Column: Not so fast on that playoff
ST. LOUIS (MCT) — The lords of college football are a rather predictable lot. For years they have perpetrated the biggest hoax in American sports on us, the bogus notion that the rigged system of the Bowl Championship Series was a legitimate national championship game for college football. And now after all these years — and without the common decency to at least take the masks off their faces — these scoundrels now want us to trust them when they tell us this time they’re really going to get it right.
Over the past few months we’ve heard a lot of chatter from the folks who created the failed BCS system that they’re finally ready to ditch it and give college football fans exactly what they want, a legitimate championship playoff system. Except now we’re finding out that everyone isn’t exactly ready to join the parade for a four-team playoff process ... at least not until they get some assurances the process will include some crafty sleight of hand that provides them with a guaranteed golden ticket to college football’s new Final Four.
“I think if the Big Ten presidents were to vote today, we would vote for the status quo. We think it best serves college football,” Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman told reporters on Monday at the conclusion of the Big Ten spring meetings in Chicago.
This is what you might call the old “Okee-doke.” Even while the momentum seems to be building for a major landscape change in college football — even while college athletic administrators, conference commissioners and university presidents of all the major BCS schools are scheduled to meet several times over the next three weeks to hammer out the details of the four-team playoff — there are too many voices coming out of the Big Ten meetings (and in perfect self-serving harmony off on the western horizon we’re getting more of the same from the men who run the Pac-12) who are conducting a fierce public back peddle on progress.
“If you asked our athletic directors, our football coaches or our chancellors and presidents, we don’t find the fault with the (current BCS) system that a lot of others do,” said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. “We think it has served us well but, obviously over time, it’s been battered and criticized.”
So even while a little less than a week ago we were getting so many positive vibes from the Southeastern Conference spring meetings that change was not only inevitable, it was being greeted with open arms, we get a bunch of shifty double-talk from the Big Ten. Like I said, it’s all quite predictable. It’s also a wonderful reason not to trust these guys and a warning of why we should begin the business of lowering expectations and preparing for the disturbing possibility that a legitimate college football playoff system is no longer as inevitable as we hoped.
Recently, incoming Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he believed a June 26 meeting in Washington, D.C., of the BCS presidential oversight committee could produce an announcement about the framework of a new playoff system. Throughout college football, there was plenty of positive talk that two meetings of the division I conference commissioners on June 13 and June 20 could provide the oversight committee with everything it needs to determine a workable playoff structure.
Now I fear when the process is announced in July, we’ll find out it’s another elaborate charade, another BCS concoction full of flaws that satisfies no one and only insures that the non-BCS schools won’t be treated fairly. In Chicago we heard Delany contradict himself repeatedly (he wants automatic conference bids, he doesn’t want automatic bids; he loves the BCS status quo, he hates the BCS system; he loves the four-team playoff proposal, a plus-one system is what the Big Ten really wants.)
When you have as powerful a figure in college football as Delany spinning in five different directions about how the playoff system ought to work, it reinforces why we need to dial back our previous enthusiasm that a real football playoff was on the horizon.
While I still believe the best possible solution would be an eight-team playoff, for the time being I think the four-team system is at the very least a good starting point to build upon. In the meantime, though, watch these men carefully.
When they show us the plan, read the fine print carefully. Then read it again. And it might be wise to pass it on to someone else to analyze too — perhaps someone with a well-trained legal eye for devious loopholes that gerrymander favors for the major BCS conferences and exclude the Boise States of the world — and only then should you get comfortable with the idea that these conniving characters have really done what they say they’re doing.
And then read it again, because the only thing that’s certain when you’re dealing with these characters is that they have a long, predictable history of trying to sell you different versions of the same ugly pig.
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