Monday, November 20, 2006

BCS Mess: My Playoff Solution

Lots of comments in the BCS post below about a playoff system. Here's my two cents:

I have yet to hear of a playoffs concept that actually works in a way to avoid controversy. A 4-team playoff is a complete joke and shows absolutely no insight by anyone who advocates it as a way to avoid controversy. If you think finding a 1-vs-2 is hard, try figuring out if the 2/3/4 teams are better than the 5/6/7/8 teams.

Similarly, an 8-team playoff is too few in a lot of ways: Either some conferences are excluded or some worthy "at large" teams are excluded. And picking the field is brutal: The difference between teams ranked 2-15 can negligible. You can usually make an argument that a team ranked in the high teens might be as good as the one ranked No. 8. Regardless: Significant controversy continues to exist. And isn't the goal of a playoff to eliminate controversy? If we're still going to have controversy, we might as well keep the existing system.

16-team playoffs begin to get there, but if you thought it was hard to distinguish the teams at the margin of a 4- or 8-team playoff, try arguing that No. 15 or No. 16 is decisively better than Nos. 17-25. Plus, I defy you to find an AD who will allot four weeks to play a playoff AFTER a full regular-season. Again: College football is going to have MORE scenarios like this season, not less. If eliminating controversy is the goal, then let's REALLY let the teams play it out on the field.

I still like my old idea, where the only people who get screwed are the ADs more concerned with money than with the game. It's very simple: Create a half-season-long playoff that lets everyone in and therefore produces the most meaningful, least controversial champion. It's unrealistic, but only because the powers-that-be lack the imagination to see its genius:

(1) Increase the number of D1-A programs from 119 to 128.

(2) Play 5 regular season games: Your annual "tradition" games, your homecoming, your cupcakes, whatever. This also allows teams to find their stride.

(3) National Bye Week. Rank all 128 teams, using the same committee system that fans have come to accept for college basketball. Except this committee is NCAA officials, media and a few computer gurus. Place into four 32-team regional brackets.

(4) Play Week 6. Number of playoff teams remaining afterward: 64. Losers are eliminated and have 24 hours to cut deals to play each other in Week 7.

(5) Each week, the bracket advances along. Winning teams move on to the next game on their bracket. Losing teams are eliminated and may cut deals to play any other eliminated team the following week, creating an innovative, musical-chairs-style free market of scheduling that will also keep fans engaged.

After Week 7, 32 teams are left. After Week 8, 16 teams are left. After Week 9, 8 teams are left. After Week 10, 4 teams are left. After Week 11, 2 teams are left. (Again, eliminated teams simply pick from the increasingly deep pool of eliminated teams to fill out their schedule.)

(6) Teams that are over .500 are eligible to be selected to play in the 25 different bowl games played in December and early January; bowls may invite any teams they want, again creating a vastly more efficient market than the current system where a team is slotted to a bowl by its conference finish.

(7) The final 2 teams play in the championship game.

The biggest problem is that schools can't finalize their teams' travel or ticket sales plans a year in advance, as they do now. If that's the biggest problem -- but in exchange fans get the best championship tournament in sports and an undisputed champion -- I think fans will take it.

Everyone in, controversy out.


Anonymous said...

Never gonna happen.

ToddTheJackass said...

You realize that'd get rid of all conferences, right? That, in my opinion, is a bad thing.

The truth is, from year to year, there is no one good solution. Last year, it would've been unfair if Texas and USC didn't face off in the final game. Similar case was when Ohio St. and Miami met a few years before. In those years, a playoff system really wasn't needed, because it was obvious who the best two teams were.

In other years, there are 3 or 4 obvious contenders, or in years like this one, 1 stand alone and several possible #2 teams (Michigan, Florida, Arkansas, USC, Notre Dame, West Virginia, et al), where an 8-team playoff might make more sense.

Unless you can change it on a year-to-year basis (which you can't), then there really isn't one great system that's a true, end all, be all. Not to be too much of a BCS apologist, but in my mind, it's not really any more unfair than any other solution in any given year.

Anyway, I still think it's really stupid that BC is ranked below V-Tech, after we throttled them earlier in the year.

-Todd (Boston)

Anonymous said...

I'd rather go back to the old system than see anything remotely close to that one tried.

Reminds me of "New Coke".

MoonHopper said...

Fewer teams included means more teams crying about being excluded. More teams included means more chance that one gets "hot" at the right time and beats a "better" team (look at basketball).

Until there is a fair, efficient tournament in place (again, look at basketball, we know who the Champ is), there will always be debate, which as far as I'm concerened, is good for us. We get to do this.

