By Phil Hecken, with keen insight from Tod Hess, Robert Marshall, and Rick Pearson
I don’t normally stray from uni-related topics, but there is one topic which has appeared quite often in the comments section which has generated as much ‘discussion’ as anything uni-related we’ve experienced here in months. That, of course, is when a bunch of uniform fanatics start discussing the current BCS “system.” While not many of us agree on how to fix it, one thing we pretty much all share is the belief that the current BCS is broken. Can it be fixed? Should it be fixed? And if so, how?
Joining me today are three Uni Watch contributors who each have a vision for making the BCS better. Is there a perfect solution? Probably not, or the good folks who run the NCAA would have come up with one by now. There is so much to consider when it comes down to the end of the Division I-A (or as it is currently known, the “FBS” – Football Bowl Subdivision) season. Right now, we have 34 bowls, of which there are currently five which constitute the “BCS” bowl series — The Rose Bowl, The Orange Bowl, The Sugar Bowl, and the Fiesta Bowl, and then the final or “BCS Bowl,” which is the last game of the official college ‘season.’ The BCS relies on a combination of polls and computer selection methods to determine relative team rankings, and to narrow the field to two teams to play in the BCS National Championship Game held after the other college bowl games.
It’s been quite a rocky road getting to the point at which we now find ourselves. For a very good overview, please review the history of the BCS as reported by the always reliable Wikipedia. Pretty much ever since we “left” the good olde days and found ourselves at the point we’re at today, despite the tweaking and the reworking of the concept, we still don’t find ourselves with a consensus National Champion. But we’re being told that we do. And we’re being told that we have to have one. But do we?
We didn’t necessarily have a “consensus national champion” in the “old days” and for many that way was fine. But somewhere along the way, we moved a from a select few bowls played in warm weather sites as a reward for a season well played for better teams, to the current mess. And a mess it is, because you now have 34 bowls, many of which are played in cold weather (or at least in cold weather cities) and sometimes by teams who don’t even have winning records (a 6-6 team can qualify). Recognizing that television and corporate sponsorships generate huge sums of money, bowls are now a dime-a-dozen. Some would argue the entire ‘bowl system’ is completely devalued.
But wasn’t the entire point of the BCS to determine what many didn’t even feel needed to be decided, that is, a ‘national champion?’ Well, some argue, all the other college sports have it — some kind of finality to their season (always through some form of a playoff) whereby a champion is unequivocably crowned. Whether it’s the “Frozen Four” in hockey or the “Final Four” in basketball, there is a mechanism in place to determine a real, honest-to-goodness, NUMBER ONE. So, they reasoned, why not in football?
“Hold on just a minute,” the bowls explained. “We’ve been existing just fine, thank you very much, for decades, and we’re not about to give up our status. So what if Navy went undefeated and is Number 1 in the AP Poll, while Texas also went undefeated and was named Number 1 by the coaches? Didn’t this work just fine like, forever?”
“Ah, but no so fast,” countered the opposing forces. “There’s big money to be made for everyone, especially if we can declare, without a doubt, that there IS indeed an undisputed Number 1. In fact, we can let you keep your bowls and STILL decide a champion.”
The two sides got together, saw how successful the NCAA Basketball Tournament had become, and said, “Well why not? We can do that!” And little by little, they began to change the way decades of football had been watched, played and yes, graded. Because if we can declare “Who’s #1?”, while still keeping the prestige (and money-generating capacity of the bowls) surely everyone will be happy. Purists hated it, but said, “OK, maybe this will work.” Dozens of tweaks to the system later, it’s NOT WORKING.
I don’t believe we’ll ever return to “the way it was,” although if you asked me to sign for it today, I would. But I can tell you this — the way it is now is worse than the way it was, because, at least in my opinion, the system DOESN’T work. The entire “reasoning” for changing the way it once was (and worked quite well, for better or for worse, for 70-plus years), was because over the years, the “prevailing thought” was that the way to “fix” college football was to declare an undisputed national champion.
