Monday, January 08, 2007

College Football Fans: A Reason Not to Watch the Game Tonight

Tonight's the college football national championship game between Ohio State and Florida. My guess is that Ohio State will win, but just about anything is possible in one game (for instance, I don't think USC is that much better than Michigan).

As usual, the national championship game is shrouded in controversy, which is heightened by the improbable Boise State victory over Oklahoma last week. At 13-0, many feel Boise State deserves a shot at the national title.

Although I don't think Boise State can match up with the likes of Ohio State, Florida, USC, or Michigan on most days, again, just about anything is possible in one game. And, the fact remains, at 13-0, it seems reasonable that Boise State at least deserves a shot.

The obvious answer to the controversy is to change the college bowl format into a playoff, similar to what exists in college basketball. That way, all of the top teams at the end of the regular season are afforded a shot at the title.

But standing in the way are some powerful conference commissioners. And no one is more powerful, they say, than Big Ten chief Jim Delany.

Here's what Delany has to say about the prospect of a playoff system for college football: "If the public walks away from our games during the regular season and walks away from television during the regular season and walks away from the bowls, they're saying, 'We won't support this anymore. We want something else.' But I don't see them walking away from anything."

Here that, public? If you want a playoff system, you're best chance at getting one is to not watch the national championship tonight, or any other Division I-A college football game, for that matter.

I don't have any trouble taking Delany up on his "the market knows best" challenge; but, then again, I'm not a huge fan of the college game (I much prefer the NFL). If the Badgers or a top NFL prospect aren't playing, I'm probably not watching. (I know a few prospects will be on display tonight, but I'm not all that interested in seeing Troy Smith or Ted Ginn. I did, however, take some time to watch Brady Quinn of Notre Dame take on JaMarcus Russell of LSU last week, and I came away really impressed by Russell.)

For those big fans of the college game -- who probably want a playoff the most -- not watching tonight's game would be nearly impossible. And that's the tough hand that Delany and the other college commissioners hold.

The only other way to get a playoff system is to show people like Delany that as profitable as the existing bowl system is, a playoff would be even more profitable. After all, just take a look at how many clueless bystanders (like myself) take the time to fill out a college basketball tournament bracket in March despite not taking even the faintest interest in any game up until that point.

A college football playoff could be that big, thereby reaching a set of people who otherwise could care less about the game.

But I'll let college football analyst Josh Peter explain the trick with that tactic:

The so-called BCS conferences – which include the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC – outnumber the less powerful conferences six to five. Thanks to that slim majority, the six conferences grant themselves automatic bids to the five BCS bowls and this year will take in more than three-quarters of the estimated $120 million the BCS will generate.

The annual yield since has widened the financial gap between the haves and have-nots, and since the formation of the BCS eight years ago, no conference has benefited more than the conference Delany runs. He appears determined to protect the Big Ten's economic interests even if it means preserving a flawed system.

So, college football fans, it seems the quickest way to your dream of a playoff is to do the unthinkable tonight: Don't watch the game.

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