Saturday, January 14, 2012

I Never Thought This Day Would Come

I guess that 21-0 victory by Alabama over Louisiana State in this past season's Extra Bowl (oops...I mean BCS national championship game) was the last straw.

I guess Bill Hancock and his people are now, at long last, getting tired of their event's status as the biggest joke in North American sports (whether it's ever hit them or not that it's a joke at all).

Mark Emmert has stepped into the debate.

That's right.

This past Thursday (three days after The Rematch at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA took place), Emmert (the NCAA president) gave his annual State of the NCAA speech at the association's headquarters in Indianapolis, IN.

And during the speech, he said something some kind of earth-shattering.

Emmert said he'd support a four-team Division 1-A football long as Hancock and his BCS lieutenants decide to adopt it.

Me, I'll believe it when I see it.

And besides, if approved, such a sports event won't make its long-awaited debut until 2014. (Hancock and the commissioners of the six wealthiest NCAA Division 1-A football-playing conferences have given themselves until this coming July to decide if they want to take The Plunge.)

In fact, it's a plunge that should've been taken as early as 1982, when the changes to NCAA guidelines for membership in football's Division 1-A took effect. But the then NCAA president, Walter Byers (his job back then was called "executive director"), would hear none of that talk about a playoff for the football teams that represent the biggest NCAA schools.

Anyway, Hancock and the commissioners got together in the Big Easy the day after the Extra Bowl (sorry, I mean BCS national championship game) and lifted up fifty to sixty different possibilities for various changes to this deeply flawed system.

One of the changes was the very four-team playoff proposal Emmert now endorses. But when Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford and his Southeastern Conference counterpart, Mike Slive (remember when Slive ran Conference USA?), brought this up to the other BCS potentates in 2008, the leaders of the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, and the then Pacific-10 (now, of course, called the Pacific-12) told Slive and Swofford to go to hell. So did the athletic director at the lone football independent in the BCS, Notre Dame.

But now, Big Ten Conference head Jim Delany- one of the men who shot the proposal down four years ago- has changed his mind. (Maybe that's because, as long as the present system relies mainly on the results of the ESPN-USA Today and Harris Interactive polls, his circuit may never again land a team in the Extra Bowl...or BCS title game.)

Yeah, I know...BCS spokespeople brag about the several computers used to complement the two polls in the selection process. But Hancock and Co. can bring in 500 computers- including the one I'm using to type out this post- and it'll still reflect the results of the ESPN-USA Today survey (with active D-1-A head coaches) and its Harris counterpart (involving the opinions of former collegiate players).

And the two groups- as well as the reporters weighing in when it comes to the Associated Press poll- right now like the football teams in the SEC the best.'s all about popularity and about past reputation.

And you can bet I'm glad that Mark Emmert has finally stepped out to endorse a D-1-A football playoff. (In the 1980s, Byers' successor, Dick Schultz, got canned by the university presidents for calling for a Division 1-A football playoff: "We don't think it's in the best interests of college athletics.")

Right from when the former University of Washington official got his present job on 11-1-2009, Emmert has told people he'd long expected changes in this so-called BCS system.

But I disagree with him when it comes to expanding the 1-A playoffs into a sixteen-team affair.

He claims it'll mean too many games ("I think that's too much to ask a young man's body to do") and that expanding the playoffs would intrude into the academic well as end the bowl system "that so many people like now."

Ed Schultz would call that "psychotalk."

All Mark has to do is take a look at the football playoffs his very own organization runs in Division 1-AA (a twenty-team affair that just got through seeing North Dakota State win it all- at Sam Houston State's expense), Division 2 (24 teams in it), and Division 3 (a 32-club event!).

You know what I say?

Make a Division 1-A event a 24-team playoff.

First of all, DON'T rely on the polls to get the field together. Make all eleven D-1-A leagues eligible- each circuit will have an automatic bid. That would leave thirteen at-large clubs to fill up a 24-team playoff.

Put all 123 Division 1-A squads (Massachusetts, Texas State, and Texas-San Antonio will jump up to 1-A this fall; if Appalachian State makes The Move, it'll give the division 124 clubs in 2012) under a point system similar to what your state's high school athletic association uses when it seeds football playoff entries. (This point system will work for even a four-team playoff!)

Here's what I use when I'm conducting my 1-A playoffs:

*A playoff qualifier gets 50 quality points every time it beats a Division 1-A team that enjoyed a winning season.

*It gets 45 quality points for each win against a Division 1-A club that finished at .500 or worse.

*Our team receives 40 points if it beats a Division 1-AA squad that won most of its games.

*The playoff team gets 35 points for stopping a 1-AA team that had a nonwinning year.

*An undefeated season nets that playoff team an extra 55 points.

*The team in question surrenders 50 quality points in the event of a loss to a winning 1-A team.

*Subtract 55 points if the team lost to a Division 1-A team that had a nonwinning season.

*The playoff squad gets 60 points taken off if it loses to a winning D-1-AA club.

*And should the 1-A playoff team lose to a 1-AA squad that had a .500 year or worse, the playoff team loses a whopping 65 points.

Any time two or more squads have the same number of quality points, the following tiebreakers kick in: Total number of victories chalked up by the teams' Division 1-A opponents; head-to-head competition; the tied teams' conference records; point differential in conference play; point differential in all games; and...a coin flip. (And the last five tiebreakers could be used to determine a conference's automatic qualifier. For instance, Cincinnati- and not West Virginia- would've gotten the Big East's automatic bid in 2011. That's because the Bearcats outscored their fellow league champs; the Mountaineers played Cincy and Louisville to a 59-59 tie; and the Cardinals were outscored by the U of C and WVU. All three teams had 1-1 marks against each other this past season.)

A system like this would take the media out of the selection process and would stress how a team did THIS SEASON, not how it did in the past.

Yes, I'm darn glad Emmert decided to publicly stick up for at least a four-team 1-A football playoff. (It's better than no playoff at all.)

After all, for the NCAA to initiate the process of crowning a REAL Division 1-A football titleholder would be a huge step in the right direction.

I'm tired of myths and fairy tales in Division 1-A football. How about you? 

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