At the recent IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, NCAA leaders sat on a panel. The ensuing discussion became much more than the typical polite exchanges.
From their comments at the forum and elsewhere arise several lines drawn in the sand on a range of topics.
In Part 1, we reviewed the position of the NCAA and the BCS position on mid majors and links to references for all.
In Part 2, we reviewed their position on a post BCS landscape.
In Part 3, we reviewed a playoff isn’t an option.
In Part 4, we reviewed no conference opposes a seeded 4 format, they oppose the inevitable larger formats.
In Part 5, we reviewed a playoff’s impact on the bowls
In Part 6, we reviewed a playoff’s impact on the regular season
In Part 7, we reviewed the different economic dynamics which lead to mid majors favoring playoffs, majors opposing them.
In Part 8 we reviewed the supporting and opposing arguments for the earlier parts.
The majors would be receptive to a seeded 4 format if it wasn’t believed it would inevitably grow to larger formats. Their concern with larger formats are their fiscal impact on the regular season and the other bowls.
This doesn’t mean the playoff proponents should just give up
…but their actions are making a playoff less likely, not closer to fruition.
Here is a starter list of things playoff proponents can do to help bring about a change. This focuses on 3 aspects:
-Changing the environment the majors are basing their decisions on
-Providing a benefit to the majors to make a change (fan approval without pressure to expand)
-Provide reason not to expand past a 4 team format (the concern of the majors)
1, Quit blindly buying into the comments by anyone who says what you want to hear
This includes every conference commissioner (no conference favors a playoff), every mid major representative (their preference is driven by finances as much as the majors), every university president and athletic director (they only become vocal when a playoff would benefit their program then disappear into the crowd), and headline grabbing hacks like Cuban (does he really think anything he says would sway anyone with a vote?)
The comments by these groups place a playoff further out of reach – they are not going to change anyone’s mind. If you provide cover for those seeking press and spouting lies and false characterizations, you will never get the real issues on the table for discussion.
2. If you give a frak, tone down your rhetoric
The conference commissioners, universities, and networks aren’t just another guy on the street. They have spent far more quality time studying the issue, and have access to more information than any of us.
They have no reason to listen to someone unfamiliar with the details who is more interested in hearing their talking points than educating themselves to the reason for opposition.
No matter what the volume or quantity, they are no more inclined to listen to a playoff proponent screaming un informed conclusions than a ranting crazy on a street corner in piss stained pants.
3. Educate yourself and be realistic
If you are going to talk on the subject, make sure you have at least some basic knowledge on the subject.
It won’t be easy – it encompasses amateur athletics, amateur athletes, donor relations, TV demographics, traditions, advertising, NCAA, anti-trust laws, and more of topics effecting organizations managing 9 digit revenue. Don’t expect to catch up with just a couple articles… but if you don’t know the topic at hand, why would anyone care about your opinion?
The universities, networks, bowls, BCS, and private groups are headed by people earning 7 digit incomes with large staffs, consulting firms, and information we could only dream of at their disposal. They have collaboratively studied the issues for years. It would be supreme arrogance to believe you can come up with something new for consideration or harbor the belief you know more than they do.
The reality is you will never know more than they do because even if you had access to the same information, you would’t know how to interpret the results and/or project their results (example – TV demographics). Without their information, you aren’t going to disprove their beliefs.
4. Make their concerns your concerns
How often have you read a comment where a playoff proponent doesn’t care about an issue of concern to those making the decision?
They have responsibilities beyond the gridiron. They carry the final decision. They aren’t making rash decisions. They aren’t going to be swayed by just the right phrase more fit for a bumper sticker than a subjective decision.
If you don’t share their concerns, don’t expect to receive anything more than lip service in response.
5. Throw out your playoff format #1,582
Talk about your arrogance – if the issue was really just the format, don’t you think they would be able to use their resources to have developed an answer by now?
Honestly – do you really think you will come up with something more acceptable than those with access to resources you couldn’t imagine?
The majors have stated their primary concern is inevitable growth to larger formats – rolling out playoff format #1,583 only strengthens this belief and the reason you have a 2 team format.