The problem is, even if you agree with that thinking, the system now is broken because it’s keeping otherwise viable teams from even COMPETING for a “national title.” The way it is now, the BCS determines the two (and only two) teams who will compete for the right to say “We’re Number One” while excluding all other teams.
I could cite numerous examples, including this season, of the injustice of this all. But this piece is already long enough, and we haven’t even heard from the three gentlemen who have all contributed to this. Some will argue for a “Return to Normalcy” and some will argue for a full-fledged 16-team playoff (similar to the NCAA Hockey Tournament). We’ll hear from them now, and after they’ve had their say, I’ll offer up “my solution” to the current system. The first to argue his side will be Tod Hess, who posts as “aflfan”, and who favors a 16 team playoff system for the NCAA.
NCAA FBS Playoff proposal
by Tod Hess
For several years now I have been a supporter of a playoff system for the NCAA Football Bowl Sub-Division (formally I-A). I believe a sixteen team playoff would provide the excitement that is generated by March Madness in December. I went to school at a NAIA school and the first two seasons I was there working in the equipment room the football team went to the playoffs. We lost to Carson-Newman in the semi-finals both season but it was exciting and would like to see that at the top level of college football.
My proposal would be a sixteen team tournament that would involve the champions of every FBS conference. That would be 11 teams right of the bat. Several people complained when we talked about this in the comments but if the SWAC gets a bid to basketball tournament, then the Sun Belt can get a bid to the football championship tournament. Team number 12 would be the independent team with the best record if they had nine wins or more. The final four or five team would come from rankings similar to the BCS rankings but I would like to see strength of schedule included, maybe this would get rid of some of the cupcakes on the schedule. The teams would be seed by those rankings. Finally, if a team scheduled more the one FCS school on their schedule they would be ineligible for the playoffs.
The first round would be 16 vs. 1, 15 vs. 2, 14 vs. 3, etc. The higher seed would be the home team and it would be the second week of December, meaning conference championships would be the first week of December. After the first round, I would use the oldest bowl games for the next three rounds. The quarterfinals would be the Sun Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Gator Bowl and Capital One Bowl (I’m calling it the Tangerine Bowl and would be the third week in December). The semi-finals would be held the last Saturday in December and would be the Orange and the Sugar Bowl. The championship game would be the first Saturday in January with in 2011 happens to be New Year’s Day and would be the Rose Bowl.
As for the other bowls, you could still have them (they still have the NIT in basketball). They would have to be during the week to keep the attention on the playoffs. That is my humble plan to fix what is wrong with FBS football.
Next we’ll hear from Rick Pearson, who will argue that a 16 team playoff is not the answer:
Let’s look at the REAL can of worms here
Negatives for ANY bowls as part of a 16-game playoff (or any playoff, for that matter)…
Looking at a calendar is easy. But let’s, just for once, be realistic and pursue the consequences beyond that…the aspects that really seem likely, but no one bothers to think about.
Many of the eight major bowls (Who decides who the Top 8 are? They gonna bid for it? Some might not even be interested.) will have to move from their traditional dates in some years, and most are aligned with civic festivals geared to certain dates. This could be a problem for retaining local community support.
The bowls in the Top 16 Playoff will almost always NOT know the participating teams until a week before the game. Real tough to promote and sell tickets and stage a festival without knowing if fans of Schools To Be Named on Short Notice will come to town and spend time and money in the community you’re promoting.
Fans, alumni, students, faculty would have attend—to follow their team all the way to the title game—four neutral site games. Who can afford that? If they can’t afford all games, which do they choose? First round, in case they lose? Wait for semis? Wait ‘til the final? But, if their team loses before that, they end up putting NO revenue into the bowl stream. Again, seriously tough for bowls to know they can sell tickets.
(NOTE: According to Twin Cites media reports, only 5% of tickets for Cowboys-Vikings this weekend were purchased in Texas)
One of the elemental reasons playoffs work for the NFL is that ONLY THE FINAL GAME IS PLAYED AT A NEUTRAL SITE. Every game has a team’s substantial season ticket base to sit firmly down upon for sales. A neutral-site bowl game not knowing its matchup until a week before has…bupkis.
