Archive for January, 2015

Could Glens Falls, Utica Be Losing AHL Teams?

January 24, 2015

Western teams want their affiliates closer
by John Furgele

The winds of change are descending upon the American Hockey League. And, the change could result in a dramatic shift on which cities remain in the American Hockey League, the top minor league of hockey. The AHL All-Star Game is set for Monday at the Utica Memorial Auditorium and there is a Board of Governors meeting slated for the weekend. It is there where the board may decide to shift some franchises from the east to the west to benefit teams like the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose, Vancouver and Calgary. The talk of a five or six team Pacific division have been going for quite some time and there are reports that say the deal just needs a final stamp of approval.

The Norfolk Admirals, Worcester Sharks and Adirondack (Glens Falls) Flames are reported heading west to Ontario CA, San Jose, CA and Stockton, CA. For the Flames, it would be a one and done as the team just relocated from Abbotsford, BC to Glens Falls for the 2014-2015 season. Glens Falls lost the Phantoms to Lehigh Valley, PA after 2013-2014, but that was always a temporary situation while a new arena was being built in the area for the Phantoms, a team that originated in Philadelphia.

Utica has not specifically been mentioned as a relocation candidate, but with the Vancouver Canucks as the parent club, there has to be some concerns to those who reside in the Mohawk Valley. The Albany Devils, owned by the New Jersey Devils, play at the Albany Times Union Center whose lease expires after this season. Talks to extend the lease have been ongoing and TU Center manager Bob Belber is confident that the Devils will continue to call Albany home in the future.

Glens Falls could be the odd team out. The Flames play in the small, antiquated but cozy Civic Center and even though the arena capacity is 4,800 and the team has been averaging over 3,400 per game, the city of Glens Falls is roughly 16,000 population and though it is close enough to Saratoga, one wonders if that size of a city concerns AHL officials? The Devils play in downtown Albany and despite a great arena, the team has never been well supported with crowds routinely under 3,000 for games. It hasn’t been discussed, but could one see the Flames leaving, and the Devils moving to Glens Falls, leaving Albany team less? The answer is no, but with the ever changing situation, who really knows?

The Flames want their top affiliate closer; there is no hiding or denying that. The move from Abbotsford to Glens Falls was puzzling because British Columbia is obviously much closer to Calgary than Warren County, NY is, but there were issues that drove the Flames to Glens Falls. Now, it appears that the Flames have found a Western home and the Civic Center will be searching again for another hockey team.

The Flames are trying to keep hockey in Glens Falls. Reports of a swap are progressing with Stockton, CA leaving the ECHL for the AHL and Glens Falls getting an ECHL franchise. The ECHL is considered a AA league (AHL is AAA, so to speak). Most ECHL teams have AHL and NHL parents. The Buffalo Sabres for example has their AHL affiliate in Rochester and their ECHL club in Elmira. An ECHL team for Glens Falls would certainly be better than no hockey team, but there has been a degree of smugness with that in the past. After the Adirondack Red Wings left town, the Adirondack Icemen and later the Frostbite played in the United Hockey League. Glens Falls fans never really warmed to those teams and eventually the city was without hockey until the Phantoms needed a temporary home. There will be those in Glens Falls that will demand and not settle for anything less than an AHL team, but if the Flames do leave, it’s best to get over the hurt quickly and embrace having the ECHL in your city.

The ECHL is better than what the UHL was. It has 28 teams from east to west with Anchorage, Alaska even having a team. The Fort Wayne Komets, which began play in the 1952-53 season, are one of the longest running United States hockey clubs behind only the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and Hershey Bears (AHL). The Komets played in the higher International Hockey League and were also members of the UHL and the fan support has always been great—regardless of league. Their play by play announcer Bob Chase is 88 years old and still does all games in his 62nd season. The league is certainly good enough for Glens Falls and the city will hopefully celebrate and not moan keeping hockey in their city.

