The 2011 College Football Season is over and you may not have even noticed. The Alabama Crimson Tide’s 21-0 annihilation of previously #1 LSU was nearly an afterthought even before the game other than in places like the Deep South. Did the nation really care to watch a rematch of a 9-6 game? Obviously, it did not as the ratings for the game were the lowest in the 14-year history of the BCS title game. Was this the reason NCAA President Mark Emmert stated within about 48 hours of the game that college football would move to a four-team playoff? Yes and no is the correct answer here. Unfortunately, I believe it has as much to do with the scandals surrounding the sport and a need to stay relevant throughout the holiday season as anything else.
No question the biggest story in college football this year was the child-sex scandal atPennStateinvolving long-time assistant Jerry Sandusky. The scandal was way bigger than just the alleged incidents as the longest-serving coach in the history of the game was fired from the University leaving many in difficult position. Did supporting Paterno mean supportingSandusky? Most would say no, but where to differentiate was the question. The Nittany Lions may recover on the field someday, but the university will never shed the image of what has or “allegedly” has happened here. It is a black eye that will not leaveState Collegeor NCAA football anytime soon.
Not far from Penn State is the campus of Ohio State University and no, I’m not putting ‘The’ in front of it either for numerous reasons but I digress. The problems for the Buckeyes and NCAA started pretty much 12 months ago when the school should have done the right thing and suspended the five players guilty of receiving tattoos for merchandise prior to the 2011 Sugar Bowl. Not surprisingly, the Sugar Bowl folks pleaded with all the powers that be to let them play for fear of poor TV ratings and they got their wish. OSU is much further along in recovery thanPennState is and will ever be. The two scandals are frankly not even comparable, but they do emphasize a growing problem in college football and that is corruption.
So how does adding a four-team playoff solve all of these problems? Actually, it doesn’t, but it does create more water cooler fodder at this time of year than the bowl season has in recent years. It will not eliminate the “who should have been the 4th team in?” debate but at least we are moving in the right direction. The BCS game between Bama and LSU was nearly a moot point because the NFL playoffs were underway and were easily the bigger topic than a ‘regional’ national title game. College basketball season heading into conference play didn’t help the game either with so many interesting storylines in hoops already underway.
I honestly believe you will finally see college football do the right thing and find a way to make sure the season ends no later than January 2nd each year. The four-team semi-final could be played the weekend before Christmas and then allow for a bye-week leading into a championship game on January 2nd. All of the other bowl games could still go on as scheduled and more importantly, BCS bowls not involved in the four-team playoff rotation could still be played on their traditional date of 1/1.
Think what you will about the reasons for the NCAA finally pushing towards a playoff but they are many. Hopefully it will put college football back on the map at a time when it normally ruled the landscape. In this particular case, change is good for all involved.