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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Two Changes I'd Like to See Made to NCAA Football

Here is my fix for NCAA football in general and NCAA D-I football in particular.

1. The NCAA Football Overtime Rule. Some say it adds drama. I say it's tantamount to playing horse to decide who wins the Duke-North Carolina game to win the NCAA hoops title. Just keep on giving teams the ball at their opponent's 25 yard-line until one of them is no longer standing. I say that the NCAA should try a different rule. One fifteen-minute OT period, and you give the team had a greater time of possession during regulation or fewer turnovers the ball to start the overtime. Or something like that to reward, as they used to say in Olympic boxing parlance, the "aggressor" (kind of like riding time in wrestling). And then if that team marches down the field and scores, well, game over. Stop the circus that some of these games have become. Stats are becoming meaningless, especially where teams score 3, 4 and 5 times in overtime. Stop the horseplay, so to speak. If this means that more games end in ties, so be it. Some games, though, deserve to end in a tie. And, if you think that ties are bad under the current way of picking who will get a chance in the post-season, you're right. But that rule should change too.

2. Put a Playoff System in Division I-A. Why? Because why is it that every other NCAA sport has a playoff except for Division I-A football? Division I-AA, Division II and Division III have national championship games in football, and they are exciting to watch. So you do you counter the argument that the poor student athletes will miss too much class time? First, you have to prove to me that they will, as I don't buy the arguments that they do under the current Bowl System that DI players find themselves in. Besides, why is this a more important issue n Division I-A, where some schools give their players academic credit for playing football, than in the other NCAA divisions? There are some mighty fine academically inclined schools in DIII that have no problem letting their football teams participate in the post-season tournament. Second, you don't have to continue the practice of having teams play 12 regular season games, do you? If you have a meaningful system that determines who are, say, the 16 teams that make the post-season, then perhaps you have an 11-game regular-season schedule. Which means that you can take the top 2 teams from the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac-10, and then leave 6 at-large bids. You can guarantee 1 or 2 bids to non-BCS schools (akin to what Division I lacrosse has done by allocating 1 slot (and maybe it's now 2) to a midwestern school (or two). You can alternate which bowl hosts what game, but, in the end, you'll have your national championship game. And, you'll have a great audience. Best of all, the players will decide the games on the field, and not either a group of head coaches, many of whom are so busy working on their own teams that they don't get to watch the teams on whom they're voting in any meaningful fashion or a group of writers, many of whom suffer from the same problem -- they just don't get enough exposure to all eligible teams.

Look, Division I-A football can be all about money. No one will dispute that. I even heard one rumor that had the BCS schools pulling out of the NCAA so that they could make more money on football. But I'm sure that with a galvanizing formula for a national tournament to decide the D-I football champion, there will be enough money to go around. Perhaps not Super Bowl-like money, but money that's in rareified air. Which means that there should be plenty of money to share. Even if that means 1 fewer regular season football game for some teams.

Naturally, there are details to iron out. First, what role, if any, will the polls play? Perhaps none. Second, will there be an RPI, the way there is in basketball? My guess is yes, and many factors will be examined, factors that are voted on only by the tournament selection committee, such as RPI and strength of schedule. Third, what will happen to the current method of scheduling? It may well be that the big-name schools will think twice about scheduling too many patsies at the beginning of the season. For example, if you're USC, will you schedule say Temple, Akron and San Diego State to start your year, or might you try to play Utah, Boston College and perhaps N.C. State? Schools will have to be careful if they want an at-large bid, because it may well be that the home mashing you give to Baylor 73-14 might come back to haunt you more so than if you end up beating a BC team that goes 7-4 on the year in Chestnut Hill by a score of 28-14. Fourth, are there enough games to separate out the teams? For example, if there are 11 regular season games, are they enough to determine who the top 2 teams in a league will be for purposes of getting the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament? And what happens if there are ties? In my estimation, there are bound to be some ties. Well, that's something for the tournament committee to work on. I'm sure they can throw enough good minds at it to come up with a good solution.

But those are just details. The great attraction is that instead of having voters determine who is number one, you'll get a tournament around New Year's Day for all the marbles. Think about that. A great game on a holiday weekend pitting 2 teams against one another that have won 3 games to get to the big moment. Have it on a night where people don't have to go to work the next day. Start it at dinner time back east, so people can plan parties around it, invite friends and neighbors, fire up the barbecue, bring in the take-out, share a few frosty beverages.

It might not be the Super Bowl.

But it will be awfully close to it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding overtime in football: just allow ties. If you are going for the national championship (however it's decided) then you have to play for the win and try that 2 point conversion at the end.

If you are going for the upset, then get the tie if you can.


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