If first-round losers drop to other bowls…then those bowls don’t know their matchups more than a week in advance, either. And what if, say, #2 gets upset and drops to a game against #17? Oh, joy, there’s a match I don’t want to try to promote. A team that just dropped from #2 to, at best, #9. “C’mon, guys, let’s go bust our hump to hold onto #9.” And will fans who were in Florida last week flock to El Paso now that their second-ranked team just up and got whupped? .
And what’s the motivation for #17? Even if they win, they’re still #17. With a playoff, no more rankings after all games played, right? Don’t need rankings once the Top 16 determined. Have a playoff now. If still gonna rank after title game, why have a damn playoff?
I won’t even begin to talk about how much money the NCAA would have to guarantee all the schools like, say, Akron, who didn’t play in a bowl, but still shares the revenue from a conference team appearance…in order to get their vote. And the Akrons of the world would have a valid point. With all the attention the Top 16 would garner it seems entirely logical that, say, the bottom eight bowls might disappear due to lack of interest. That’s 16 teams—and their conferences—that lose revenue, both directly and from alumni contributions that usually follow a team appearing on national television. So, they’d want their asses covered, deservedly so.
Bottom Line: Here’s what the Bowls might (probably?) would say to the NCAA (and I think the NCAA knows it) “You want us to stage and underwrite your tournament for you? And you also expect us to…
a) Move our games around from our traditional dates?
b) Promote ticket sales to faraway markets of people, many of whom have limited resources, on a week’s notice? Anyone tried to book airfare on less than a week’s notice lately? Better have deep pockets.
c) Force bowls BELOW the Top 16 to promote possible mismatches in what certainly will come to be regarded as the ‘Loser’s Bracket’…and those probably with only a week’s notice, too? And for which future TV rankings will probably go totally in the tank, reducing our TV revenue, too.
d) BID for the privilege of being one of the Top 8? You should pay US, because how the hell are we supposed to sell tickets and promote our community in week? You should be guaranteeing OUR gate, OUR rights fee, the spending in OUR community.
“Tell you what, we’ll work with teams ranked 17 and lower, thank you. We’ll have a nice festival, fans and teams will still have a great winter trip, and we’ll make money. Pay for your own fucking tournament.”
MY IDEA? I have two.
** FINAL FOUR. 4 plays at 1 and 3 plays at 2 (two teams get one more home game so that SOMEONE has a ticket base to draw from) always the Saturday before Christmas Eve…Winners advance to a Title Game at a neutral site the first Saturday after NYD. All the other Bowl games work around those two days, and NYD is left wide open for the traditional bowls…Will someone bitch about not being in the Top Four? Hell, Boise State already did that this year. Why does a Final Four make anything different from now?
** A true FINAL TWO. Schedule the Title Game the first Saturday in January that is at least seven days after NYD…Don’t pick the teams until AFTER the bowl games…So, this year, for example, had Bama-Texas been one of the regular Bowl games, the Title Game likely would have been Alabama vs. Boise State.
Perfect? No. But a total upending of the Bowls, creating short-notice marketing nightmares for them, is just not viable. Simply because they won’t agree to it…and the NCAA, in a 16-game format for example, really isn’t interested in staging, paying for and selling tickets to, 15 games at 15 neutral sites on its own.
Last up we’ll have Robert Marshall, who’s as old school as you’ll get when it comes to football bowl games and an end of season championship. So, here’s Robert:
The way we were
by Robert Marshall
I could not agree more whole heartedly with the esteemed Mr. Pearson. He sums up perfectly the objective obstacles a playoff would face, and why it would be the death~knell for college football, but I feel it is also important to give a subjective argument against a D-1A playoff as well. It is safe to say that I have a very romantic view of the world, and I can be dogmatic in my defense of that view. I make no apologies for that. Call me a Byronist, but to a large degree it is the romanticism of the subject of sports that draws me to much of Uni Watch in the first place. If I just cared about winners and losers of games, this would not be my daily sports page.