By Tuesday, the smoke should be clearer. The AHL wants to streamline itself and market itself better. There is also talk of reducing the schedule from 76 games to as few as 66, with 72 also being bandied about. The NHL would like to see fewer games, more development and practice and more NHL ready players. In a way, a further reduction seems right. Major League Baseball plays 162 games, but full season Double A and Triple A teams play 144. Having a 66 game schedule might leave time for teams to call up some players to get a look at them before the season ends. Of course, having fewer games might not necessarily mean that the AHL season ends earlier. The AHL badly wants to eliminate as many weekday games as possible and to play Friday-Sunday and have the season last the current 28 weeks as it does now. If the AHL had its way, they would play no weekday games until after Christmas because in the fall, crowds are sparse.

If the Flames leave the AHL for the ECHL, the name Adirondack Flames name would remain as the Flames would be the parent club for an ECHL club. In some ways, it would be sad to lose the AHL because if they lose it this time, it is never coming back, but the ECHL would be a good substitute for the city at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. Something is better nothing and here’s hoping residents and hockey fans in Glens Falls feel the same way.

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Penn State Can Embrace the Past and Move Forward with Pride

January 21, 2015

Accepting blame for Sandusky will go a long way

Penn State got a break, a big break, and now they can be a pillar, a beacon, a powerhouse going forward. In 2011, the country dropped its jaw in shock when the Jerry Sandusky child abuse allegations came out. As victim after victim came forward, it became apparent that Joe Paterno, Saint Joe, the patron saint of Pennsylvania State University football had harbored a criminal and harbored one for years. I’m sure Paterno heard whispers that Sandusky may have been involved in moral wrongdoing, but often, whispers are not followed up upon. It reminds me of the “gay whispers;” you know, people talk about somebody being gay, but nobody follows through and actually finds out. Paterno may have been shielded by those who thought Sandusky’s penchant for hanging around young boys was just Jerry and his inner child, but Paterno needed to be out front on this, and sadly, he wasn’t.

As a fan of college football and fan of Penn State, perhaps the last eastern power, like many I was aghast. How could this happen? Who is Jerry Sandusky and more importantly, how was he able to survive for 31 years doing what he was doing to young boys? Sandusky has to take the heat here; he was the perpetrator, the pedophile, the criminal. He formed The Second Mile as a front to find vulnerable boys from shaky backgrounds for his own pleasure and exploitation. That may be tough to read, but it’s an absolute.

Joe Paterno went from lovable two time national champion football coach to a shell of his self in the end. It is hard for many to accept that Paterno has blood on his hands. This is a man who did so much for the university and to think he looked the other way while Sandusky did those despicable things is hard for some to take. To many, this was a man who did so many good things, that it seems unfair that his entire reputation can be ruined by the one bad thing that he did. But, this isn’t Richard Nixon’s henchman stealing documents or Bill Clinton having consensual “relations” with an intern in the White House. No, this is far worse because it leaves an enormous scar on the victims, a scar that will last a lifetime.

The Lions were preparing for the 1999 Alamo Bowl when the university announced that Sandusky, after 31 years on the sideline was retiring. That move surprised many because Sandusky was often mentioned as Paterno’s eventual successor. Why would the younger Sandusky, the master mind of the 1987 Fiesta Bowl defense that intercepted the mighty Vinny Testaverde five times, step away now? After the Lions won the Alamo Bowl, Sandusky was carried off the field, a ride he certainly enjoyed.

Something smelled fishy right away. It didn’t make sense because those around the university knew that Sandusky had an interest in being the successor to Paterno, but as we know, Paterno had no plans to retire, in fact, he had to be fired in the wake of the allegations that broke in 2011. The likely scenario was that there were suspicions of Sandusky’s behaviors and he was called in and there it was suggested that he retire. There were no accusations, but the message was clear: you’re never getting the head coaching job and it may be best that you walk away while still revered. Sandusky did just that and as a state employee was able to receive a nice pension and an office at the university.

