Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pete Fiutak hasn't been paying attention

College Football News seemed great when I was in college and it was just about the only comprehensive football source on the interwebs. This misconception was quickly cleared up when I discovered that there were, like, good writers who actually knew what they were talking about running various other sites (Sunday Morning Quarterback, MGoBlog, EDSBS, etc.).

Pete Fiutak is still running CFN a good 10 years later and, for whatever reason, has a much larger platform now since promotes CFN as its own. What follows is the text from what was the top story yesterday on the second-most-visited sports site on the internet written by a guy paid some substantial amount of money to do nothing but cover college football. This makes me angry; I'm providing the link but recommend that you not click it as to avoid any appearance that getting a bunch of hits makes it worthwhile (this is called The Bleacher Report Corollary).

Fisking time!
Look at the language in the press release issued by the Big 12 and see if you can find the hints for what could be coming.

The big story isn’t that the Big 12 and SEC are entering into an agreement to send their respective conference champions to a New Year’s Day or early January bowl that will rival the Rose Bowl for supremacy among the non-national championship bowl games — even if one or both leagues send their No. 1 teams to a title game. The SEC is partially doing this to create more bowl tie-ins for a 14-team league that will have a few eligible teams left out in the cold this year.

No, the big news is the statement from SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

"This new game will provide a great matchup between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting postseason atmosphere created by the new four-team model."

Who said the four-team model was a done deal?
Ummm ... everybody? Tom Osborne said the other day that "a four-team playoff is all but a done deal." Michigan State AD Mark Hollis said "I think the 'what' is kind of already there," referring specifically to a question about the four-team format. And ACC commissioner John Swofford said after the BCS meetings three weeks ago that "it's great to get to a point where there seems to be a general consensus that a four-team, three-game playoff is the best route to go."

I wrote this two weeks ago (foregoing blockquote formatting to maintain differentiation between my writing and Fiutak's): "There will be a four-team playoff. There is no other plausible option on the table at this point since Bill Hancock has actually said that 'the status quo is off the table' and there has been zero support for anything larger than a four-team bracket."

It's been a done deal for at least three weeks and probably four months.

The conference commissioners were supposedly still hemming and hawing over how a playoff system could work, and there was still discussion that it had yet to be given the official green light. It still has to pass through the proper channels and the powers-that-be still have to come up with a few small details — like where the games will be played, how much everyone would be paid, how the teams would be selected and who would get the invite to the dance. Meanwhile, there are still some who have no interest in a playoff model of any sort, while others are still pushing for a bigger model that would include more teams.

But Slive threw in the idea of the "new four-team model" as if it’s a given. Even if the new bowl game is nothing more than a prestigious fall-back in case the Big 12 and/or SEC champs aren’t in the playoffs, that it’s being acknowledged that there will be a four-team model as soon as 2014 means that change could be not only on the way sooner than originally thought, but that it’s all but done.
Yes. I think I made that pretty clear in the paragraphs above. This should not be a surprise nor a primary takeaway from a press release about a new bowl game arrangement.
Just like that the college football world could evolve from the bizarre BCS to a real, live playoff that could finally end all the whining and wondering that’s been such a big part of the sport since its inception.
No way! For serious?!?
So will this new bowl game be part of a playoff, or will it simply be another big bowl game while the playoffs and national championship go to the highest bidder?
Bowl games will not be a part of the playoff as anything other than host sites. I know this because even Jim Delany has given up on his nonsensical Rose Bowl inclusion plan, which led to this at the aforementioned BCS meetings: "Sources told that the commissioners are leaning toward incorporating the existing BCS bowls into a playoff. Instead of designating two BCS bowls as the host sites for two semifinal games before a particular season, the sites wouldn't be determined until the four participating teams were named. ... Under this proposed plan, if a Big Ten or Pac-12 team finished in the top two spots, it would automatically play in Pasadena. And if a Big Ten or Pac-12 team didn't finish in the top two, teams from those leagues might still play in the Rose Bowl, as long as they were among the teams included in the BCS pool."

This is apparently what's happening based on the recent statements out of the Big Ten meetings. Fiutak don't care.
Here’s what might be coming; if the top four teams, according to whatever selection format ends up passing, are the conference champions from the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, then the Rose Bowl between the Big Ten and Pac-12 is one playoff game, the new Big 12-SEC bowl would be the other, and the TV ratings, ad revenue and fan interest would be through the roof.