I know that in more ways then one I buck the prevailing zeitgeist of sports fans, and this may be one topic that exemplifies that as much as any, but I long for the old bowl system, and could give a rats patootie who the “number one” team in the nation is. There is so much more to enjoy about college football then the myopic quest for number one, and the playoff that renders the regular season meaningless, lower bowls obsolete, and will exclude most D-1A schools from participation on a permanent basis. If who is number one is what you are focused on, I think you are missing the infinite beauty of the college game that I could never explain it to you — because you will never see it.
College teams are the only teams you can say are truly yours. You went to school there, you are a part of its history, its tradition, and you have the memories, nobody can ever take that away from you. Maybe if I didn’t have a dog in the fight I would think of things differently and want more, but I know quite clearly what I want for my University: the olde bowl system. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I have a great deal of respect for the people here who are trying to fix things for D-1, you show a total lack of understanding for what makes college football great — go watch the putrid NFL. Sure a playoff gets a champion, but it takes away so much more then it gives. If you had attended big crappy State U like I did, on top of the love/hate you have with that institution, you would realize the pride that comes with beating your rival, winning an on the field conference championship, and landing in Pasadena for the most beautiful of Bowl games. That is all the excitement you would ever need or want, but I guess not everyone was a part of the D-1 experience, so we should bend what we enjoy about our game so you can be happy with our champion? The sub divisions have a playoff, why can’t D1A? In the words of our mothers, if Jim Mothervilker jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? The view is better atop the bridge with my head in the clouds wanting only a victory against my enemy — Brother Michigan and a trip to Pasadena, then at the bottom of that ravine with a potential Texas Christian~North Carolina semi-final Rose Bowl, it hurts my brain~pan, breaks my heart, and enrages my soul to even think of situation so vile.
Alrighty then. Thank you Robert. How do I feel about all of this?
Honestly, I have vascillated about this for an entire two weeks, swinging from a full-fledged 16 team playoff all the way back to returning things to the way they once were.
IF, and that’s a big if, we are to change the current system again, I would argue we should just go back to the old bowl system. That’s first and foremost. However, if we HAVE to have an “undisputed national champion”, then I feel what Tod has presented is a very good argument. Still, I have listened to the arguments of both Robert and Ricko and they are quite persuasive.
Basically, my final feelings on this come down to two very distinct and pretty much irreconcilable sides: One is to return to the past, and to put more emphais on the bowls themselves, where if you win your conference, you get to go to a certain bowl. Win that, and your season is an unmitigated success. Who cares if you have attained the “Number One” ranking or not. The other side, and it’s appealing in its own right, is to say “NCAA football is no different than any other sport, and it deserves to have a Champion, determined FAIRLY, by a full fledged tournament.”
I’ll get back to returning things to the ‘way they were’ in a second, but IF we MUST have an undisputed national champion, then the only fair way to do that is through a sixteen-team playoff, like Tod has suggested. In a perfect world, where bowls no longer matter, then what he has proposed would most likely be the only fair way to give us the national champion many people feel is needed. But to do so, it would be truly at the expense of the Bowl System as we know it, and for that, I cannot advocate.
I had originally prepared an entire defense of the 16-team playoff, and I still stand by it, but after “seeing the light” in terms of the scheduling nightmares AND the destruction of the bowls as they presently exist, I can no longer make a decent case for it. It’s just not workable. We cannot have our cake (assuming the cake is the determination of an undisputed national champion) and eat it too (preserve the bowls). Tod’s idea will work, and we may see it some day, but it will only come at the expense of the history and tradition of the big bowls.
Is this a perfect answer? Of course not — having a 16 team playoff would pretty much guarantee a consensus national champion. Do we NEED a consensus national champion? Maybe not, but it’s better than the broken system we have now.
