"To be frank with you, I don't know what the reasons are not to have a playoff," Paterno said during a speaking appearance in Pittsburgh. "You can talk about missing class and all that kind of stuff, (yet) you see basketball go on forever. You have a lot of bogus excuses.Now, far be it from me to lay into one of college football's most decorated coaches, but Joe Paterno's argument itself is bogus. First of all, he cites exactly one argument against a playoff here, that of the game becoming a two-semester event and taking student-athletes away from the classroom.
I don't personally buy into that argument either, since there are much better ones against a playoff. But it isn't "bogus". I hate to bring up that childhood example but it fits so we'll run it: if your friends go and jump off a bridge, do you jump as well? The answer is of course not. Just because college basketball's jumped off that bridge doesn't justify college football doing the same.
Furthermore, Paterno's being patently dishonest. Most of the time I see public arguments against a playoff, they have little to do with the academics. Even the conference commissioners are starting to cite other quite solid reasons besides the academics charge.
Examples? After the jump.
ESPN's Mark Schlabach recently penned a fairly honest rundown of the BCS vs. Playoff landscape.
"I think last year probably crystallized it for us," Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said. "I think if there had been a four-team playoff last year, the yelling and screaming from Georgia and Southern California would have been so outrageous that the pressure to go from four to six to eight would have just been a matter of time. Then we would have gone to 12 and 16. I've seen what's happened in Division I-AA. It started as four and went to eight and then 16. Now they want to go to 20. It's just not where we want to go. I know it's what the public wants, but as I sit here and my people sit here, we don't think it's in the best interest of college football. I know that's not what the public wants to hear."
That expansion phenomena is what Get The Picture accurately called "mission creep". From Wikipedia:
Mission Creep the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes. The term often implies a certain disapproval of newly adopted goals by the user of the term. Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, only stopping when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs. The term was originally applied exclusively to military operations, but has recently been applied to many different fields, mainly the growth of bureaucracies.
I remember taking a public policy class in college on a whim. Much time was spent discussing how organizations work and what some of the common errors are that derail or change an organization's mission. One of the most troubling was this mission creep concept, in how a decent idea stays decent only if contained. But as is often the case, various interests pull and tug and reshape what was once a limited idea into something hideous and grotesque and no longer responsive to what it was intended to serve.
Fear of mission creep is a legitimate concern by those advocating against a playoff in college football, as stated so well by Commissioner Tranghese.
I won't go over the laundry list of reasons against a playoff within this entry, but I'll expose one more flaw stated by proponents within Schlabach's article.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, who became one of the BCS' biggest critics after his undefeated 2004 team was left out of the national championship game, said selling tickets for playoff games wouldn't be a problem.
"I think what will happen is 75 percent of the tickets would be sold to corporate America, just like the Super Bowl," Tuberville said. "Each team would get 10,000 or 15,000 seats that they'll have no problem selling. Most teams take 15,000 to 20,000 to a bowl game.
Speaking of bogus arguments ...
Do college football fans really want a fan experience like the Super Bowl? One major difference between the NFL and college football, and what makes college football resonate so well with its fans, is the fan experience. College football is a lot more like soccer with stadium-wide chants, all kinds of pageantry and oddball traditions (from Auburn's eagle flying to USC's Traveler, the marching bands, etc.). It's a fan-first experience steeped in nostalgia.
The Super Bowl is nothing if not cold and corporate. The stadium itself is usually quite quiet and far from festive unless you count all the generic pageantry unrelated to either team or its fans. I hold nothing against the fan who gets a ticket from their company or from a giveaway, but they're taking the seat of an actual fan which robs the game of atmosphere and liveliness.
Tuberville's right, most teams in an average bowl game bring 15,000-20,000 fans. But it's much different for the BCS type games that would become playoff games if a playoff is enacted. I was at this year's Rose Bowl and by my estimate I thought Illinois brought something in the rage of 30,000-35,000 fans. The atmosphere was absolutely electric even when the Illini lost control of the game. Fans flock to single bowl games that they can plan for, get airfare and hotels for and be part of the festivities. They're there to actively root for their teams as opposed to being there for a show as if the circus was in town.
When you hand out the majority of tickets to corporations, you don't get that atmosphere and the college game loses a great deal for it. The Super Bowl should absolutely not be the model to follow.