was intended. But, that doesn’t mean that Orange Bowl, a matchup between 10-2 Iowa and 11-2 Georgia Tech won’t be a fascinating one. I’ll be watching and based on recent TV ratings, so will you.
Peace to all.