The end is near for the Bowl Championship Series that has seen a team from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) win eight of the 14 National Championship games. It will be replaced in 2014 with a four-team playoff that will rotate the two semi-final games between the four current BCS bowls (Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, and Rose) with the championship game moving around the country like the NFL Super Bowl. Cities will bid for the right to host the final college football game of the year.
Moving to a playoff system is the right thing for the NCAA to do, but a four-team playoff is uninspired and will do little to change the status quo in college football, particularly when you consider there are 120 Division 1 (D1) teams competing.
Since the BCS held its first National Championship game in 1998, very few teams and conferences have been represented, with only a handful of additional teams considered for the big game. Here’s a quick look at the numbers for the BCS National Championship game since its inception:
- Number of conferences making appearances: Six (SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Pac 12).
- Conference with most appearances: SEC with nine.
- Conference with the most wins: SEC with eight, with the only SEC loss against another SEC team in 2011.
- Appearances by conferences: SEC: nine (8-1); Big 12: seven (2-5); ACC: three (1-2); Big East: three (1-2); Big Ten: three (1-2); Pac 12: three (1-2).
- Most appearances by team: Four: Oklahoma (1-3).
- Most wins by a team: Two: Alabama (2-0), Florida (2-0), LSU (2-1).
There’s no question the SEC is the most dominant conference in college football, as not only evidenced by its recent success in the BCS National Championship Game, but in its history as a conference. For more than 50 years, its teams have played an ever-present role in the biggest bowl games each season. This begs the question of how will a four-team playoff change this?
Even the National Football League sends 12 of its 32 teams to the post season each year, with preferential placement for division winners. Out of 120 D1 teams competing each season, it feels like the NCAA, which made accommodations for 10 teams in the post-season through the BCS, has taken a step backward with its four-team solution.
There are many concerns with this new structure. What will happen in when the SEC has the number one and two ranked teams at the end of the season, with the number one team undefeated and the number two team with a lone loss in the SEC Championship game? What if the SEC has two or more teams ranked in the top four at the end of the season? Will they take 50 percent of the slots?
Another inexplicable change is the move away from highly sophisticated ranking algorithms to a system where a selection committee (as yet to be identified) will choose—and seed—the four teams that will compete for all the marbles.
I believe the NCAA needs to move to a system that includes 16 teams. Take the winner of each major conference as an automatic bid, and four “at large” teams based on where they fall in the polls at the end of each regular season.
This approach would only add two additional weeks to the playoffs, with the three rounds (eight teams) rotating through six major bowl games and the National Championship game rotating through competing cities.
Let’s hope the NCAA views the new four-team format as a roadmap and quickly moves to inviting 16 teams to compete. It’s the only sensible move to give more teams—and conferences—a shot at raising the championship trophy each January.
What do you think of the new NCAA playoff structure?
NCAA Playoff Set For 2014
← Go Back