Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

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Playoffs vs. Bowls

January 7, 2011

Here’s a subject I’ve been thinking about, but it had to wait for the right time of year to get posted. Guess what, now is the time.

 

I consider myself a college football fan. I watch a lot of different sports, but college football is one of my favorites. So it tends to surprise people when I say that I prefer the current BCS (“Bowl Championship Series” for those that don’t follow it) over any system of playoffs for determining a national champion.

 

The argument for a playoff basically comes down to “settle it on the field.” There are 120 Division I teams, and they only play 12-14 games a year. This creates a situation where most of the best teams don’t play each other during a season, and all that’s left is for fans to argue about whose team is better. Playoffs would theoretically settle some of those debates, and at the very least would make sure that every deserving team would have an opportunity to play for the championship.

 

But while that might create a couple of dramatic games at the end of the season, it would take away all the drama from the regular season, and the regular season is what sets college football apart from other sports. Under the current system, a team basically has to go undefeated to be elligible for the championship. That means that every game is an elimination game, from the beginning of the season to the end. Every game has that playoff drama.

 

What’s the quintessential image of a college football game? The students rushing on to the field after a big win. What inspires them to do that? When an underdog school happens to knock off a powerhouse, on that day the underdog matters. They had an impact on the championship picture and ruined the powerhouse school’s season. If there was a playoff, then the game is much less significant. The powerhouse school probably just gets a lower seed. That’s hardly worth celebrating.

 

I could also argue that college football doesn’t need a national champion at all. That kind of contradicts the idea that you have to go undefeated to qualify for the championship, and that being the foundation of the drama of the regular season. But college football is structured to create plenty of other things for teams to play for, with conference championships and different bowl games. As I said before, it’s impossible for all the teams to play each other to really determine who’s best, so does it really matter if one team is declared champion at the end of the year?

 

Pro football is strictly an entertainment business, and as such it makes sense for them to have a playoff structure and a championship to play for. College football is supposed to be an activity that complements a student’s education, and maybe an opportunity to get that education for some who couldn’t afford it otherwise. Those would be good things in theory, but in practice too many schools are putting football first and education second. Not that that’s likely to change any time soon, but pro-style playoffs would only make it worse. I think we’d all be better off if colleges kept education as their top priority. Tuitions have been rising at a ridiculous rate lately, and I have to believe that the costs of college sports are playing a role in that.

 

College football isn’t perfect, but it’s plenty entertaining the way it is. If we want to address its problems, address them in the classroom first. Trying to add a playoff system would just make everything worse.