Proving it on the field

Most of us know the BCS is a poor substitute for a playoff system. No sense in beating a dead horse. <br><br> However, with all the cries for a playoff system, I haven't seen (or even remember seeing) a format put forth in writing by anybody of influence. Why? You would think that someone would have by now.

I firmly believe that if just one influential person or organization stuck their necks out with a solid and well thought out plan, the country would rally behind it and help them force the change that is so desperately needed.

So, Beaver Nation (and anybody else out there), I decided not to wait for them and gave it a go. Using common sense as my primary guide (something that is sorely missing in the BCS system), the following outlines my idea for a Division 1A playoff system that a) allows the best team in the country to prove it on the field; and b) preserves the tradition, pageantry, etc. of bowl games. It isn't perfect (nothing ever is), but it is a solid place to start and should, at the very least, get people talking.


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 Division 1A basketball.

Currently, there are eleven (11) Division 1A 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
Conference USA
Mountain West
Sun Belt

I would treat the independent teams as members of a "conference". The team with the best overall record, regardless of strength of schedule or quality wins, gets the nod. The NCAA will determine how ties are resolved within this "conference". This should satisfy the Notre Dame contingency, if they choose to stay independent.

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

This leaves 5 teams that would receive an at-large bid. All bowl eligible teams, regardless of conference affiliation, would be considered. National polls, schedule strength and overall win-loss records would be considered. As I previously stated, the selection process would be patterned after Division 1A basketball. 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.


Who Plays Who Where?

The same NCAA committee is used to determine who the #1 thru #8 seeded teams are in each bracket. As before, polls, schedule strength, conference 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.

Playoff Brackets

I chose these games based on many factors, but mostly due to their relative proximity to large population bases. Also, games with longer traditions and larger payouts were rewarded with later rounds. Admittedly, the two games that will get the most upset will be the Fiesta and Sugar, 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 principal of using existing bowl games remains.

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

The "new" game would be a real championship, set up and marketed like the Super Bowl. Cities 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.


Preserving the "bowl tradition"

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 teams or vise versa. Obviously, some 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 felt it was time that somebody ran a plan up the flagpole to see if anybody saluted.

With nobody in the media or corporate world taking the lead, it's what we, the paying fans, can and should do.

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