Proving it on the field…revisited

Last year at this time, I submitted my plan for a NCAA Division 1 playoff system thanks to the silly results of the BSCS. With the absolute reaming the USC Trojans received this year, I thought it apropos that I throw it out again for your consideration. I have slightly modified it for 2003, but 99% of it remains the same.

Common sense and simple logic (both radical concepts in the eyes of the BSCS) were my guides. It isn’t perfect (nothing ever is), but it’s solid and, more importantly, detailed…something nobody has publicly presented yet.

With that said, here’s how I would determine a National Champion on the field if the Soprano Family ran college football…


The Format
A 16-team bracket would be created, divided equally between “east” and “west” teams. These teams would be a combination of conference champions and at-large teams that are selected by an NCAA committee, just like it’s done for March Madness in Division 1 basketball. The members of the committee would include the commissioner/president of each conference, one representative of both the AP and ESPN coaches poll, and at least one representative of the NCAA organization. The total must be an odd number to prevent any ties. This committee would only decide two things: 1) The seeding of the brackets and 2) The at-large berths. These things could be decided by a simple majority vote held by secret ballot.

Currently, there are eleven (11) Division 1 conferences. In my system, each and every conference champion would receive an automatic berth into the playoffs. To that end, I would divide the conferences into Eastern and Western bracket affiliations in the following manner:

Western Bracket
Eastern Bracket
Big 12 Big East
Big 10 ACC
Pac-10 Conference USA
Mountain West Mid-American
Sun Belt Independent

Each official member conference will have the autonomy to determine their champion, including all tiebreaker situations and additional conference championship games, just like they do today.

Next, I would treat the independent teams as members of a “conference”. The team with the best overall record, with a nod to strength of schedule, should be chosen. The aforementioned playoff committee would determine how ties are resolved within this “conference”. This should satisfy the Notre Dame contingency, if they choose to stay independent.

This leaves 5 teams that would receive an at-large bid. All bowl eligible teams (no less than a winning record…not that it would ever drop to that weak of a team), regardless of conference affiliation, would be considered. National polls, schedule strength and overall win-loss records would be factored in.

Furthermore, should a new conference be added, they would obtain one of the at-large bids and the at-large bids would be reduced accordingly. Conversely, if a conference folds/merges, then the number of at-large bids would increase accordingly.


The Bracket
As stated, the committee is used to determine who the #1 thru #8 seeded teams are in each bracket. As before, polls, schedule strength and overall win-loss records would be considered. The #1 seed would play #8, #2 would play #7 and so forth.

In Round #1, the “upper” bracket would hold the #1, 8, 3 and 6 seeds. The “lower” bracket would hold the #2, 7, 4 and 5 seeds. The winner advances and the loser heads home.

Only one new game needs to be created as existing bowls are “acquired” for the rest of the game sites.

Click bracket for larger picture.

I chose these games based on many factors, but mostly due to their relative proximity to the teams population bases (to help with attendance) as well as making the distance traveled by each school shorter. The two games that would get the most upset are the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls, since they are currently part of the BCS “elite”, but this is the part that I’m most flexible on. There is plenty of room for modification and negotiation, as long as the principals I’ve explained remain intact.

The start and end dates of the Tournament should fit neatly within the Christmas holiday breaks at a majority of the member schools, with the exception of the Championship game, as most Finals Weeks are completed by the second Friday of December. Furthermore, these same schools can easily make special final exam arrangements for the players if necessary, but the chances of conflict are small at best.

As each team advances, they would receive the guaranteed payout for each game they play in. The more you win, the more money your school and affiliated conference gets.

The “new” game would thereby become a real championship, proven on the field and marketed like the Super Bowl. Cities with major stadiums would bid on hosting the game, with sponsorship and TV money falling from the heavens. I would also hold the game the week before Super Bowl Weekend…on Saturday, of course.

This format may require moving the start of some team’s regular season back by a week, especially in those conferences that have championship games. It would also require that all regular season games be completed by the end of November, which is usually the case anyway, as well as permanently eliminating any preseason “classic” games and capping every team’s regular season at 11 games.

Finally, the extra games any given playoff team could play would break down like this:

8 teams would have no change
8 teams would play 1 more game
4 teams would play 2 more games
2 teams would play 3 more games

If every other level of college football can handle this, it seems reasonable that Division 1 could as well.


The Other Bowls
As you can see, I use existing bowls to host the playoff games and only 14 of the current 28 bowl games are “acquired”. So what happens to the rest of them?

Essentially, nothing! The remaining bowls would continue to operate just as they do today, but with the potential for better match-ups. In fact, I’d recommend that all the remaining bowls become “at-large” in format, allowing them to bid for the remaining bowl-eligible teams. Obviously, some of the bowl dates may need to be changed, but each bowl’s organizational structure and sponsor relationships can easily remain intact.


That’s It
Once again, my purpose was not to try to solve each and every little issue that would come up if a playoff format were implemented, nor do I feel that my system is above suggestion or modification. I simply feel it is time that somebody ran a detailed plan up the flagpole to see if anybody saluted.

Besides, I can’t keep my mouth regardless of how hard I try.


Tony Soprano can be reached at

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