Okay, so we’re all celebrating the birth of the new BCS four-team playoff for the still-mythical championship in college football. It’s obviously a huge improvement over the old system of polls and shenanigans adding into some kind of formula to create a “champion.”
Now, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick is even in the press talking about the importance of a committee system in charge of choosing the playoff participants that emphasizes strength-of-schedule and takes into account flukey things like injuries. No, seriously:
“We want the sort of sophisticated analysis that says you know this team lost their first game, but their quarterback didn’t play the last three quarters. The rest of their season they were undefeated, so if you factor that in, maybe they’re a top-four team in the country. We want to have that level of sophistication.”
It probably won’t be a perfect system, but this new format is pretty much giving people what they’ve wanted since the inception of the BCS money machine in 1998. Surely it was a nice money-making endeavor for the major conferences while it lasted, but the stench of collusion and profiteering amongst athletic departments and the bowls was far too strong by the end of the 2011 season.
But if the system Swarbrick is promoting will actually be implemented, one has to wonder how the BCS et al. could use the other system for as long as they did. It’s as close as one can get to an admission that the old system sucked and was possibly fraudulent. There’s virtually no other reason Swarbrick would emphasize those particular committee ideas than to point out the deep flaws in the previous system. And they were deep flaws.
Also, Swarbrick’s ideas don’t mean that the new system of choosing teams for the playoff will be any better than the old one. At least not necessarily. “Strength of schedule” sounds suspiciously like “style points” or its previous incarnation as “margin of victory.” It means that if you beat a team, you need them to win most of the rest of their games. It also means that you need to blow those teams out, so close wins against good and mediocre teams don’t really help you unless they keep winning after playing you.
It’s generally also a subjective approach because two people evaluating a win over another team might see it differently. Auburn’s win over Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl could be seen as a sign that the Tide could have competed in a four-team playoff and maybe rematched against Auburn. It could also have been seen as confirmation that the Tide were a step below the Tigers that year and some one else should get a shot at the eventual champs.
On the other hand, Swarbrick’s approach does mean the selection committee would take a detailed approach to choosing which four teams would play in the playoff, which is more than we can probably say about the reactionary BCS system involving polls and computers. Has anyone said what’s happening with that? Will they still be putting out BCS rankings? Will they be taken into account by the selection committee?
Anyway, college football fans finally get a playoff in the 2013 season and an entire year to make fun of whoever the final BCS champion is. Even better, we can enjoy the final BCS season because we know there is an end in sight. Although I’m sure I’ll find a reason to complain about it again. At least for old time’s sake.