It was two years after Sandusky retired that the incident occurred, the shower scene where coach and former quarterback Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky having sex with a young boy in the locker room shower. We all know what happened after; McQueary reported what he saw to Paterno who then met with his superiors and the cover up began. Of course, that was 2001, years after the abuse began and years before it would come to the surface. Paterno was told of a horrific crime and for ten years kept on coaching and kept on winning games. The question will always be a simple one: how could this have happened and how could Paterno, knowing what he knew, just keep on living and working and coaching. Moreover, he saw Sandusky enough but never had the courage to confront him about these rumors. One can only hope that Sandusky was confronted, and at the very least, denied that he did anything wrong. That doesn’t excuse Paterno, but better to ask and be lied to than to never ask at all.

Paterno is revered by many in Pennsylvania. There are those that can’t come to grips that he knew what happened because they believe he would have done something. These people/supporters are in denial because they can’t believe that he had full knowledge, because Joe Paterno, Saint Joe had too much integrity to let a monster like Sandusky do what he did.

The other side is one of vitriol. These people blame Paterno for everything; they believe that he did nothing, he protected his football career over young children and they even believe that he got what was coming when he was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after losing his job as the football coach. This camp thinks taking away 111 wins was just even though it can never make up for what he didn’t do.

The pro-Paterno camp thinks that Paterno did far too much good and believe that when he told his superiors he did what was required of him. They think taking away 111 wins was unfair and unjust and the sanctions placed on the university were far too harsh. They state that the football program was punished because of what occurred after Sandusky retired. The old “why are you punishing the players on the team when they were in grade school when this all happened,” defense.

It is tough, emotional, and heart wrenching. It’s easy to live in New York, Ohio, Illinois, or California and have a strong opinion. It’s easy to say “make Penn State drop football forever,” when you live hundreds or thousands miles away. It’s a non-emotional response. Yes, just thinking of what Sandusky did sickens you enough to want to shut down the university, but what about the Penn State fan? What about the people that grew up in Pennsylvania and watched the Nittany Lions their whole life? The 1982 team that beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl to win the National Championship, the aforementioned 1986 team that stopped Miami in the Fiesta Bowl; the undefeated 1969 team that didn’t get voted champions because Richard Nixon gave the honor to Texas after they won at then undefeated Arkansas?

As silly as this may sound, sports provides many things to many people. We become attached to sports, the players, the leaders. To say that many live and die with a sports team is hyperbole, but there is no denying that a fan feels better the day after a big win than they do after a big loss. If you have passion for Penn State football, the scandal hit you hard. It’s like having a brother that goes to prison for murder. The public sees a murderer, you see a brother who walked home from school with you, played ball with you, helped you when you needed help. The rest of society says lock him up and throw away the key, and even though you know it’s the right thing, it’s painful.

When Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death for bombing the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, I remember the pain that his father, Bill McVeigh went through. Bill knew that Tim had to face the music, but that was his son, his little boy that he tried to raise the best he could. It’s easy to stand miles away, without emotions, and call for brutal and harsh, but when you’re attached to something, it is gut wrenching. Penn State football bonded family, was passed down from generation to generation and was a major reason why students applied to Penn State.

Penn State suffered, but the victims suffered more. Penn State suffered when the NCAA placed the school on four years’ probation, took away scholarships and vacated 111 wins by Paterno. Once again, the victims suffered more. But, in the end, the sanctions are devoid of feelings. Does taking away the wins really help the victims heal? Many of the victims were fans of Penn State football and that’s why Sandusky was able to get to them. Does banning Penn State from the Liberty Bowl really do justice?

Part of history is telling the story—the whole story—and now that the NCAA has given Paterno back his win total to 409, the whole story can be told. Fifty years from now, Paterno’s story can be told fully; the 409 wins, the two titles, along with his cover up in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. To not have these wins doesn’t do anybody any good. If Paterno paid players, changed grades and accumulated wins, this would not be as big a deal, but because he allowed, or at the very least, covered for a man who was raping young children it is far worse. Like the sibling of a Tim McVeigh, the Penn State fan might feel a little dirty; guilty by association. That’s unfair. The fans did nothing wrong. They simply rooted for their Nittany Lions to win football games and for their coach to keep doing good things for the university. The best word to describe it is uneasy.

