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I’m not watching the “Football NIT”

Before I move forward into the New Year and focus on more conventionally political matters, let me say this one thing.

I’m not watching the mockery of a “playoff” for bowl-division (formerly Division 1-A) football.

(Why did I say “not conventionally political”?  Well, the effort smacks of an attempt by big-time college football to protect its trust-like multi-billion-dollar big business from regulation-imposed fairness.  It’s of a par with the legislation just passed here in Michigan to stem the trickle-ish tide of unionizing among college players smart enough to consider protecting their financial and health interests.  Heck, consider the playoff committee’s membership . . . including Condoleezza Rice?!  Oh, she might be an enthusiastic fan . . . but so am I, and so are lots of people more interested in and qualified to judge football than either of us — who also wouldn’t have a chance of being picked for the committee.)

To me, it’s not a true championship playoff tournament unless a team can play its way in by winning its conference.  The NCAA knows how to run a real tournament for football at all other levels.  And it knows how to do it for other sports — think of the basketball tournaments.  Winners of conferences get automatic spots, and the committee is left to fill the brackets with the next-best teams.

This would work fine for a true Division 1-A football tournament.  Automatic bids could go to the winners of the ten conferences:

http://espn.go.com/college-football/standings

leaving six at-large spots.  We could set a limit of two or maybe three at-large representatives from any conference, or encourage the inclusion of any high-ranked team that loses its conference.  But those are negotiable details.

Note that this preserves the possibility that particular bowls keep some or all of their traditional relationships with particular conferences.  That could let more bowls be involved in a four-round 16-team playoff . . . but that in turn, would mean that either

  • the rest of the existing bowls wouldn’t have to reach as deep in the standings for barely eligible teams; or
  • there would have to be more bowls to accommodate all the bowl-eligible teams.

Or else the playoff games themselves would be new games, held separately from the bowls.  The choices are more games or better teams in the games.  (Or maybe a little of both.)   Any way you look at it, there’s more for the fans.  And the NCAA would probably make even more money.

But instead of this tried-and-true model, we get the football equivalent of . . . the NIT.

The National Invitational Tournament was big early on in the history of college basketball.  Before there was an NCAA tournament focused on play-in by conference championships.  In fact, it’s a year older than the NCAA tournament.  How did it work?  A committee hand-picked its own favorite few teams and had them play for a championship.

Was it artificial?  Yep.  Was it controversial?  Sometimes, at least.  Did it survive?  Well, there is still an NIT — and it’s an exciting event with good, deserving teams.  But nobody thinks it’s the national championship.

If we want a real championship, we need a real play-in playoff tournament.  And this ain’t it.  So I’m throwing a flag on the NCAA for unsportsmanlike conduct.  I’m not watching their NIT “playoff” games, or paying any attention to the alleged “champion” crowned by them.  Next year, I’m going to urge the NCAA to do the right thing — and I’ll keep it up for as many years as it takes until they do.  (Much like my efforts with the Green Party.)

And I hope others will do the same.