The system is broken, and I’m not sure there is a way to fix it
A few months back on a local sports radio show, the question was posed to me about what I thought of the Big 10 reversing decision and deciding to play football.
I took in a long, deep breath and let loose with about 10 solid minutes of my thoughts. Key amongst them was the lone fact and only reason I saw behind the Big 10’s reversal: they had to get Ohio State into the playoffs.
Roughly three months later, the plot worked. Ohio State, who only played six games, two on the road and beat exactly two teams with winning records, is the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
Another quick note about the Buckeyes. Because Ohio State only played five regular season games, the conference had to convene a special meeting and vote to change the rule allowing Ohio State to even play in the title game.
But of course, there was never any doubt that the conference that mocked the others for playing during COVID-19 would do everything in its power to ensure its flagship football program reached the playoffs.
And the playoff committee allowed all of it to happen, while praising the Buckeyes the whole way.
When college football scrapped the BCS for the current four-team playoff system to determine the national champion, pundits praised the idea and talked about how it would allow all sorts of teams to now have a chance to win the national title.
In reality, the playoff has become a big snob party allowing a handful of teams to compete for the national title while making sure that certain conferences and any team not in a power five conference has almost no chance of sneaking in.
And while the playoff committee has a long list of criteria it uses to evaluate teams with the majority having no true quantifiable measure, perhaps the biggest criteria is name. So, this season as Texas A&M finished 8-1 with its lone loss coming to Alabama, and Cincinnati managed to finish 9-0, the two teams had almost as much of a chance of reaching the playoffs as I had of winning this year’s Heisman Trophy – in a word – none.
So while the Big 10 fell all over itself, reversing decisions not because of health and safety but because it might lose out on the big fat playoff checks coming. The Big 12 that helped ensure the season would be played got left out in the cold, and the Pac 10 wasn’t even a factor.
The sad part in all of this is that the playoff committee hammered Cincinnati in its rankings a few weeks ago, dropping them a spot or two because the Bearcats couldn’t play a couple of games due to COVID-19. At the same time, the playoff committee boosted Ohio State, who also lost games to COVID-19.
So apparently, Ohio State’s games they didn’t play were much better than the games Cincinnati didn’t play. The real reason was the committee panicked and had to drop the Bearcats a few spots in case some upsets happened.
A couple of years back, I wrote a column wishing the playoff would grow to eight teams and made a solid case for it. My hope now is that the non-power five schools will band together and walk away from the playoff and form their own. It’s obvious the playoff committee will never allow them a spot, so why not?
The bowl system is on life support. Unless the bowl happens to be the semifinal or final game, teams and fans don’t care. Key players opt out of the games to get ready for the NFL draft, leaving games lacking key draws for the fans to plunk down big money and travel dollars.
The funny thing is the playoff committee had a great chance to prove the playoff system isn’t rigged. This year has been beyond crazy. No one would have faulted the committee if they chose to give the Big 12 and a non-power five school a pat on the back and include them.
Granted, I didn’t want Oklahoma in the playoffs again, but Cincinnati earned their shot. So what if Alabama might beat them by four touchdowns? It’s not like Notre Dame will do any better.
At the end of the day, I can talk till I’m blue in the face and it won’t matter. The system is and will remain broken. If only the committee could find a conference they could emulate. Say, one that looked at its rules and changed every one possible to ensure the outcome it wanted.
So maybe there is hope that one day the committee will use the Big 10’s shining example of rigging the game. Except this time, they rig in favor of the schools on the outside looking in. Not saying that would fix the system, but at least at that point it would be much closer to what it should be.