Numbers are just numbers, but now is the time for Penn State to shine. Please, don’t gloat, rejoice and celebrate because you can now go to bowl games, and that you have the all-time winningest coach back in your stead. This is the time to so the right thing. This is the time to advertise and advocate for the victims of child sexual abuse. The NCAA is making you spend $60 million in Pennsylvania on the behalf of sexual abuse victims. The easy thing for the university to do is to spend it quietly and in a few months or a year, report that they have paid restitution. That is the coward’s way. The best way to shine is acknowledge the past and accept that you did the wrong thing. It was hard for Germany to admit that the Holocaust was wrong; it was embarrassing for Germans to acknowledge that they supported Hitler, but eventually, they were able to purge themselves by acknowledging their past.

Penn State should sponsor advertising and campaigns and openly admit that they were at fault for the handling of Jerry Sandusky. A commercial that says something to the likes of “We at Penn State allowed a sexual predator to do awful things to young people on our campus and we’re here to tell you……” This will take courage but no more courage than Sandusky’s victims have taken. Taking the blame will once again bring attention that some want to forget, but it needs to happen. The German born in 1950 had nothing to do with the Holocaust, but accepting and in some way embracing the past is required and at Penn State, they need to require that everybody acknowledges what happened in the past.

Penn State is getting its life back. The 409 wins, the restoring of scholarships and the chance to play in bowl games again is a return to normalcy. It is the hope that Sandusky’s victims are getting their lives back, too. These victims have to live with what happened to them but that doesn’t mean that they can’t live well. Penn State has to live with what happened, but if they embrace (yes, that doesn’t sound right) the past, they can enjoy the future. If they embrace and acknowledge what happened and get out in front of it, if they ever win another national championship, America will forgive them because they did the right thing. If they release a couple statements, silently donate money and then win a national championship, they will be reviled.

It is my expectation that The Pennsylvania State University will do the right thing. They will acknowledge that what they permitted was horrific and can never happen again. They will take the blame, acknowledge the past and in the same 60 second spot will state that they are moving forward with pride. It’s not going to be easy, but they can do it and what’s more is that they will do it.

NFL Championship Sunday Remains Unparalleled

January 17, 2015

by John Furgele

America loves football, the big game and of course, the Super Bowl. Last year’s Super Bowl game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks was watched by 111 million people, and the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game was viewed by 33 million more. Be that as it may, is there a better Sunday of the year than conference championship weekend?

By 11 pm Sunday, we will know the participants for Super Bowl 49 and the hype will begin in earnest and will last for 14 consecutive days. But, the AFC and NFC Championship Games are in many ways, the last true weekend of the NFL season, and on this day, there will be two champions crowned.

I grew up in Western New York and lived in both the big cities, Buffalo and Rochester. It was during this time (1990-1994) that the Buffalo Bills started their magnificent run of AFC championships. As we all know, the Bills lost the Super Bowl four straight times and Western New York had to suffer the post-Monday hangover that came with losing that game. But, those Bills won AFC Championship Games four times in a row, beating the Los Angeles Raiders, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs in succession. The Bills kept winning conference titles and kept losing Super Bowls, and thus, in an unfortunate way, became the laughingstock of America. They lost their first appearance by one point, then were blown out twice and then lost 30-13 in a game that they led 13-6 at halftime.

I remember the first AFC Championship Game the Bills participated in during that four in four run. It was 1991 and it was a mild Western New York day. The week before, the Bills beat Miami 44-34 in a snowstorm and were the heavy favorites against the Raiders. My friends and I had tickets in the upper bowl on the 48 yard line, the result of camping out overnight to get those tickets in the pre-internet/order online era. The Bills buried the Raiders 51-3 in the early game we drove home to watch the NFC Championship Game featuring the New York Giants and defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers, a game won by the underdog Giants 15-14 thanks to great defense and five field goals by Matt Bahr.