Anonymous said...

To me, a 16-team playoff (like Div 1-AA) makes the most sense. Sure, you have problems figuring out #14-16, but this way you are guaranteed to have the best teams in the field. You can do the best 16, or maybe give automatic bids to the conference champs and then a few at-large bids. (Maybe the bowl games could become the new conference championship games - Orange Bowl for the Big XII, Sugar Bowl for the SEC, Rose & Fiesta for the Big Ten and Pac-10, alternating years, etc.)

All I know is that I hate the BCS with a white-hot passion, and it makes my favorite college team the one who will create the most chaos for the computers.

I do like Dan's super playoff, though, although the schedule issues, more than anything else, make that virtually impossible.

Anonymous said...

this season is in no way shape or form as big of a problem for the BCS as 04-05 was when you had 3 teams finish the season unbeaten.

remember, no BCS would have been worse the last few years, not better.

Last year, PSU v. USC in the Rose, While Texas went to the Fiesta. Split championship?

2002, Miami goes to the Orange while OSU goes to the Rose...

at least with the BCS we have a chance at 1 v. 2 on the field.

TBender said...

How does I-AA, II, and III figure out who is 1-16?

If those folks can do it, it can't be that hard.

john (east lansing, mi) said...

Hrmm... not April Fool's Day... Huh. I don't get it.

So I guess I'm just gonna pretend you didn't offer this as a serious suggestion. I recommend you follow the same course of action, even though it now exists in blog entry form.

Man... the grass in Columbus was lousy, but the grass you found in Gainesville must have been spectacular.

TJ said...

Dan, I have no idea why you always feel the need to completely reinvent the wheel with your sports "fixes."

A 4-team playoff is the way to go. Why? Because it gets two more teams into the mix. Which is an improvement. It's stupid to say a 4-team playoff is no good because it doesn't do enough. We're finally at a place where the powers that be might actually entertain the idea of a playoff, but they won't go for anything as big as an 8-team tourney, let alone something like your idea.

About the difficulty separating #4 from #5--what about it? Under the current system #5 was even further out. Besides, how many times has anyone felt, at the end of the season, that more than 2 teams were gypped out of a shot at the title? Not many--maybe '01, but even then a Miami, Nebraska, Oregon, Colorado playoff would have been exactly the right thing.

TJ said...

Man... the grass in Columbus was lousy, but the grass you found in Gainesville must have been spectacular.

Ha! Great line.

Mr. Travel Reviewer said...

My proposal...

NCAA establishes Eight football divisions / regions...

Each Division establishes rotatational schedule to determine champion...

Divisional Champions advance to the NCAA Playoffs (Second place is the 1st loser)...

Three weeks of games culminating in pre SuperBowl Bye Week...

If you really want to make this sexy, factor in a promotion / demontion process similar to the English Premier League (Soccer for all the non-Euro folk)...

Anonymous said...

A 128 team playoff? That is the single dumbest idea I have ever heard in my life.

Anonymous said...

Your plan is ludicrous and totally inconceivable. Every year there are a handful of teams at the most that deserve a shot at the championship. I'd rather screw teams 6-10 than that #3 that everyone knows is championship calliber.

Someone, somewhere is going to be upset. How many BBall teams are upset that they're not the 66th team? Go back and look at each year, there are always 4 championship teams. A 4 team playoff would be perfect!

Anonymous said...

the more people bitch about the playing field on saturday the more I want a rematch just so Michigan can lose at a neutral site on a "NFL quality retractable grass field"

Anonymous said...

how do the kids in basketball do it? they play more games, practice for a longer season, and in the end play for possibly up to a month?

16 team playoff can be done if you cut the regular season down to 10 games, and run the playoffs through december, when kids aren't in school and are playing bowl games anyway. only takes 4 weeks. Use the bowls for the semi's and championship game, everything else should be done at the home seed's field (regardless of how bad the grass is) and if the 4th bowl complains about being left out, make a 3rd place game and play it a day before the NC.

as for the 17th team gets the shaft, tough shit. they shouldn't have been 17, and when a 16 seed runs through the field and wins then we can worry about adjusting it to make a play-in game for the last spot.

as the BCS stands right now, VT is 17 and can't complain about being left out in favor of GT since GT beat them head to head.

Anonymous said...


I love it, problem is the bowls (they are the B in the BCS after all) won't let it happen because they are like insecure high school girls. They need to be at the end of the season to feel important. If you don't finish with them, they won't back it. You could do it using the same bowl locations for the last 3 games of your scenario, but then one bowl is left out every year and the argument can be made that they cheapen the games of last week by playing a game in the stadium the next. I can't think the people in Pasadena are going to be happy when they host the Rose Bowl and the next week they host the Citibank Presents The National Championship at The Rose Bowl of Pasadena California sponsored by chips and salsa.

