College football seems headed for Plus-One
Published: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:38 p.m.
It was SEC Media Days, the annual gathering of hundreds and hundreds of people wandering around the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., with credentials (some of them even journalists) and the requisite visit to the ballroom with the media guides for each school.
There, each media member was handed a gift bag that included mostly stuff that was left in the hotel room for the maids. But there was a nice T-shirt that should have come with a glass of expensive wine and some brie.
It read — “SEC: We Are College Football.”
The subtitle could have read, “It's our world and everybody else is just playing in it.”
The conference won its sixth straight national title Monday night and will be favored to win a seventh. But you know where the SEC really flexed its muscles?
It got the BCS off its collective rear ends.
They've seen enough. They're tired of hearing, “S-E-C! S-E-C!” at the end of every championship game. The conference commissioners not named Mike Slive have announced that the BCS doesn't work. Why? I can give you six straight reasons.
So they met in New Orleans not with the idea of tweaking their system, but of changing it drastically. They cannot assure that the SEC won't have a seventh straight champion, but they can at least make it more difficult.
At least that's the theory.
When we get to 2014, it seems likely there will be a Plus-One in place, which would mean a national semifinal, probably to take place at two of the current BCS sites. It would be followed a week later by the championship game.
Would LSU and Alabama still have met for it all? Probably. But there would have been another step.
The commissioners have fought the move ever since it was proposed by the SEC in 2008, but they didn't know the SEC planned to hoard the market on crystal balls.
They have argued that a Plus-One system would lead to a true playoff with eight or 16 teams, and we have always replied, “So what?” They have argued that any kind of playoff would hurt the other bowl games, but the other bowl games continue to decline.
Ratings and attendance were abysmal this bowl season. Some of it was caused by matchups, some of it by the economy, some of it by geography.
They have argued that fans can't pick up everything and spend the money to travel to numerous games, but the Orange Bowl and Fiesta had 17,000 empty seats combined with only one game for the fans of the respective schools to attend. You're telling me that semifinal games at those two sites wouldn't have drawn more fans, better ratings and, most importantly, bigger bucks from television and sponsors?
They have argued that it would be tough on the student-athletes, as if they really care. And while making that argument, they ignore that school is not in session when those games would be played while school is in session when they're traveling five times a year to distant locales brought on by conference expansion.
But in the end, they would have continued those arguments in the face of facts if the SEC hadn't created a monopoly on confetti.
I wrote last spring that the real reason we want a college football playoff is because we want to see a college playoff, and that hasn't changed. It doesn't necessarily mean we'd get a truer champion. Just look at college basketball as an example.
Now the Big 12 has jumped on the Plus-One bandwagon and the Big Ten seems to think it's a good idea, and the Pac-12 has an aggressive commissioner who would have seen one of his teams have a shot at winning it all if the Plus-One was in place.
So I'm telling you there's a chance.
The one downside to a Plus-One would be that an extra tier would be created so two teams who normally would be in a bowl game with a .500 record would be bumped out. I don't know about you, but I could live with that.
Besides, getting to 6-6 is not an assurance that you will make a bowl game. Nor should it be.
Hopefully, we aren't overanalyzing the sudden recognition that the BCS needs to change. The truth is that the BCS has worked in terms of matching up the nation's two best teams. But it could be so much better, so much more exciting and so much more lucrative.
That's what we have been saying all along. Adding two semifinal games isn't going to make you want to watch the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl any less. I don't think that's possible.
And it might not have helped the dismal ratings for the Alabama-LSU game because those two teams probably would have played in the final anyway.
But it would be a boost for college football. And after the awful year the sport had with scandals and dishonored coaches, we could all use a little good news.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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