There was something magical about that AFC Championship Game. It was such a great feeling, a feeling of accomplishment by the players and one of pride for the fans. Even though the “Big Game,” was one week later (for that particular year), there was a surreal feeling of calm and appreciation of what just happened. Sure, it doesn’t last long. The next day, the players had to begin to refocus to get ready for the ultimate championship game, the Super Bowl. But, that’s what makes the conference title games very special. For a moment, there are two teams that can sit back, look at what they did and rejoice in what they did. Because it’s not the ultimate trophy, the ultimate prize, most fans and certainly most players can’t celebrate it as such. But, playing in one and certainly winning one is not that easy. Winning an NFC or AFC Championship Game is very hard to do. Think about it. There is the off season, training camp, four or five relatively meaningless preseason games, then 16 games over 17 weeks. To even play in a championship game takes a lot of things, one of which is luck. Teams that make it to a conference title game had to avoid major injuries to major players and with the sheer brutality that is the NFL, it is almost impossible to do.

The writers, broadcasters and others that cover sports and pro football in particular love labels. They enjoy labeling a player as the greatest, the most clutch, or the one who comes up small in the big moment, the big game. They also love lists. The top ten this and the top ten that. There are those that rank Joe Montana as the greatest quarterback of all time because he won four Super Bowls, and overrate Joe Namath with his 173 touchdown passes and 220 interceptions because he won one. Those same people will knock Dan Marino, who despite all the passing accolades never won the big one. Furthermore, he only played in three AFC Championship Games in his 17 year career which underscores my point of how hard it is to even play in conference title games, let alone the Super Bowl.

When he retires, Peyton Manning will have most of the passing records, but despite his brilliance only played in three AFC Championship Games. To me, that’s the litmus test: not how many Super Bowls you played in and won, but how many conference title games that you took your team to. Warren Moon never played in one and for that reason he loses points on the rankings scale. John Elway played in six, winning five and thus gets high marks for those accomplishments. We all remember the two Super Bowls he won at the end, but playing in six title games is a heck of an accomplishment. Say what you want about Donovan McNabb, but the man played in five NFC Championship Games, and though he won only one (and lost the Super Bowl) that, to me, bolsters his Hall of Fame campaign if there is one to bolster.

That’s why Tom Brady is to be lauded. Sunday’s game against Indianapolis will be Brady’s eighth trip to the AFC title game, and he is 5-2 in the previous seven. Brady was 5-0 before losing in the 2012 and 2013 seasons to Baltimore and Denver, so Sunday he will be trying to avoid a threepeat.

It’s tough for the fans of the four teams to think this way. They’re going to be rooting for their team to win the AFC and NFC Championship Games and part of them will be worried about winning the Super Bowl two weeks later. For some reason, losing the Super Bowl is devastating. It shouldn’t be, but it is. The teams that lose the conference championship game don’t get ridiculed like those who do the same in the Super Bowl. It’s almost as you go from conference champion to 32nd best team in four hours.

It is my hope that you, as a fan, enjoy “Championship Sunday,” and come 11 PM, sit back and enjoy what two teams accomplished in the cities of Foxboro and Seattle. Worry about the Super Bowl later, much later and take solace that two champions have been crowned in one day, a special day indeed.

These Are Games

January 6, 2015

by John Furgele

We’re at it again. Every year, as soon as the playoffs begin in every sport, it starts in earnest. The fact is brought up time and again that the playoffs mean everything and; if you don’t win in the playoffs, you must literally hide in a hole and be embarrassed at your existence.

During yesterday’s CBS broadcast of Bengals-Colts, Jim Nantz asked Phil Simms, the former quarterback if he remembers the scrutiny being this severe when he played. Naturally, Simms said no, that he doesn’t remember and moreover, doesn’t remember when the threshold was crossed and the scrutiny-mobile was alive and well.

Many of us love sports. For us, it’s an escape, something to look forward to after a tough day or week of work, balancing life, family and home and all things in between. Nothing better than sitting down in front of the TV with a cold beverage in one hand, and the remote in the other and clicking through the channels looking to escape for a few hours, or more. But, for some reason, in this win-or-you’re-nothing society, it has become paramount to win it all or stay in your room.

Despite all the rankings, critiques and circumstance, there is one truth that is evident.

