Part II – A Modest Proposal Posted – 12/16/01 at InsideCarolina.com
Part III – A Modest Proposal Posted – 12/21/01 at InsideCarolina.com
The process will be modeled on that used by the NCAA in basketball. It will use a variety of computer generated power ratings, and the major media ranking polls. In the end, the judgment and experience of the Selection Committee will have to make subjective decisions on the last five or six teams selected to the field of 32, the ones that will always be toughest to decide on, and are inevitably the most controversial. With 32 selections, everyone starts with a shot at a championship, at least in their dreams.
A Revolutionary Concept: Non-Seeded Scheduling
If college football really wants to become the biggest game in town it has to be willing to chart new ground in creating their first play-off system. This is another case of where breaking the old paradigm of what a play-off should be, would be revolutionary. And the first goal would be to eliminate the traditional problem of opening round blahs. It would work this way.
First the selection committee would select the top 32 teams in the country. Next they would seed the top 16 teams, but they would not seed or rank the remaining 16. They then would chose from among all the remaining 16 teams those match-ups which would generate the most fan interest, regardless of outside rankings such as the polls. It is irrational to simply hope that the luck of the draw results in interesting matches in football styles, or classic grudge matches featuring two old rivals, or personality match-ups between coaches, or great individual player match-ups. Yet that is precisely why people watch football.
Creating Watchable Games
The committee's job is to do what the Bowls have failed so miserably at: provide the American football fan with 16 games that they actually have a real interest in watching.
What fan wouldn't have an interest in watching a Lou Holtz led South Carolina team play a Notre Dame team in the first round in years when both those teams are involved. Or, who would not want to see Bobby Bowden lead his FSU team against the Auburn team that fired his son, and cancelled their last scheduled game with only nine months notice because of that. Football is personalities, personalities on and off the field. The first round could match the top defensive back in the country against a big name quarterback, or a famous running back against the best middle linebacker in the country. It could pick at the scab of old wounds so painful that the two schools have stopped playing each other in the regular season.
After all, the truth is that seeding is never so precise to clearly and definitively differentiate the ability of one team over another, at best it is an approximation, especially in the lower end of the rankings. It is a convenient fiction, not a reality.
It is far better drama and better football to have a first round grudge match, such as FSU vs. Auburn, a game in which emotions matter, and where scores are settled. Both the teams and the viewer benefit, because of the emotional content of the game. Why is this means of determining match-ups significantly less fair? Does anyone really believe that it is possible to rank teams with precise accuracy in the lower half of the bracket, or whether that goal of ranking really is more important than the interest that tailor made match-ups would have?
When it is necessary to sell 80,000 tickets, making exciting match ups is far more important than when there are only 14,000 seats like there are in most basketball arenas. And to generate television viewer interest in a full week of football games, even for the rabid football fan, it is important to give those games the kind of human drama and interest that makes football such a great game.
At some point in scheduling the 16 opening round games, the selection committee is likely to run out of good match-up opponents. In those cases, they will use a ranking system for those schools left over, to make traditional seeded pairings with those schools left in the top 16 who do not have any natural match-up partners.
Tradition: A Block To Change?
Most traditionalists will simply knee-jerk an opposition to the concept of non-seeded match-ups, because they are a prisoner of their own paradigms of how it has historically been done, rather than what would be best for the game of football. It makes no more sense to allow a theoretical seeding to determine the opponents than it would to determine the out of conference schedules for schools by a random drawing among all NCAA teams.
One of the problems with college football television ratings today is there are not enough exciting match-ups created during the season to generate consistently high television viewer interest. Non-seeded scheduling in the play-offs is the opportunity to remedy the disease of ho-hum first round match-ups by replacing them with games that will generate national interest for a plethora of reasons.
One principle for scheduling would be grudge match-ups, caused by an endless number of reasons. Other matches that would hype fan interest would be fired coaches playing their old schools, such as in a Notre Dame-South Carolina match-up, or coaches who had left their schools for greener pastures. Games featuring Rick Neuheisel against Colorado, or TCU against Dennis Franchione who moved on to Alabama would be easy to hype as television events. Another principle would be to match a Heisman QB or wide receiver against an All-American defensive back or linebacker of national stature. Other principles of match-ups would be highly ranked passing offenses against highly ranked running attacks, or top rated defenses against top rated offenses.
Doc's proposal wraps up with the games themselves….coming tomorrow!