Of course, the ACC, Big East, Notre Dame and the new Mountain West-Conference USA alliance might have something to say about that ...
If the top four teams in the rankings are from those four conferences, then yes, of course that's what will happen. That's kinda the point of a four-team playoff. If those teams aren't in the top four (or at least the four highest-ranked conference champions, depending on the specifics of the selection procedure), the conference tie-ins will be irrelevant in regards to the playoff; the teams in the top four will play in the important games and the others will play in the Rose Bowl and/or the Whatever Bowl. It's not that complicated.

The Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC can't circumvent the rest of the conferences (and Notre Dame, which inexplicably has equal say) and arrange their own plus-one to the complete exclusion of everybody else. John Swofford and Kevin White and whoever's running the Big East and a bunch of other people would poop their collective pants, at which point lawsuits ahoy! Those threats were exactly why the BCS had to expand to 10 teams and guarantee the availability of at-large spots a few years ago; I find it unlikely that there'll be less fight over access to a playoff that'll produce bajillions of dollars a year and a no-longer-mythical national champion.
... but the harsh reality is that this move firmly establishes the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC as the true big four BCS conferences.
It only took him 594 words (woo word count!) to get to what should have been the lede: The ACC just got pwned. The issue isn't so much playoff access as it is general postseason interest and accompanying financial viability. Think about this: There hasn't been an ACC team in the season-ending top two in any season since Miami was The Best Team in the History of Ever back in 2002. In other words, in a George Lucas-directed scenario in which the bowls-as-host-sites plan were to be backdated to the beginning of the BCS era (or whenever), it'd have been a full decade since the ACC got to host a semifinal game and swim in a pool of corresponding TV revenue (I'm going on the assumption that the host sites and conferences will get a disproportionate amount of the annual distribution).

And the BCS consolation prizes won't be of much help since the two games most people will care about will have all their tie-ins locked up. All that's left for the ACC is a deal with the Big East (pfffft) in the Orange Bowl, which ... ummm ... gack. Mark Schlabach has a quote from a "college football power broker" (whatever that is) saying that "this could be Day 1 of Armageddon in terms of four-conference conglomeration." I think that's a tad extreme since an open-access playoff provides little motivation for a school like Notre Dame to do anything and there are now massive buyout fees and TV-revenue guarantees in place after last year's realignment ridonkulousness, but there's gotta be some discomfort among the ACC presidents/athletic directors seeing as how the revenue discrepancy Andy Haggard was complaining about the other day probably just got a lot more significant. Speaking of which, I'm curious as to whether Haggard has spent the last 24 hours practicing his smug look or exploding in Brian Kelly-style OUTRAGE.

Anyway, back to Fiutak:
Does this move up the timetable for Big 12 expansion — hello, Louisville — to get up to 12 or 14 teams to reestablish a two-division league with a conference championship?
I don't see why anybody in the Big 12 would support expansion right now seeing as how it would cut into the playoff/Whatever Bowl payouts and probably add little to the TV deal (although Florida State would probably be pretty enticing and might have a little more support from the administration now given the ACC's status). What would Louisville add in terms of TV value and overall marketability?
Will this force the ACC to try to make a big move to find a higher profile bowl alliance to try to set up its own ready-made playoff game?
Lol yeah. I'm sure your suggestions would be welcome.
Will this make the Big Ten look further into expansion and finally tie the knot with Notre Dame, Maryland, Rutgers, or any of the other programs that have been in the discussion over the last few years?
Stop. Notre Dame (still) isn't interested in joining the Big Ten, which in turn has zero interest in Maryland or Rutgers or any other school that will diminish the current per-school payout while adding nothing of of financial or competitive value.
Whatever happens, consider this the day that college football has set the true foundation for a playoff.
Don't do that; consider the day the TV ratings for the BCS title game came out the day that set the true foundation for a playoff; that's actually almost exactly what I wrote at the time.
And if nothing else, college football got itself a whale of a new bowl game.
Finishing strong FTW. Can I have your job now? Also, please get your hair cut in a manner more befitting someone over the age of 12 plzkthx.


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