These are games.

Games. That’s all they are. Games are supposed to fun, games are supposed to provide entertainment; games are intended to be a relief, an outlet, something to be enjoyed.

But, everything has changed, including the way that they are coached. The scrutiny is so severe that the head coaches are tighter and are genuinely afraid to be aggressive and to go for it when the time comes.

Take Jim Caldwell, the head coach of the Detroit Lions. His team came out firing, built a 14-0 lead and defensively was having its way with the vaunted Dallas Cowboy offense. Rather than step on the Cowboys’ throat, Caldwell took his foot off the gas and tried to massage the lead, and the end result was a tough 24-20 loss.

The non-penalty on 3rd and 1 will be talked about for years in Detroit and the fans will yell the old refrain “We Wuz Robbed,” for years to come. But, Coach Caldwell forgot that these are games. After the flag was picked up, the Lions had a 4th and 1 at the Dallas 46. If they go for it, make it, they, at the very minimum run another three minutes off the clock, but Caldwell acted as if he was on the verge of deciding to ask Congress to declare war on North Korea or Cuba. He lined up, and had quarterback Matthew Stafford use the hard count in an attempt to draw Dallas offside. When the Cowboys didn’t bite, he sent out his punter, who promptly shanked a 10 yarder.

Why not go for it there, Coach? You’re at the Dallas 46, it is one yard. Make it, and you’re likely on your way to Seattle for another opportunity to make it the Super Bowl, something that the Detroit Lions have never done in their long history. Caldwell took the moment too seriously and forgot that football is just a game. Of course, I don’t want to minimize what Caldwell does for a living. He is a coach of an NFL team and there are only 32 of these jobs in the world. Too many losses get coaches fired. So, Caldwell punted and believed that his defense could hold down the fort. Unfortunately, the defense didn’t do the job and the Cowboys head to Green Bay this Sunday for an NFC Divisional Playoff Game.

Take Andy Dalton and his Cincinnati Bengals. For four straight years, Dalton has led them to the playoffs. In 64 career stats, he has 40 wins, 23 losses and 1 tie. However, in four playoff games, his Bengals are 0-4 and he hasn’t played well. The Bengals have been to the playoffs for four straight years, something that the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and many other teams would kill for. But, because Dalton has struggled, there are some that think the Bengals should trade him or at the very least, find another starting quarterback.

These are games. Down 26-10, the Bengals continued to have Dalton dink and dunk his way down the field. Why? Why not throw the ball deep on every play and at least try to score. Does it matter if Dalton gets intercepted one time or four times? The Bengals never looked desperate; never looked like they had the sense of urgency to at least try to go downfield. What’s there to lose? The Bengals are good enough to make the playoffs every year, but because they can’t win in the playoffs, many deem them, their quarterback and their coach a failure.

Herman Edwards once said, that “you play to win the game,” yet it was the same Herman Edwards who would see his team reach the red zone, and then run three conservative plays to make sure that he came away with the cheapie field goal. Coaches would rather be conservative and lose, then be risky and lose. If you don’t believe me about Edwards, google the 2004 New York Jets with kicker Doug Brien and the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Pittsburgh. In that game, Edwards ordered his offense to practically kneel down for three plays and settle for a 43 yard field goal try. At the time, nobody had ever made a field goal over 40 yards at Heinz Field, but Edwards, ever the conservator, kicked it—and missed. Edwards did this three times and Brien missed two of three kicks, and of course, the Steelers won 20-17 in overtime.

These coaches do not get these jobs by accident. They have forgotten more about football than most of us will ever know, but sometimes, they appear lost in the moment, or at the very least, lost in their scripts. Doug Flutie once said that football is simple. Make your read, find the open guy, throw the ball, but today’s coaches spend hours trying to make it harder than it should be. And, they’re succeeding.

These are games. And, true to form, teams play not to lose them rather than by trying to win them. You can point to the officials, the penalties and the poor quarterback play, but in the end, these are games and games are supposed to fun, full of risk and full of reward and joy. Yes, football and sports is a business—a big business—but in the end…….

