Thursday, April 05, 2012

Jim Delany must have an impeccable lawn

PLAYOFFS PLAYOFFS TALKIN' BOUT PLAYOFFS. They're happening (in 2014). I've already explained the reasoning behind this in some detail; long story short, it's all about declining interest in the bowl system and an accompanying decline in revenue. Money wins, grass is green, etc.

Exactly how they're happening is the thing that's still up for debate. There were allegedly a gajillion ideas on the table as recently as a couple months ago, when the BCS Important Guys met in New Orleans and talked about various things such as cigars and monocles. There's another meeting later this month, and the pre-pre-meeting agenda shows an apparently remarkable amount of progress given the lack of recent face time.

Officials weighing changes in college football's Bowl Championship Series are focusing on four options, two of them incorporating a four-team playoff, an outline obtained by USA TODAY Sports shows.

The plans range from a long-discussed "plus one" format — after the bowls play out, selecting two teams to meet for the national championship — to a heretofore undisclosed four-team playoff proposal that could expand the semifinals to preserve an annual Big Ten-vs.-Pacific-12 matchup in the Rose Bowl.
O RLY? Nah, that's not sufficient:

Much better.

Anyway, options: There are nominally four of them, although one is officially titled "BCS with adjustments" (that's really what it is) and therefore is not really an option. It's pretty clear that a four-team playoff of some variety is the consensus, which means just reconfiguring the current system to eliminate autobids and tweak the timing of the games isn't a viable solution.

Here's the text:
Basically continue the current arrangement whereby no teams play more than one post-season game, with the following enhancements: (a) change or eliminate annual automatic qualification except for contracts negotiated between conferences and bowls, (b) eliminate the limit on the number of participants from each conference, (c) play the games nearer to January 1, (d) create a format that would accommodate different conference champions participating in different bowl games.
Yeah no.

The legitimate options include the following: a plus-one (mmkay), a four-team playoff (swell) and a "four teams plus" (WTF?). The first two are pretty much self-explanatory, although just to be clear, the plus-one would include something resembling the current bowl system (and not a seeded playoff system) along with some sort of undetermined selection process to choose two teams for a championship game afterward. The third one is totally nonsensical and exists only because Jim Delany continues to hold a position of unreasonable power.

Here's the official explanation:
Four Teams Plus. The four highest-ranked teams meet in two games except that the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions will always play in the Rose Bowl. If the Big Ten champion, the Pac-12 champion, or both are in the top four, that team (or those two teams) would play in the Rose Bowl and the other two games would be filled by the other four highest-ranked teams. Select two teams for the championship game after those three games have been played.
Translation: Jim Delany and the Rose Bowl are sittin' in a tree, marriage, babies, so on and so forth (yes, I am 7 years old). The guy has a Moby Dick-style obsession with keeping the Big Ten champ in the Rose Bowl at any cost. The cost here is the value of the semifinal games: What you end up with is not a four team-playoff but essentially a bastardized version of a plus-one that features three games, one of which might be an outside-the-confines-of-a-playoff matchup like No. 2 Oregon against No. 14 Wisconsin or No. 1 Michigan (obviously) against No. 2 USC (a game Michigan would lose because Michigan always loses to USC in the Rose Bowl). Either way, you'd have five/six team semifinal-worthy teams split into three semifinal-ish games vying for two spots in the title game, and in that scenario, basic math says somebody's gonna get screwed. In number form, 3 =/= 2.

This is why Jim Delany is awful. He's married to this idyllic idea of Big Ten TRADITION (all caps for emphasis) that isn't totally real but, in his mind, must be preserved in its totality at the expense of everything else. I mean, there's a reason the names "Leaders" and "Legends" are in place despite public polling showing something like an 80 percent disapproval rate, which is an amazing consensus for anything.

I like to envision him collecting pictures of cakes ...

... but not real cakes. JUST PICTURES!

The Big Ten does not need the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl does not need the Big Ten. Both entities have somehow managed to continue existing despite the (gasp) breach in tradition about 10 years ago that resulted in back-to-back Miami-Nebraska and Oklahoma-Washington State games. The Big Ten-Pac-12 thing is swell and dearly beloved when it produces Michigan-USC but isn't necessary, especially if it means lowering the conference champion's chances (even incrementally) of getting into the national title game. Trying to take a bowl game and cram it into a non-bowl-based playoff system is so totally impractical that I've decided to add the adjective/adverb "Delany-al" to my vocabulary just for deployment here: It's Delany-al.

As for the alternatives, I'm not a huge fan of the plus-one given the potential for multiple-undefeated-teams weirdness. Example: Take the BCS title game out of last year's equation and you end up with LSU beating somebody in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama beating somebody in (probably) the Orange Bowl and Oklahoma State beating somebody in the Fiesta Bowl. Adding a step would help provide some extra data points but wouldn't always do any of the settle-it-on-the-field thing; this would be especially problematic in the event of a TCU or Boise going unbeaten and not getting matched up with another playoff-caliber team for reference/elimination.

That could still be a problem in a straight-up four-team playoff, I guess, but the inability to find a perfect answer =/= the inability to find a better answer, and (IMO) the four-team thing removes the most possible stupid variables from the equation. BTW, keep in mind that they're working with an already-narrowed-down list here, which means my opinion of whether a six-team playoff with byes would be preferable to a four-team bracket (it would) and your idea for an awesome 64-team January Jubilee are totally and completely irrelevant at this point. The list is the list.

A little more on the four-team-bracket hypotheticals:
As laid out in the BCS summary, a more standard four-team playoff would be seeded and could:

• Fold entirely into existing bowls.

• Stage the semifinals and title game at neutral sites selected through a bidding process. A bowl or bowls could buy in, hosting the games atop their own annual events.

• Place semifinals in bowls, bidding out the championship site.

Or play semifinals at campus sites, again bidding out the title game.
This needs to happen. This soooooo needs to happen for soooooo many reasons, specifically the massive advantage for the teams ranked first and second (the preserving-the-regular-season thing) and the guarantee of actual fans producing actual sellouts rather than guys in suits filling up the JerryDome to create the illusion of a sellout. The possibility of this excites me to a ridiculous degree. There are also some obvious benefits to bowl integration (from a transition standpoint) if they want to go that route, but I hope they don't until the campus thing is thoroughly vested.

That's like Step 7,843 in a process that's at Step 2 right now, but at least it's been brought up. Note: I will retract (most of) my Jim Delany criticisms if he gets on-campus playoff games approved. I think it's safe to assume he's the guy pushing that one given the inherent SEC/Pac-12 advantage built into the current system. Make it so.

Whether that's likely or plausible or something further down the optimism scale is hard to say considering how little seems to have been decided so far; all anybody's saying is that "there are no favorites in the clubhouse" blah blah blah. At least there's an ETA:
"I think we're moving toward consensus," Hancock said. "… I still think we're on track for making a decision before the first of July, before midsummer."
That timeline would indicate a structural decision ASAP (presumably at the end-of-April meetings), which would be leaked within about seven minutes but would allow for the ensuing two months to be spent banging out the specifics like on-campus playoff games, on-campus playoff games and on-campus playoff games. Also something to consider: on-campus playoff games.

Let's do this again in a month, yes?


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