Commentary

Presidents get playoff plan right

Originally Published: June 26, 2012
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

Presenting the five greatest documents in American history:

1. The Declaration of Independence.

2. The United States Constitution.

[+] EnlargeBCS
AP Photo/Alex BrandonThe BCS Presidential Oversight Committee rang in a new era of college football Tuesday night.

3. The Bill of Rights.

4. The 14th Amendment.

5. The just-announced college football playoff agreement.

I know what you're thinking: This is ridiculous. Why is the new 12-year playoff agreement ranked so low?

And you're right, of course. Sure, the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness thing is nice enough, but only the new agreement guarantees a four-team seeded playoff.

This is a momentous day in the history of college football. And thanks to Tuesday's final ratifying vote by the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, a manageable, logical and lonnnnnnnng overdue playoff system makes the traveling squad in 2014.

As recently as the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, a BCS spokesperson gravely predicted: "Don't be fooled -- a playoff would be the end of the bowls as we know them." When the spokesperson wasn't bashing the idea of a playoff, he was constantly reminding us that the BCS "got it right again."

And just six months ago, that same spokesperson insisted, "the BCS works well and very well," for all players and fans.

Yes, it worked so well that 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame's athletic director gutted the BCS and replaced it with a playoff system, a playoff selection committee, a national championship game that can be bid out to a non-traditional playing site and, eventually, a new brand name. And Tuesday in Washington, D.C., the oversight committee approved it all.

"It's a best-of-both-worlds result," said Charles W. Steger, Virginia Tech president and chair of the committee. "It captures the excitement of a playoff while protecting the best regular season in sports and also the tradition of the bowls. A four-team playoff doesn't go too far. It goes just the right amount."

The BCS Championship is about to be euthanized -- may it soon rest in peace. Gone are the ridiculous polls, the computer standings and the automatic qualifier status extended to favored conferences.

The bowl system? Despite the BCS propaganda of 2011, a playoff isn't going to be "the end of the bowls as we know it." That's the beauty of the new agreement. It works within the bowl system, not outside of it.

The decision was a no-brainer. Those 11 commissioners and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick did all the heavy lifting. They're the ones who scored the playoff touchdown. The oversight committee, despite the respectful opposition of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman, simply kicked the extra point.

[+] EnlargeMike Slive
AP Photo/Alex BrandonJim Delany, from left, BCS director Bill Hancock and Mike Slive came to a compromise to get a playoff done.

Seriously, what's there not to like? The bowl system lives. The regular season isn't compromised. Tradition survives.

The automatic qualifier is going to swim with the fishes (no more forced Pitt-Utah or Oklahoma-UConn gag-a-thon bowl matchups). More money will be generated. The majority of fans will get what they crave: a playoff, with those four semifinalists selected by 15 or so committee members who will do much more than just look at the final scores. There will be controversy -- and that's OK. But at times, the BCS suffered from credibility deficit disguised as controversy. The BCS had its heart in the right place, but its brain in the wrong place. (A few painful examples: Nebraska, a 62-36 loser in its final regular-season game, still played in the 2002 BCS Championship Game -- and got crushed by Miami; undefeated Auburn was squeezed out of the 2005 BCS Championship Game.)

Everything about the 2014 version of postseason college football is going to be better than what we have now. A Final Four of football is better than a Final Two, especially when the Final Two was determined by a flawed polls model and by computer standings that required interpreters to understand.

There is no perfect playoff system. There will be seasons when the difference between the Nos. 4- and 5-ranked teams is the width of a chinstrap. That's honest controversy.

But at least the way we determine those differences will make more sense. Plus, every one of those 11 conference commissioners, Notre Dame and the oversight committee members signed off on this deal for the next 12 years.

So if, say, Georgia, or Ohio State, or Texas, or Notre Dame are left on the No. 5 playoff bubble, then no whining allowed by the SEC's Mike Slive, the Big Ten's Jim Delany, the Big 12's Bob Bowlsby, Notre Dame's Swarbrick -- or any of the commissioners, for that matter. Either you trust the new and improved selection mechanism, or you don't. Either you can live with a Final Four or not.

Is the playoff system completely fair? No, but it's less unfair than the system it replaces. Notre Dame is always going to have certain inherent football advantages over other programs. Major conferences such as the Pac-12 are going to have certain advantages over, say, Conference USA.

I'm a longtime SEC honk, but let's face it, it's a home game for LSU to play for a national championship in the Sugar Bowl. So I've got zero problem if St. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit, Houston or Dallas, among others, end up as hosts of a title game.

And how can you not love the idea of college football planting a flag in the first or second week of January and delivering national semis in primetime, as well as the other heavy-hitter bowl games? Answer: you can't.

The commissioners, Swarbrick and the presidents aren't done yet. They've framed the house. Now they've got to put in the drywall and the electrical.

There remain revenue-sharing issues. Access issues. Selection-committee issues. New-name issues (BCS is so 2012).

But those items will eventually be resolved. All that really matters is college football traded in its rusting, creaky BCS beater for something more postseason efficient.

I must leave now. A champagne bottle awaits.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter