Full disclosure? I'm on the fence about a playoff. It could work, sure. It also could diminish the regular season like it has in college basketball.
As someone who covers it, I like the BCS. The drama, the lunacy, the fuzzy math. It has given us some of the wackiest moments in the sport's recent history ... Texas' campaigning in 2004 to get in ahead of Cal. The lunacy of Nebraska getting in in 2001. LSU fans' continued disbelief that their team actually shared the 2003 title with USC.
Of course, I don't have a Bulldog in the fight so, of course, it's fun.
What I think folks forget is that the BCS is miles better than the old bowl system. Joe Paterno will go to his grave knowing he could have won four more national championships if not for the old-style back-room bowl deals. We've had 13 1 vs. 2 games in the BCS era (since 1998). From 1943 (the first 1 vs. 2 game) to 1997, we had 31. That's an average of one per year (guaranteed, by the way) compared to one every 1.7 years.
I'll never forget Tommy Tuberville canvassing votes in the Orange Bowl press box (2004). I'll always wonder at Nebraska and Miami stepping onto the Rose Bowl turf as "foreigners" in 2001. I lost part of my hearing watching LSU win two titles. Like it or not, the BCS gave us all that.
With the first set of standings being released on Sunday, this is what I believe about the BCS ...
--Every week is a playoff.
True: In the sense that you lose once and you're in danger of being eliminated for the BCS title game. That has made for some great theater over the years.
"I think we've got to preserve this regular season," BCS executive director Bill Hancock said. "No one knows how much, but it would be diminished. Energy would go from the regular season into the playoff."
--A playoff would ruin the regular season.
False: Sorry, Bill, rivalries are rivalries. A playoff doesn't diminish Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Auburn or Kansas-Missouri. Three years ago, Missouri beat Kansas to go to No. 1 in the country. KU went to its first BCS bowl (Orange) in almost in 40 years. Missouri played for the Big 12 title before losing to Oklahoma. Both of those teams would have been safely in a 16-team bracket. And it wouldn't have mattered a lick to the rivalry.
--The BCS is about power, not money.
True: The presidents and ADs would rather keep a system where most of the money goes to the power conferences ... than make more money with a playoff. A playoff would mean more trickle down for non-BCS schools who one day might join the power elite. The BCS, without saying it, wants to keep the membership exclusive.
A BCS executive disagrees.
"The Mountain West could never be [an equal] to the Big Ten," the source said. "Not in your grandkids' lifetime, not in my grandkids' lifetime."
--The BCS is in legal danger.
False: I'm no lawyer but it has survived every legal challenge so far. Obama and the Justice Department don't seem to want to get involved. PlayoffPAC sends out a heck of a press release but has yet to make an impression. The Mountain West's trip to Washington D.C. in 2009 seems less compelling now that the league has lost BYU and Utah.
--If the commissioners wanted it today, a playoff could be implemented.
True: No question. If Jim Delany can talk the Big Ten into the BCS and, later conference expansion, he could talk its presidents into a playoff.
--The windfall from a playoff would cure all financial ills.
False: A 1994 NCAA study into a playoff abruptly died when the opinion of Florida State's Derrick Brooks was solicited. Brooks reportedly told officials something like, "What's in it for me?" Any windfall would re-start the pay-the-players argument. Pay the players and you have withholding. If you have withholding, the you lose tax exempt status.
The basketball tournament income is different because it is controlled by the NCAA and parceled out in "units."
--The only playoff that works is a 16-teamer.
True: That way all the conference champions get a berth, along with five at-large teams. That takes care of the non-BCS champions who would suddenly be guaranteed a berth.
Anything else merely extends the argument from who's No. 2 to who's No. 5 (in a four-team playoff) to who's No. 9 (an eight-team playoff).
--A selection committee could pick those five teams.
False: Not all of them. No way. You'd have lawsuits from here to Boise. Look at the trouble we got in weaving voters and computers into the process. Putting, say, 12 people in charge of picking the final few teams of a college football playoff would introduce all kinds of human biases.
--The bowls are a great way to throw away money.
True: As reported in the new book Death to the BCS, schools are lucky to break after having to pay for their own transportation, lodging and having to buy bowl sponsorships and tickets.
"The fact that we didn't go to a bowl game means we actually made money," former Michigan AD Bill Martin said in the book.
--The bowls would die if there was a playoff.
False: How can the likes of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and Humanitarian Bowl be any more meaningless? A playoff doesn't affect that at all.