Monday, June 11, 2012
Postseason by committee, please
By Gene Wojciechowski ESPN.com
I love that the SEC drew a playoff line in the Destin, Fla., sand and declared, as if Moses himself had handed it the stone tablets, that the league will settle for nothing less than a configuration featuring the four best teams, regardless of conference standings.
Mike Slive drew a clear line in the sand: The SEC wants a playoff with the best four teams.
"One, two, three, four," SEC commissioner Mike Slive recently told reporters at the conference's meetings. "One, two, three, four. I really haven't deviated from this position."
Maybe that's because he doesn't really have a choice. The SEC has won the past six BCS national titles and did so in 2012 with a team, Alabama, that failed to reach its own conference championship game. So what'd you expect Slive to say, "Five, six, seven, eight?"
Slive and the SEC coaches have an agenda and the agenda is to protect the SEC's own. Perfectly understandable. Perfectly predictable.
And wasn't it cute that the SEC's new best bowl buddy, the Big 12, immediately echoed those exact same sentiments during its recent meetings in Kansas City? Weird how that works.
Anyway, the Big 12 also wants the four highest-ranked teams in the soon-to-be-approved playoff system. Wonderful.
Meanwhile, other conferences, such as the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, have floated the concept of a hybrid model, which would emphasize conference champions, as well as a wild-card entry.
It all means nothing -- you realize that, right? Slive can deliver all the proclamations he wants. The Big 12 can back its partner with a similar vote. The Pac-12 and Big Ten can run playoff ideas up the flagpole all day (though Big Ten presidents recently said a playoff is No. 3 on their list of preferences, after No. 1, keeping the BCS as is, and No. 2, a Plus-One model).
But none of it matters until you decide how you're going to choose the four playoff teams and who's going to do the choosing. Otherwise, you've got a Corvette with nothing under the hood.
I've got a soft spot for Vegas and rolling the bones every year or so. One time my brother and I read a book on a "revolutionary" method of playing -- and supposedly winning -- at craps. We flipped a coin: whomever lost the flip had to try the revolutionary method. My brother lost.
So we're at a $5 table at the Mirage and my brother is dying. He's lost almost his entire stack in, oh, about 4 minutes, when the crappier says, "Is your name Joe?"
"Yeah," says my brother.
"Joe, don't do that."
That. The revolutionary method.
That's how I feel about the BCS standings. When the four-team playoff format is approved -- and it will be, of course -- I've got a piece of advice for the decision-makers who want to keep the BCS standings:
Don't do that.
The combo platter of the Harris Poll, USA Today Coaches Poll and six computer rankings worked as well as stripes with plaids. The polls, especially the Harris, were funnier than Chris Rock. The coaches' poll was often an exercise in favoritism, grudge-holding and ignorance. And don't even get me started on the six computer programs.
Polls don't work. You think the media doesn't see all the teams and all the games on a given weekend? Coaches see even less. They're focused on their own team and their next opponent. End of story.
And just read "Death To The BCS" to understand the inconsistencies of the BCS' computer rankings.
The answer, the only answer, is a BCS selection committee. I've been writing that since 2005 and before me, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and then-Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese were pushing the idea.
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson has been a longtime proponent of a selection committee.
A playoff selection committee, constructed along the same, successful lines as the NCAA men's basketball selection committee, solves so many of the BCS' credibility problems. It doesn't have to depend on the silliness of the polls. It doesn't have to be held hostage by the incomprehensible computer programs.
Each year the NCAA invites a handful or two of sports writers to its Indianapolis headquarters and conducts a mock basketball selection process. It's educational. It's transparent.
The BCS standings formula is as transparent as beef stew. A selection committee would create order, logic and, at last, accountability. No more BCS propaganda machine, where we're told nothing is broken when, in fact, everything is being held together by duct tape.
A dedicated selection committee would appease the 1-2-3-4 proponents of the world. A selection committee would appease those leaning hard toward conference champions and wild-card entries. That's because a selection committee would -- and should -- factor in strength of schedule, nonconference opponents, injuries, strength of conference, fast starts, fast finishes and, among other things, the value of winning your conference.
If patterned after the NCAA committee, it would protect the best interests of all the leagues and all the independents. It would allow us to buy a gravestone for the BCS standings.
There will be more proclamations and posturing before the playoff details are starched and ironed. Certain commissioners and/or university presidents will bark like junkyard dogs, but disregard the noise. This happens when you have so many moving parts, so many conference agendas.
A four-team playoff will get done. This is a very good thing. At last, no more lines in the sand.