These are games.

College Football Playoff: A Rousing Start

January 2, 2015

by John Furgele

The College Football Playoff is a hit. The ratings will be out soon and I’ll assume that they’ll be great. For starters, the Rose Bowl Game, always at 5 pm EST is a ratings winner for many reasons. For people living in the cold of winter, the scenery alone picks up and fosters a positive attitude/feeling about the New Year. And, the Rose Bowl is…..the Rose Bowl.

The game itself got out of hand, simply because Florida State, in an effort to keep up with the fast paced high scoring Oregon Ducks, made too many mistakes, and thus, their national championship streak ends at one. There is no shame in what Florida State did. This is college football, and while it’s increasingly more important to hang banners, the Seminoles did well in going undefeated, winning the ACC title and appearing in the CFP Semifinals.

The nightcap was a stirring affair. The Superdome always looks pretty on Sugar Bowl night, filled to capacity with the colors of the opposing teams. There was a time when it was 21-6 Alabama that the CFP was not going to live it to its hype; but the Buckeyes, poised beyond reproach rallied behind a powerful running game, timely defense and a very calm third string quarterback.

Let’s not do what many on Twitter did by referencing the “if this was the old BCS, Ohio State and Oregon would not have been able to compete for a national title,” thing; we all know that, and that’s why the powers that be changed the system. The CFP does add that drama, that sense of urgency that American athletes and fans love. We love our playoffs, our tournaments, and the theory of advancing and eliminating. Most soccer leagues around the world have a 38 game regular season and at the end of those 38 games, the team with the most points is crowned the champion. America’s Major League Soccer has a 30 game regular season and—-PLAYOFFS. That’s what we want because that’s what we like.

The College Football Playoff will be an asset to college football. Eventually, it will be expanded to six, eight, ten, 12 or perhaps even 16 teams unless the Power 5 schools do a clean break from the Group of 5 schools. But, let’s allow the four team playoff to breathe a little (and the TV contract is structured that way) before wild calls for the inclusion of more teams. The BCS was never loved, but it did do what the previous system didn’t and that was to try and match the #1 and #2 teams for the title.

I never took the BCS as serious as others did. I never referred to the BCS Championship Game as the “National Championship Game,” because there was no advancing and eliminating and too much exclusion. It was polling and a computer that spat out two teams and said here’s a trophy to play for.

The CFP is already better. There is plenty to play for. The loser of the championship game can still say that they finished 13-2 and won the Sugar or Rose Bowl. They have won something to get into the title game and that can be sold to alumni, recruits and of course, boosters.

The downside of the CFP is the harm that it will do the so-called Group of 5 schools. Let’s be honest, the Group of 5 schools are never going to get one of their guys in the CFP. The BCS never really allowed a Boise State, Texas Christian, Utah or Central Florida access to the tile game either, but the CFP is designed purely for the bluebloods. Marshall won their first 12 games of the 2014 year and never was ranked in the Top 20. Even the bluebloods have divisions of bluebloods. If you think the history of Ohio State didn’t factor in their selection over Texas Christian and Baylor, you’d be wrong and if you saw how their fans, and Big Ten fans in general travel to big events, then you’d be wrong twice.

The Group of 5 would dearly love to stay affiliated with the Power 5 schools, but as the CFP progresses, that is going to be difficult to do. Teams like Baylor, which scheduled SMU and Buffalo—and got ripped for it—will likely be pressured to schedule only Power 5 schools or face being omitted again from the CFP. Better to go 10-2 with losses to fellow P5 schools than whipping through the likes of Buffalo, SMU and Division 1-AA Northwestern State. Nick Saban went that far by suggesting nine game conference schedules and P5 only for nonconference games. Of course, that would mean Saban and the Tide would have to drop their yearly 1-AA opponent the week before the Auburn game.

There is nothing wrong with being a Group of 5 school, but they have lost a lot of cache over the years. Their success rate (winning) of beating P5 schools worsens each year, almost to the point where 1-AA schools are their equal. Indiana State and Ball State are closer in talent and ability than Ball State and Michigan State are and for the record, Indiana State beat Ball State in 2014.

