As one meaningless bowl game after another passes by my screen it becomes painfully obvious that the BCS and the existing bowl system is passe as the horse and buggy. In two months the greatest spectacle in college sports will commence with the NCAA tourney. Great as the college football season is, the current system does not satisfy the desire to prove without a doubt who is the best. Sure the current system allows 32 teams to at least feel good about their season, no matter how mediocre. But it is also a system in which most of these exhibitions are played in front of sparse audiences and which do not register beyond the immediate fan bases.
The real question that beckons is how to pull this off. All the reasons have been given on why it should not happen(ie: longer season, interupting exams and classtime, etc) but the reality is that it cannot be ignored any longer. The old bowl system and the corporate money that fuels the beast must be appeased and incorporated into the new system, but the system must change or in time the beast will not die per se, but will become irrelevent.
Some say a ‘plus one or plus two’ will suffice, others say the top 8. I say that does not incorporate what a natioanl championship is supposed to be about. The NCAA basketball tournament is special because it is the David who occasionally slays a Goliath. That sort of inclusion must be part of the equation.
My view is that a 24 team playoff would be the perfect solution. Every conference in 1-A should be guaranteed one slot for their champion. That would be 11 slots, the others can be given out at-large. That would allow for teams like Georgia, who is playing well as anyone in the nation to see just how far they can go.
First this would make it manditory to have all regular season games concluding by Thanksgiving weekend. If you have conference championship games then you will need to play them on this weekend. Though with a new system I could see this concept being abandoned. Especially in those conferences that struggle to pull in big numbers at the gate and on the tube (ACC I am looking at you). What this will mean is that the college season would need to just kick off a week or two earlier.
Pairings would be announced live in primetime that Sunday. Break it down like the NCAA with different reigons or brackets, go geographic with the names, or name them after the bowls they will play into. The top two seeds get bye’s and the #3 would host to the #6, #4 to#5. Just like the NFL the lowest remaining seeds visit the highest seed that got a bye, if this means reshuffling the deck when a road team wins, then so be it! The second round games would also be played on site.
At this point exams will be looming so a 3 week hiatus will go into effect. The playoffs would resume with the regional finals being played at a neutral site. This is where the bowl system would be a big player. Put the rights to host up for bidding just like in hoops. This would continue for the remainder of the tournament, if that leads to one day having the national title decided in the Chic-Fil-A bowl, then so be it!
This is a system that would award and make regular season success valid. This is a system that would ensure that everyone gets a chance. It is one that will give the schools a chance to make a lot more money. It will keep the most meaningful aspects of the existing system alive, not only that this will give new life to bowls thought irreversibly irrelevent. Sure a few bad bowls will die, but do we really need the Weedeater Bowl?
(Paul T. Lambeth II is also the host of The Classic Corner on WSGE 91.7FM, his show can be heard worldwide Sundays from 10a-2p eastern time at www.wsge.org)