Or maybe not so lightly. Even though somebody other than the Big Ten gets to embrace epic failure in the title game this season, we're still not satisfied. We still have the creeping sense that something will be left unsettled on the field.
Most playoff plans are completely batcakes. Some include too many teams; some include too few; some actually think the bowls are interested in becoming playoff games. (Like anybody can afford to travel to, say, Shreveport, Tempe, and Los Angeles on successive weekends without a 21-day advance purchase.)
I found one plan that comes pretty close to being workable. It comes from Pete Fiutak at College Football News, who made it pretty simple:
8 teams, 6 BCS-league champions, the top ranked non-BCS champion, the top ranked at-large team. America, it's your turn to get what you want.I have a couple quibbles with that plan, but it's more realistic than any others I've seen. Even Fiutak admits his plan isn't going to happen, though. But why?
Fiutak doesn't spell it out, but I can tell you: No playoff plan will work unless it gets bought into by the people who can actually make the change. Let's look at who, exactly, that would be.
First of all, there's university presidents. They're important because, for all practical purposes, they are the NCAA. While the various committees which govern football are made up mostly of athletic directors, the Division I Board of Directors has only one member (a conference commissioner) who is not a university president. Thus, if you don't get the presidents on board, nothing happens.
Presidents, even at traditional football powers, are very much against playoffs, citing concerns that the football season already encroaches too much on the second semester. Note that word "citing." Their real concern is that, for many of them, big-time football is a deal with the devil. It brings in applications and donations, but at a terrible price.
University presidents are fine with their football coaches being better known than they are. What galls them is that funding, say, the engineering college becomes more difficult if your defensive coordinator is a dope. (University presidents spend as much time fundraising as they do administrating. Maybe even more.)
The worst of their contempt, though, is saved for you, the fan. To them, you're whiny, your expectations are unrealistic, and you take college football much too seriously. They're not about to do anything which makes that worse.
That goes for coaches and athletic directors as well. Sure, some coaches like Urban Meyer and Joe Paterno are on record as favoring playoffs. Why not? They'll be in the mix more often than not. How do the coaches at, say, Troy State and Idaho feel about it? They don't give a rat's bonkus about a playoff they'll maybe qualify for once a century.
For coaches and ADs at the second-tier schools in the BCS conferences, a playoff would be one of the worst things that could happen. Instead of "Get us to a bowl game in three years," the booster mantra becomes "Get us to the playoffs in three years." There would be, at most, 16 playoff berths. There are 68 bowl berths. Do the math.
The mid-majors would have to approve a playoff as well, and that's not likely if they sense that they're being excluded from it. They already had to go to Congress to get a better place at the BCS table. That's why I think any eight-team plan with at-large teams is doomed. If it's conference champions only, then at least two mid-major teams get in every year. Sure, they might get annihilated in the first round. So what? Half the teams lose in the first round anyway.
That "no at-large teams" caveat leads us to the starkest reality of playoffs: A playoff wouldn't reduce the amount of complaining. One of the megaconferences will experience another K-State-over-Oklahoma moment, sending a three-loss team into the fray and leaving a top-ten team out. We, the fans, wouldn't accept that. We'd argue about it endlessly, complaining (as we already do) that a team's chance at the national title was undone by a fluke loss which nullified everything they did in the regular season.
We'd also complain how unfair it is that some teams would get to the playoff without a conference title game, the same way we complain about national title games now. In doing so, we'd forget that conferences with fewer than 12 members aren't allowed to have title games, by NCAA rule.
So it really doesn't matter whether we come up with a plan that could work or we just daydream about what we'd like to see. We aren't going to get playoffs because the people who could make it happen feel that it wouldn't settle as much as we think it would. All it would do is make their jobs harder. Like I've said before, it's hard to argue with somebody when they're right.