A 16 team playoff will ensure that an undefeated team like Boise State, or TCU, or Cincinnati (all teams arbitrarily denied a shot at a national championship) WILL get that shot. Is Florida (a one loss team at the end of the season) BETTER than Cincinnati (a no-loss team)? We found out — and the answer is “YES”. But is Boise State better than Alabama? Probably not, but we’ll NEVER KNOW. And that is what is wrong with the current system. Assuming we have to know “WHO’S NUMBER ONE?” a playoff would do that. But like Ricko and Robert have already opined, the cost of getting to that end would be far too great to justify the means.
I could go on and on, but this is already plenty long. I want to thank Messers. Pearson, Hess and Marshall for their effort and opinions. It’s time for you folks to have your say: Do we need to know who is the best team in all of college football? And if we don’t should we scrap the current system and return to the olde days? Or should we move forward with a playoff? Should it include 16 teams? Should we perhaps have a “Final Four” instead, or perhaps just an “8 team playoff”? Or do you think the way things are currently is just fine? The floor is yours.
The boys are back at Bub’s. And they’re particularly punny today. Here’s Rick with the setup:
NFL Playoffs mean brunch at Bub’s. Even beyond the ever-present potential for coronaries induced by the Steak n’ Eggs fare (it’s billed as “Breakfast for Committed Carnivores”), the whole thing is relentlessly a platform for weekend…oddities.
Enjoy your Saturday Benchies.
Guess The Game From The Scoreboard: I had been saving this particular scoreboard until this weekend, in anticipation of a matchup that never did occur — yet anyway. There’s always next weekend, if the chips fall right. You’ll probably recognize the game from sight, but here it is anyway: Guess The Game From The Scoreboard. Date, location and final score, please, and be sure to link to your answer. And, as always, if you enjoy the game, please send me some new scoreboards! Drop me a line. Thanks!
After a disappointing 2-2 week (could easily have been 3-1, were it not for the
uncalled facemask stellar defensive effort by the Cardinals in OT). But, the best dressed team did not prevail last weekend in every game. And had I known the Ravens were going to go with the black leotards, I would have picked against them too. But we stand at 2 & 2, and now it’s time to pick the Divisional Round winners, and this week, the choices are much easier. (Remember, all picks are ATS, or “against the spread”.)
Cardinals @ Saints (4:30 EST, Fox): This one is easy, if the teams dress in their standard home and road attire (see graphic). Saints in a no brainer. I’ll still pick the Saints if they wear white (which they have done this year in the Dome). But they won’t. If they break out the monochrome leotards, the pick becomes a tossup, but I’ll still take that over this. This has a great chance of being the worst uni game of the weekend. And of course, I picked against the Cards in every game last year, and they made the Super Bowl. That ends today. Saints win.
Ravens @ Colts (8:30 EST, CBS): A total no-brainer. The Colts have THE BEST uniform of any team left in the playoffs. And I fully expect the Ravens to come out in their black leotards again. Colts all the way.
Cowboys @ Vikings (1:00 EST, Fox): Another easy choice, since it’s pretty much a guarantee the Vikings will break out the modern look, which is, quite frankly, not good. I would rate this an almost even fight were they to break out the sweet throwbacks, but that aint happening. Sorry, Ricko, Cowboys take this one.
Jets @ Chargers (4:40 EST, CBS): This one is tough for me, actually, because I am not certain what either team will wear. I greatly prefer the Jets in white over white (like they wore last week), and I would think the Chargers will don their official home uniform of dark blue over white. If that’s the matchup, I’ll take the Jets. However, last year in the playoffs, the Chargers broke out the powder blue alts, which are sweet. They could also petition the league to wear their AFL throwbacks, which are sweeter still. I can’t hedge my bets, tho, and I’m thinking the Chargers will wear the dark blues (saving the powder blues for what they hope is a rematch with the Colts). In which case, I’m taking the Jets.
Our next round of Uniform Tweaks, Concepts and Revisions is upon us again. We’ll be examining all sports now. So, if you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
Our first set of concepts today comes from Renwick Martin, who has some interesting concepts for the NFL and the NCAA. Renwick is a man of few words, but many concepts, so I’ve put them all into a nice little Flickr album. Ready:
these are some uniforms i made.
please credit these to renwick martin
Next up is Dan Martell, whose work has been featured on here before, but now he’s got some NHL uniform concepts, which I’ve put into another Flickr album. Here’s Dan:
Just wanted to thank you for posting my stuff on the blog. It was really cool to see it up there.
