Friday, January 8, 2010

Tournament Dreams

Alabama beat Texas for the BCS National Championship last night. Today, Alabama also got the AP National Championship as voted on by sports writers. Of course, the problem is that Boise State went undefeated too. (As Dan Wetzel said: “One of the BCS’s chief arguments is that it makes every week of the season a playoff. Well, if so, which week was Boise State eliminated?”)

Many people have and will continue to write about how a tournament should be set up. The one that makes the most sense to me is a 16-team tournament that includes every FBS Division champion and a few at-large entrants.

The Bowls could still exist independent of the tournament. This year there were 34 Bowl games featuring 68 teams. A 16-team tournament leaves 52 for the Bowls. Sure, you’d probably loose a few Bowls as ESPN would no longer need to bankroll as many since they’ll be airing playoff games, but not too many I don’t think. Who cares if the Bowls are meaningless? 33 of them are meaningless now.

With the conference championship games all being the first weekend in December, there are any number of ways you could logically lay out a 4-week tournament, whether you want to include the Bowls or not. If you let the Bowls do their own thing, the tournament could run the last three weekends in December and end the first weekend in January. You could even push that back and run it two weekends in December and two in January if you wanted to give yourself a week off to hype the tournament before it starts and allow the Army/Navy game to remain the only game the second weekend in December.

But if you want to throw the Bowls a bone, you start it right away allowing them to snap up teams eliminated in the first round.

If you want to include the Bowls, the tournament probably still plays its first two rounds the second and third weekend of December. (This still allows early eliminated teams to get slots in Bowl games.) You play those first two rounds on the home fields of the higher ceded teams, funneling more revenue into each school’s coffers and giving the regular season “home field advantage” relevance. Then you have anywhere from a two weeks to 10 days before New Year’s. A nice break for Christmas or finals or whatever.

Coming out of the 2nd round, you’ll have 4 winners and 4 losers. The 4 winners play in two of the Big-4 Bowl Games as the tournament semi-finals. The 4 losers play in the other two as consolation prizes. Why would a team eliminated from the tournament want to play in a Bowl game? Why do teams out of the National Title hunt do now? It’s a vacation, and they’re still good match-ups. They’re places for players to increase their spot in the draft. Then obviously, you alternate which Bowl games host the semi-finals and which host the consolation games. You can even still spread them out, with 2 games on the 1st, one on the 2nd and the last on the 3rd.

Then a week later you have the Championship Game. You could still rotate this around amongst the Big-4, but I think it makes more sense to operate this game independently and rotate it around the country like the Super Bowl.

Everyone wins. We get a true National Champion and the Bowls still get to exist and play a part. Who wouldn’t want that?

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