Column: Suggested college football playoffs threaten regular season’s importance

By Lanny Holstein

, via UWIRE

Big Ten conference presidents and athletic directors kicked around the idea of a four team playoff a couple weeks ago in Chicago. Among other things, the spring Big Ten meetings were meant to unify the conference’s opinion on the frustrating BCS playoff debate, and put forth the league’s stance.

Rather than achieve its intended purpose, the event only served to muddy the waters further. No consensus was reached, and quotes from a few key players coming out of those meetings do not bode well for the implementation of a playoff.

The four team model, thought to be the leader in the eyes of most going into the meetings, is merely one of the options the league considers throwing its support behind.

An interesting but flawed model that took center stage was the “plus-one.”

Plus-one would be an extension to the current bowl system. The regular season and bowls are played out the way they currently are, but additionally, there is a game played between the top two teams in the post-bowl rankings. It’s meant to clear up situations similar to this past season, where more than two teams have legitimate arguments to being in the national title game (Alabama, LSU, and Oklahoma State).

NU Chancellor Harvey Perlman, the Big Ten’s appointed representative of its presidents and chancellors at NCAA meetings, supported the model in comments to the Journal Star’s Steven Sipple.

“The current SEC-Big 12 agreement would fit perfectly within a plus-one system, and would give an advantage to conference champions, which I favor,” Perlman said.

It’s interesting that he, a representative of the Big Ten, brings up the SEC-Big 12 bowl agreement in his analysis, but the most noteworthy aspect of his comments is his support of the plus-one. After all the talk going into the meetings about the four team model and whatever else, when did the plus-one slip back into the equation?

It works great for situations like last season, but what happens if there are two teams clearly better than the rest of the field. After they play each other in the bowl game, the plus-one makes the winner play another game against another team that wasn’t previously in the national title conversation.

Some plus-one supporters say, in those situations, the extra game can simply be cancelled.

But it’s not that simple. Who makes that call? Where is the line drawn between a situation that calls for the extra game and one that does not? The NCAA needs something hard and fast to stick to, something concrete. The BCS’s fluidity, its lack of straight-and-narrow rules, causes most of the controversy surrounding it. The NCAA cannot go to another manipulative system and expect it to solve any of the current problems.

Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne spoke about the Big Ten meetings and his thoughts on a playoff on Sirius XM satellite radio’s show College Sports Today. The former coach was less concerned with what happens after the bowls have been played than he was with what happens before them.

“You diminish the importance of the regular season (with a playoff or plus-one), and right now the regular season is very popular,” he said.

Osborne hit the nail on the head with this one. Yes, the BCS is flawed, but there is no perfect system out there. The NCAA would do better to leave the BCS in place and let the college football regular season flourish. No other sport has a regular season with so much on the line — with so much drama.

In other sports leagues — especially the NBA and MLB — the bulk of the drama comes in the playoffs. Regular season games get blurred together and their importance is diminished. That isn’t so in college football.

The Big Ten’s mind is not made up yet, but the conference is less than enthused with the idea of a full-blown playoff. The good news though, for those bracket-crazed fans out there, is that the Big Ten doesn’t have any power in making the decision — university presidents do.

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Copyright 2018