How The NCAA Can Improve FB & BK

As Mel Brooks said in "History of the World", "It's good to be king." If some cosmic disruption put me on the throne of the NCAA, here's what I'd do to improve the product in both football and basketball. But first things first. Why would I want my palace in Kansas?

Taking a page from the tsars, my summer palace would be near my suburban Northern New Jersey home and my winter palace would be in Boca Raton. My August would be spent at Saratoga Springs, "improving the breed." Ah yes, it's good to be king (or tsar). Just make sure someone's keeping an eye on those annoying Bolsheviks! Now let's get serious.

The one topic that's sure to stir up a lively debate is the BCS/bowl game situation. Let's table that for the moment, though. The first thing that needs to be changed is the regular season schedule:
  • 1. Limit teams to an 11 game schedule, with the following exceptions:

    A. "Pre-Season games" (currently only the Black Coaches' Association Classic) would not count against the limit.
    B. Hawaii and teams traveling to Hawaii would be permitted to play a 12th game.
    C. Existing contracts for future games would be honored, even if that resulted in a 12th game.

  • 2. Division One teams will no longer be able to schedule games against lower division teams. Again, existing contracts would be honored.

  • 3. Teams must win six games against Division One teams AND have an over .500 record against Division One teams to qualify for a bowl game.

  • 4. All teams must complete their regular season schedule by the Saturday after Thanksgiving. If Army and Navy insist on continuing to play on the 1st Saturday in December, I can live with that. All league championship games must be played by the 1st Saturday in December.

The current start date for high school seniors to officially sign their Letter of Intent (early February of their senior year) causes too many problems. I don't care for the way it's done in basketball either, permitting an early signing period during the junior year. I'm in favor of moving the Letter of Intent date up to the first weekday after New Year's Day. This would still permit most recruits to make their five official visits and give them a quiet period over the Holidays to reach their decision. It would also cut down on the increasing "poaching" of verbals. Coaching staffs would have most of their incoming class signed by early January. They would not have to waste another five weeks "baby sitting" their verbals or trying to take away players from other schools.

If a head coach leaves his job after a Letter of Intent is signed, incoming freshmen can be released from their Letter of Intent without penalty provided the request is made before the start of that school's fall practice.

The NCAA will establish specific guidelines for the granting of a 6th year of eligibility. The current process is at least somewhat subjective, and leads to the suspicion that some schools are shown favoritism.

Now, it's time to discuss the BCS and the bowl system. With the schedule changes I listed above in place, a playoff system would be very viable. The ideal set-up would be an eight team playoff, with the rankings determined by some combination of "human polls" and computers. This would result in seven games (four 1st Round, 2 Semi-Final, and a Championship) as opposed to four (soon to be five) BCS bowls. To keep the better "non-BCS" bowls happy, they'd host a 1st Round playoff game every two or three years instead of their usual mundane match-up between the 3rd place team in one conference and the 4th place team in another. The higher ranked team would have the choice of location for their 1st Round game (i.e. the #1 ranked team would decide which of the four locations they'd prefer to take on the #8 team, the #2 ranked team would have the 2nd choice, etc.). There would be a rotation among the four current BCS bowls for the semi-final and championship games. That means they'd host a semi-final or championship game three of every four years. Some of the enormous additional television revenue this playoff system would generate would be given to the "non-playoff" bowls to compensate them. Of course, each Division One school would get a piece of the additional revenue as well. Yes, the non-playoff bowls would still not be very happy. However, they must either accept the changes or eliminate their bowl. The tail has been wagging the dog for far too long! Frankly, there are too many bowls anyway. Eliminating three or four would be a positive step. Can you honestly say you'd miss the Humanitarian Bowl? I didn't think so!

There's no reason Division One schools should schedule games against non-Division One opponents. If you want to play a cupcake out-of-conference schedule, you can easily do it within Division One. Therefore, there will be no more such games permitted.

The reliance on the three point shot has led to a lack of fundamentals. Let's at least make it really worth three points. Move the line back to NBA range. Then, maybe more than a handful of players will actually learn to consistently make a 12 foot jump shot.

I'm tired of teams "extending the game" by fouling before the ball is in play. To eliminate this, these fouls will now be considered intentional (free throws plus loss of possession) if they occur in the final minute of regulation or overtime.

I'm far from convinced that an early signing period (for high school juniors) is a good idea. However, I can live with it as long as recruits can be released from their Letter of Intent without penalty if the head coach in place at the time the LOI was signed is no longer there. The player must request the release before the start of the fall semester of their freshman year.

The NCAA tournament is one of the great sporting events in the country. However, it can be improved. The number of "play-in" games should be increased from one to four. This would eliminate the four weakest teams from the tournament, and open up three additional spots to deserving teams that are on the wrong side of "the bubble." The #1 seeds would get their automatic win against the 16th seeded play-in game winners. However, the #2 vs. #15 and #3 vs. #14 games would be a lot more interesting! Besides, ESPN would get to televise four games on "Play-In Monday." Who could forget the drama of this year's play-in game between Florida A&M and Lehigh! Now, we'll have three more classics each year!

Simplify the NCAA rule book. You shouldn't need a law degree to determine if an action is a violation.

Once all of these changes have been implemented, I'll abdicate my throne. Boca in the winter is overrated anyway!

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