Bigger leagues could lead us to true playoff

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Out with the old, in with the new.

College football is about to have yet another drastic shift in its landscape and this one could — make that should — lead to the mother of all changes.

Once we get to where we are going, which is four 16-team super conferences, then and only then can we begin to talk about a natural playoff system.

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While the bowls are nice and friendly, they have lasted long past their times. If history shows us anything, it’s that change is constant. Change can even be good.

Without change we never would have driven cars, flown in airplanes or found the Internet.

College football needs to catch up.

The super conferences are a nice start. A step in the right direction, if you prefer.

Don’t tell me about the history of the game and the great traditional rivalries that will be lost. New ones will form, that’s all.

Did it ruin Arkansas or the SEC when the Hogs jumped ship from the old Southwestern Conference?

Arkansas has given LSU a nice rival over the years. Texas A&M, and whichever schools eventually come with the Aggies, will do the same thing.

It’s progress. We don’t still wander out into the night to go to the bathroom, so let’s flush the current conference system.

What makes a rivalry meaningful is close games with something on the line. Nothing’s better than to be fighting for a divisional title and a shot at capturing a spot in the conference title game.

You can still have some bowl formula for teams not in conference championship games. Those bowls have no meaning to anyone but to the fans of the participants now anyway. So that part of this money-grab can continue.

But the big bowl games, they could go to the losers in early playoff rounds, or conference finals. One thing that would be solved, teams will no longer have five or six weeks between games.

In the perfect playoff world, 16 teams would be invited to the postseason. I could live with 12 but let’s not kid ourselves, this is about money so why not maximize the number of games — and cash take — right from the start.

The top eight teams would get home games. Eight more teams will be given at-large berths. This should take care of the Boise States of the world and still get the third-best team in each major conference in.

Better for all is the fact that the first-round playoff games, being played on campus, will sell out. Most of the big schools can just extend the season-ticket package to fans.


And think of the cash the NCAA will make. Extra cash.

Jingle Bells would be replaced by the sound of cash registers at the NCAA headquarters. Even university presidents could not mess this thing up.

This could all be over in time for the start of the second semester, which we know is important to those college presidents who would never dream of doing anything to hurt the academic standing of their student -athletes.

You see, the perfect solution.

Big conferences mean big money.

Now, as for where everybody ends up in this mad scramble to the world of super conferences, even that seems rather simple.

The SEC will add three more after the Aggies, probably getting its pick of the litter. The Big 10, which already has 12 teams, will finally land Notre Dame for the Irish don’t want to be left without a chair when the music stops.

The Pac-12, which was once the Pac-10 and before that the Pac-8, will also get some big names. No better place than California to recruit, unless maybe Texas. The Longhorns could end up with the best of both worlds with the right move. Oklahoma looks to be headed there as well.

What’s left of the Big 12, which is already down to 10 even if you count Texas A&M for now, will surely be gone if and when this all happens. The ACC — likely to lose a few schools to the SEC if the big boy comes knocking, is already getting two from the Big East with more to probably follow.

A perfect fit.

A big conference in the West, one in the East, another in the South and finally one in the Midwest or North. Four regions, four super conferences and a few little guys sprinkled in for fun and the Versus network.

All this and a playoff. Perfect.

We could even see a real national champ one day.

You see, change can be a good thing.


Jim Gazzolo is assistant sports editor. Email him at