Anonymous said...

but again, my point being who cares about the 16th ranked team. Do you care about who is going to play Duke, UNC or FLA in round 1 of the basketball tourney? no. You are going to push all the 1 seeds to the second round and call it a day. Yes I know, any given sund...saturday...blah blah blah. GT and VT could put their best players together, be coached by Spurrier, and still lose to UM or OSU this year.

Anonymous said...

how about coin flip and let the winners play at home :)

Anonymous said...

I've been saying for years that I'd love to see FSU come into OSU during December and play.

john (east lansing, mi) said...

I nominate benvious for King of CFB, what do we have to do to make this happen?

Anonymous said...

I am not a Michigan fan, but I can't stand the argument that, "they had their shot."

Realize this...they lost by three points on the road. Take it to a neutral field and this match up appears brutally even. Let's not downplay homefield advantage.

As for a playoff, I also hate the argument that it would not be more fair. Granted some teams who should be included in a field of 8 would be left out, but the cream would rise to the top and the best four or five teams would be in the playoffs. For anyone left out, too bad. The best teams are in.

College seasons for some teams are more than 13 games for some teams, so lets shorten the season to 9 games and have a four game playoff for the remaining teams. Many of the games could be bowl games.

Why is this so hard to envision?

Anonymous said...

this is football, not basketball. if you are a 16 seed you will have at least 2 losses. that being the case, odds are you will lose at some point during the 4 rounds, confirming why you were a 16 seed. If the 16 seed were to pull it off, then we can just chalk it up to a cinderella story, a team that caught lightning in a bottle and they and only they could have pulled it off, not the the team left out at 17.

see how that all works out for me?

Anonymous said...

You do realize that there are FOUR independent teams, not just Notre Dame, don't you?

Army, Navy and Temple are the other three. You might want to ask them if they want to join a conference.

Brian in Oxford said...

Geez, I've seen worse ideas, though.

Why should the BCS conferences automatically get slots? ALL the D-1 conference champs get slots, or else we're officially stating they're not D-1.

What I'd like to see is 10 D-1 conferences. Each champ gets in. Then, instead of being forced into 6 more flexible with it. Either there are teams that can clearly make points to qualify, or they don't. Some years you get 12 teams, some years you get 14, up to a max of 16. If Notre Dame doesn't want to be in a conference, then it can still qualify as an at-large if its resume is good. The point being, if it's not obvious which non-champs belong, then they didn't belong in the first place, and don't hold a spot for it just to make it work out to an even 16. If there are only 15 teams, then seed #1 gets a bye. If there are 14 teams, the top 2 get a bye.

(I'm reminded of the state basketball tourneys here in CT. It's like, any team with 8 wins qualifies, and they figure out how many top teams get byes based on however many games it takes to reduce the field to a power of 2.)

This year, Michigan would be in....the SEC championship loser....Notre Dame....and then throw them with all the conference champs.

This allows a 2nd team from a league, if it's "obvious" (subjectiveness, yeah, I know)...but like when the top team gets upset in its conference championship game by the number #18 team in the would still allow them in. But at the same time, it would have to be a legit top-3 team in the country getting upset....not Rutgers "throwing" the Big East championship to get an "extra" bid for West Viriginia....if you weren't *obviously* (again, subjective) a top team, then losing gets you actually eliminated.

Anonymous said...

I like Ken's idea (above) for two reasons:

1) It still uses the BCS formula, so we won't get stuck with bad division winners.

2) It gives the top rated teams bye-weeks, which they should have (there should be some incentive for teams to have a perfect regular season, or else games like last week's OSU-UM mean less).

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea. But I fear that heart attacks and freak-outs will rise precipitously for coaches if they are forced to develop and practice a gameplan in six days (since they won't know whom they're playing until Sat. night). By the same token, methinks the smartest players would be in much higher demand.

Steve said...

"Student athletes" Oh man that's a good one drunken loo. Funniest joke of the day.

Anonymous said...

teams are playing 13 games a season right now. Cut the regular season to 10, and at MOST we will have 2 teams playing 14 games per season with a 16 team playoff.

didn't KSU play 15 games a few years ago? OSU won 14 in 2002. Not asking them to storm the beaches of Normandy here.

Army, Navy and Temple...they don't count in this discussion. Sorry. Join a conference, and learn how to play football (in the case of Temple). Air Force is in one, you aren't better than them.

