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A Modest Proposal: A New (Old) System for Crowning a College Football Champion

Yes, the BCS trophy is bigger than Nick Saban.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Yes, the BCS trophy is bigger than Nick Saban. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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So it appears that the college football powers that be have finally decided to move towards a playoff instead of having the BCS as we currently know it. About a decade ago, I would have actually crushed the college football powers that be for not going far enough by only deigning to create a system where there is a four team playoff.

I was a hardcore zealot, even going as far as to try and create a playoff system featuring 12 teams. I had numbers, charts and graphs and I was crafting a plan involving the sites of many of the current bowl games to be involved. I was 23 turning 24 and had more idle time on my hands than I expected.

Today, though, I look at the system and realize that it is a baby step in the direction of having a more robust playoff system that will eventually come into place. Of course, many of the decisions in intercollegiate athletics today in 2012 are driven by television money even more so than they were a decade ago.

The tension that exists on some level with regards to football though, and what tends to make the sport change extremely slowly, is the idea of tradition. The tension of the tradition of college football and the evolution of sports as an industry and a commodity that is worth billions of dollars is what causes some (like me) to pull their hair out when talking about a playoff.

A term that was (and in some circles still is) tossed around as a reason to not have an extensive playoff is to "preserve the integrity of the regular season." Which is a noble goal, on some hypothetical level, I guess. The question I pose is this:

If a goal is to preserve the integrity of the regular season, then why not return to the way that champions were decided before the mid 1970s?

Why not simply name the champion at the end of the regular season?

Before 1974, the coaches did not name their national champion after the bowl game. Instead, the champion was voted on before the bowls were played. Of course, this changed after the coaches awarded Alabama a national title for the 1973 season…and Alabama promptly lost the Sugar Bowl to Notre Dame. Oh, that Notre Dame team finished undefeated.

The Associated Press media pollsters voted after the regular season but before the bowls until 1965, when they switched to a vote after the bowls. After the 1965 season, the media switched their vote back to being before the bowl games. This lasted for two seasons before the change was made back to a post-bowl vote.

Times, however, have changed. And I think that if we are going to live up to the words of Bill Hancock, when he said in this press release two weeks ago:

"From the start, we set out to protect college football’s unique regular season which we see as the best regular season in sports. We are also mindful of the bowl tradition and seek to create a structure that continues to reward student-athletes with meaningful bowl appearances….College football’s regular season is too important to diminish and we do not believe it’s in the best interest of student-athletes, fans, or alumni to harm the regular season."

Then isn’t the best way to not harm the regular season to make it actually be worth something? Forget the Bowl Championship Series and the mess of confusion with the Harris Poll and the computer formulas and the agenda driven coaches.

Let’s just let the agenda driven coaches and the actual working sports media decide who the champion is before any bowl games are played.

Heck, let’s get ESPN on this. Can’t you see the second Saturday night in December being a doubleheader on the World Wide Leader: the Heisman Trophy ceremony followed by the announcement of the National Champion?

The coaches from the top three to five teams on all of the ballots could show up in their suits with maybe one of their star players in tow. They all sit down and do an interview with Chris Fowler throughout the next hour or so of television, and then a winner is announced and the winning coach gets to stand up, receive the crystal football and declare it a great day for their program.

And then the following weekend we kick off the regular old glut of meaningless football games that allow us to occupy time so that we don’t have to spend it with our families during the winter holiday season.

It’s a brilliant idea. Simply brilliant. Tell me you wouldn’t watch that show.

I’m going to start writing the first script right now.