The Sporting News suggested that there be two four team playoffs; one for the Power 5 schools and another for the Group of 5 schools. My suggestion is to let the Power 5 schools finish their breakaway and unite the Group of 5 schools with all the 1-AA schools. Each division could stage their playoffs, bowl games and whatever they believe would benefit them the most. The Power 5 would be 66 schools with independents BYU and Notre Dame being included and the best of the rest would include the remaining Group of 5 schools and ALL the current 1-AA (FCS) schools. The non-P5 schools would be near the 200 mark, which would leave the networks plenty of inventory for bowl games, a 24 or 32 team playoff and whatever else the creative minds might come up with.

A playoff for the Group of 5 schools would have a minor league feel to it, but even the smallest bowl games get over 1 million viewers. Americans have shown their undying love for football, so even a second class playoff system would likely generate interest. All that said if college football’s big boys continue to do what they’re doing, what is the alternative? If P5 schools are not allowed to play G5 schools, what’s the alternative? If playing a G5 school hurts your chances of making the CFP, what’s the alternative? My point is the 1-AA classification is not an insult; it’s a perfect way to separate Division I football.

The G5 schools will survive, but many 1-AA schools play a P5 school to pay for its athletic program and in many cases, if Western Carolina can’t play Alabama, they may not be able to afford to keep its football program. Deep down, I think the leaders of college football are good with that, a survival of the fittest if you will. Why would Alabama host Western Carolina when Jerry Jones will pay Alabama and Georgia Tech to play in Arlington? You’re seeing tons of neutral site games in college basketball and the impact has been great. Rather than have Duke host Texas State, we get Duke-Texas at Madison Square Garden. In football, Alabama versus Georgia Tech in Arlington is much more attractive to both schools than Alabama doing a home and home with the Jackets, because it’s very hard to win on the road in college football. And, it certainly is more compelling than Alabama-Chattanooga and will go a long way in selecting the teams for the CFP.

The CFP is off to a rousing start. It will grow, but the key to any business is to keep growing and keep making money. They can do this by eventually expanding and they can do this by scheduling more high profile games during the regular season. And, that’s what they’ll do, because the money for an Auburn-Michigan game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando will dwarf Michigan hosting Bowling Green. The P5 schools will still have their six and possible seven home games, but rather than play down, they will play up. The result might be more two loss teams in the CFP, but that’s okay, going undefeated doesn’t mean as much as winning the playoffs as basketball schools like UNLV and Wichita State can attest to.

The writing is on the wall. There will be nine conference games, which would leave only three nonconference games to be scheduled. The PAC 12 and the Big 12 already play nine, so it’s time for the ACC, SEC, and Big Ten to even the playing field. And, for schools like Baylor, they would have to step up their nonconference slate. Replace Buffalo with Iowa; replace SMU with a neutral site game against say, Mississippi, and then another game with another P5 school, perhaps a home and home if possible. It can be done; USC plays Notre Dame every year and still schedules a quality team in their remaining two slots. In the end, the product is better, because football succeeds because it is a quality product. College football can actually be a better product than the NFL. Sure, there is parity in the NFL, but because the game is so quarterback driven, there can be lots of mismatches and clunkers. College football involves schemes and styles and that’s why Georgia Tech with inferior talent can steamroll a Mississippi State. That doesn’t happen in the NFL.

This is a good time for the Power 5 and a time of uncertainty of the Group of 5. Remember, Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech, a P5 school. Baylor beat three creampuffs and the committee decided that Ohio State’s loss was better than Baylor’s wins against Buffalo and SMU. That is why the Group of 5 schools should be worried. They were at a disadvantage in the BCS and even though they’re guaranteed a bid to a New Year’s Six bowl game, the chance of making it the CFP is much less likely.

You could expand the CFP to eight teams, but that doesn’t guarantee a spot for a G5 school, all it does is give three more P5 schools a chance to win the national title. The future of college football is exciting and scary at the same time, but on the field, it’s never been better.