Not sure if you intend on doing any mock up work with NHL Jerseys but I’ve been working on a few in my spare time. After seeing the new Avalanche jersey I got hit with a few ideas and made some changes to some other teams. So far I’ve got about 9.
Our next set of submissions comes from “Johnny Seoul” who has a whole mess of Cleveland Browns uniform tweaks:
Long time no chat!! If you don’t remember me, I’m the wiki NFL/NCAAF uni guy. I’ve been pretty busy lately due to my active duty obligations in our military, but I’ve tweaked my prototypes for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are a classic NFL franchise with a classic uniform. However, I felt a slight upgrade is needed. What I’ve created keeps their simple look, makes it more streamline, but also has a unique retro look to them. I felt that the introduction of gray nicely compliments the burnt orange and seal brown. There is only so much a team can do the an orange/brown combination (see Bowling Green) and therefore, a classic retro color such as gray seems to do the trick.
I hope you post this on your Uni Watch page. Keep in touch.
Our final set of tweaks today comes from Jeff Shirley, another reader who has sent in NFL concepts. Jeff is back today with some NBA designs. I think it’s safe to say, Jeff likes blue:
Here are a few submissions from the NBA that I’ve created for your viewing pleasure.
First, for the OKC Thunder, who’s uniforms are the laughing stock of the league, I eliminated orange from their uniforms and added a little more yellow which I felt worked well with the blue. Next, I played around with the Wizards’ uniforms, combining some elements from their current uniforms with their awful gold and black alternates from a couple of years ago.
Here are a couple more NBA redesigns I’ve been playing with, most notably from my beloved Utah Jazz, who have o.k. uniforms, but could use some minor tweaks. First of all, I wanted to see what the new color scheme would look like on the old mountain-scape uniforms. Although I was never a fan of the mountains (you should see the Jeff Hornacek jersey hanging from the rafters, it’s almost embarrassing) on the front of the jersey top, I always though the shorts looked unique. I included the tops with the mountains and without, and I think the ones without turned out much better. My next submission was for the Jazz as well, as I tweaked their original musical note uniforms to match the updated colors, along with a light blue alternate. I believe these updates would be a drastic improvement over their current (boring) set.
My last submission is for Memphis, which I feel have never looked that great since they abandoned teal and black, so I added some elements from those uniforms to their current format. I think the teal and light blue went really well together.
As always, thanks for all your hard work.
That’s all for today. Keep the NFL tweaks coming (and stay tuned tomorrow for an announcement of an NFL jersey contest), but feel free to send in your uni tweaks for ALL teams. As always, send them to me and indicate the team or sport you are concepting. Thanks!
Spring Training is only weeks away, and the MLB have released their new line of batting practice caps. Are you effing kidding me?
It’s bad enough that MLB and New Era decide that teams need new batting practice/spring training caps (and jerseys) every few years, but seriously, this is THE WORST bunch of crap they have yet to unleash on the buying public. All of those are awful, but some are worse than others. James Huening opined in yesterday’s comments that this cap is the “winner of the tallest midget contest,” and that’s a perfectly apt descripton.
They’re bad enough as is…but wait, there’s more. What you didn’t see are the backs of the caps. Ready? Here ya go. The piping on the sides and the brim wasn’t ENOUGH? They need to add even more of that on the back? Really?
Thanks MLB/New Era, but no thanks. I haven’t bought a BP cap in years, and I’m sure not about to now. They’re unnecessary to begin with, but now they’re just horrendous.
That’s all for today folks. My thanks to Tod, Ricko & Roberto for their assistance in providing different perspectives on this mess that is currently the BCS. What do you think?
Enjoy the football today. And tomorrow, all you uni tweakers be ready, because we’re announcing the next big contest — and this one will have an amazing prize for the winner. Cheers!