6. Give up the idea eliminating the BCS will bring about a playoff format
The BCS offers a cooperative framework including the NCAA, 4 major bowls, all of the conferences, and most independents – a solid starting point for a playoff structure to arise.
If the BCS folded, why would they enter into another cooperative agreement? It took a lot to get everyone on board a 2 team format – break it up and expect them to abandon the concept, not start over at square 1.
It is evident they aren’t turning the post season over to the NCAA nor will the NCAA force the issue.
If you want a playoff, you will need to change the format of the BCS, not eliminate it.
7. Chant in unison “Seeded 4”
It already has support among all of those with a vote that counts.
If they are opposed to change, the next step from a 2 team format isn’t a 16 team playoff – it is a 4 team format (duh!)
Those with a vote adamantly oppose larger formats. From their point of view, it isn’t true that “Any playoff format would be better” (remember #4 above).
Chant in unison “Seeded 4” and you will be on the same page as those making the decision and might get your wish. Seek larger formats and you will get nothing.
Quit throwing your fit you can’t get it exactly your way. Given that you have no vote, it is a fair offer.
If you need more detail, the BCS top 4 with not more than 1 team from a conference would garner the most support – take it or leave it – the majors would be fine with the old system.
8. Adamantly oppose larger formats
Take all of your rhetoric , rants, and childish fits and use it to shoot down larger formats - they are as much in the way of a playoff as anything else.
Anything you can do to alleviate the concern it would grow to a larger format helps bring about a playoff. Anything you do to allow calls for larger formats puts any playoff further away.
9. Admonish the 5th and lower whiners
Thrash all of those who complain a team outside the top 4 didn’t get an invite to the title game.
If they have a gripe, take it to the computer polls and pollsters, or take it to their own programs and demand they schedule tougher OOC games.
Teams ranked 5th and lower complaining they didn’t get an invite feeds the concern a playoff would grow larger. Invalidating their claim helps alleviate the concerns the majors have.
10. Support the bowls
How many times have you read a playoff supporter say they don’t care about the other bowls?
The dissolution of the other bowls is a component of the financial loss the majors expect under a playoff. It is not just the direct and indirect bowl revenue; it affects the significance of regular season games by teams outside the BCS chase.
Strengthening these bowls to where they could realistically expect to survive alongside a playoff would alleviate a major financial concern.
11. Before your next rant, know your opposition
It shouldn’t be a surprise most BCS supporters didn’t start out as BCS supporters. A playoff is the natural tendency for a fan to favor.
Most arrived at their decision only after looking at the reasons not to have a playoff and finding them more compelling than playoff supporters’ talking points.
The BCS supporters don’t discount the opinion of playoff supporters because they have a different opinion – they discount their opinion because they took the time to look at the facts from a neutral perspective.
It doesn’t take a lot to recognize the misconceptions most playoff proponents hold (such as a large format playoff crowning the best team).
12. Develop reasons to expand to 4 but not more
It is not enough just to diminish their existing concerns - since they don't see a big gain at 4 financially, there has to be a reason to take the risk.
I have only found 1 so far - implementing a system that is most likely to crown the best team.
A. As a playoff expands, the chances the best team is invited increases, but so does the chances of an upset.
B. The chances the best team is not invited drops quickly while the chances of an upset increases with each round.
C. Eventually the chances of the best team being upset passes the chances the best team is not invited, at which time the chances the best team is crowned drops.
D. Using reasonable estimates, the best results come from a 4 team format, the results drop at 8 or more.
The choice is yours
It won’t come fast.
The actions and rhetoric of playoff proponents have placed them further from a playoff by convincing the majors, networks and bowls the fans would never be satisfied with a seeded 4. Congratulations – you are the biggest obstacle to a playoff.
It would take a long time to undo the damage of these actions… but given the length of BCS contracts, there is plenty of time available.
You can change your methods and you might get a seeded 4 playoff, or you can continue down the current path and get nothing.
For a list of references, see Lines in the Sand Part 1