Screw it, they should all just join the Big East. ND has the basketball ties, and the rest of them are right there geographically.

Anonymous said...

YOu should be a politician. You can't reach a simple decision and want the most ridiculous unworkable solution. The 9th place team in the BCS has no right to claim to be the best team. Top 8 is fine. YOu select them the same way you choose #1 and #2 right now. Simple. You are #9 and you are out. They do it in the NCAA Hoops Tourney and it can be done in football as well. Top 8 in, everyone else out.

Kevin said...

Wow...over 50 commenters, and nobody likes your idea, Shanoff. Think that tells you something?

But what's with people saying you need all 11 conferences represented in a playoff? It should be the top 8/16/whatever teams, no matter what conference they play in.

Anonymous said...

Need to cut divison 1A to 8 conferences x 12 teams. Add the WA/MAC/ or conference USA. ND joins the big 10 and PAC 10 snipes 2 teams from somewhere. Everyone plays 12 games, nine conference and 3 other BCS teams, no DIV 1AA. Everyone has a conference championship game, nd the 8 winners are seeded at random for an 8 team playoff.

I'm sure plenty of traditionalist will bitch at me, but i think it is a fair system.

The thing with the big east this year (if one team had been undefeated) is that they are a BCS league, so they should be in the title consideration. And ND should be in a BCS conference, and not just in because of history and a side contract. my 2 cents.

TJ said...

Give me one example of a year where a team ranked outside of the top four had a legitimate gripe about not being in the championship game.

Exactly. And you'd think Dan would jump all over a 4-team playoff. Every now and again he likes to tell us the regular season is a de facto playoff--but then he backs off of that when the regular season fails to produce a clear 1 and 2.

Well, if you expand the title contenders to 1, 2, 3, and 4 then the regular season will almost always work as a playoff to whittle things down to a final four.

If you look back to the past few years, this would have worked (almost) every time.

2001: Miami v. Colorado, Nebraska v. Oregon

2002: Miami v. Georgia, Ohio State v. Iowa

2003: USC v. Michigan, LSU v. Oklahoma (Bonus points because this actually happened, setting up USC v. LSU--which would have been an amazing championship game)

2004: USC v. Utah, Auburn v. Oklahoma

2005: USC v. ?, Texas v. Penn St. (Last year is the only recent problem year. But it's not even that big a deal. I think we can all agree Texas and USC would have won their semifinal games, but winning the semifinal games would have made them even more deserving champs. As far as who was #4--do you take a conference runner up like Ohio State? Or a 2-loss conference champ like Georgia? Still, this is a hell of a lot better than trying to pick from among 3 teams for the #2 spot.)

Gary said...

Here is what needs to happen but never will...

There are currently 54 bowls (or something like that)

I think we can all agree that is too many. Let's increase it to 56 (Hear me out)

We make seven 8 team brackets. The top 8 are in the National Championship Bracket. Nine through 16 are in A. 17-24 are in B and so on until we rank the top 64 teams.

In the National Championship Bracket the first round games would be obvious 1 v. 8, 2 v. 7, 3 v. 6, 4 v. 5. They would each be played at a current bowl site. You can use the current 5 BCS bowls plus the two created ones. You could easily rotate the seven bowls as the National Championship.

I realize the lesser brackets would generate significantly less buzz, but I think that a mini tournament would generate more buzz for the Motor City Bowl than it currently has.

This scenerio would also eliminate a lot of those really crappy 6-6 BCS conference teams from making a bowl game. There would be half as many teams making bowls thus really putting a lot of weight on the regular season.

I know this idea will not happen, but I think if the most important thing is to keep the bowl sponsors happy, this would work.

Also, you'd have to cut the season down by only one game since only 16 teams would end up playing 14 games so it's feasible, just not gonna happen.

I bet this is confusing since I didn't really think out my formatting before starting typing, so sorry for that!

Big Daddy Drew said...

If you think finding a 1-vs-2 is hard, try figuring out if the 2/3/4 teams are better than the 5/6/7/8 teams.

You just made the argument in favor of a 4-team playoff. It keeps some of the controversy of the current system, but in the end no one would likely dispute the final champion.

Plus, it doesn't mess with the current regular season.

Now, let's all have on orange whip.

T-Mill said...

Getting to the party late, as I am in Hawaii for hte Purdue-Hawaii game, but htat is pure fuckin' genius!!!

Anonymous said...

Here is my solution


Jason said...

Why not take the conference champions plus one (probably ND because it's good for ratings most years) and randomly send them into 4 groups. The groups play a round robin, with the top team in each advancing into a semifinal. The winners play for all the marbles (or a big check to share with their conference).