Wednesday, June 27, 2012

College football playoff quotables

image None of them succeeded, and as recently as Jan. 10, 2011, Hancock told reporters covering that night's Oregon-Auburn BCS championship game: "There is no overwhelming support to do anything different." Exactly one year later, the morning after last season's Alabama-LSU snoozer, the commissioners met at a New Orleans hotel to begin discussing the future, after which Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told several of those same reporters: "Everything is in the mix."

Lo and behold, five months later, we have a playoff.

“A four-team playoff doesn’t go too far,” Virginia Tech president Charles Steger told reporters. “It goes just the right amount. We are very pleased with this new arrangement.”

First sign the screw job is in: College presidents like the plan.

Can I translate what Steger said for y’all? We were going to have to change — public perception mounting, Congressional meddling, etc., you understand — and so the plan was to give in without giving up what matters to us (mostly unequal access, money, control). We did this, and y’all are commending us. Damn, we are smart.

They kind of are. They created a system so flawed, so dysfunctional, so unpopular that anything looked better in comparison, and so they were able to give us the most watered-down playoff possible and lock this baby in for 14 years.

Tuesday was especially sweet for those inside the machine who fought for a playoff long before their colleagues came around to the idea. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, whose league suffered a defeat Tuesday when the presidents denied a waiver that would have made the MWC a BCS automatic-qualifying conference for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, couldn't hide his pride in the formation of a playoff. He just wished it had come earlier. Under this system, TCU -- then a Mountain West member -- would have made the playoff in 2009 and 2010, and Utah -- then a Mountain West member -- might have made it in 2008. "I've testified in front of Congress [in 2009]," Thompson said. "I wanted an eight-team playoff and a selection committee. I'm half right."

Thompson hasn't given up on a bigger bracket, and he won't be alone. Still, he understands this is an evolutionary process. The Alliance was a step. The Coalition was another. The BCS was another. "Eight-team, 16-team. I still believe in that," Thompson said. "I think that would be ultimately better, but this is a tremendous step."

This step covered more ground than all the others combined. It took major college football across the Rubicon, and the sport will never be the same.

It was something of a Bonfire of the Vanities. Since the NCAA isn’t the most popular group around, and the BCS was widely considered to be the disfigured spawn of a self-serving group of athletic departments, it was hard to favor one side over the other. That’s why so many members of the media wretched at the mere utterance of the letters B-C-S. They knew why the system had been created and were irate that its proponents and propaganda partners tried to convince us that it was legitimately devoted to finding college football’s finest team.

Two years from now, things will change. The BCS will be no more, replaced by a four-team “playoff.” And while that is cause for a celebration of sorts, media members must be careful not to rejoice too much. There is still work to be done.

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