Another college football season, another inconclusive ending. Alabama’s 42-14 beat down of Notre Dame doesn’t even fully represent just how emphatically the Tide took it to the Irish, leaving college football fans with an all-too-familiar bitter taste.
Many pundits and sports reporters are saying that Notre Dame didn’t belong on the same field with Alabama for a championship game. I didn’t get many opportunities to watch either team this past season, and with a long layoff it is easy to imagine that one team could come out unprepared. But based on what I saw Monday night, Notre Dame did not belong on the field with Alabama. The Alabama offensive line was praised endlessly for 6 weeks, and they proceeded to embarrass the Irish defensive line and ask the college football world what they were thinking creating this matchup.
Only that’s the problem. College football isn’t decided on the field like most respectable sports, it is voted on. One may not associate gymnastics and college football at first glance, but I would argue that there is a very unfortunate relation. Gymnasts compete against each other in a sport that isn’t decided on a scoreboard; it is a subjective sport, and judges give the athletes scores based on the quality of the routine they perform.
Football is decided on a scoreboard. One team wins, the other team loses, and there is usually no controversy. There are some plays that are hard to tell what happened, and sometimes a referee makes a call that allows you to question their vision, but football is decided on the field and the result is accepted.
Except in college football. Every college football team is trying to win on Saturdays, but that isn’t their only objective. Like gymnasts, college football teams are constantly in front of a panel of judges. Ending a game with more points than the opponent is only a start; if a team fails to win impressively, it will inevitably affect them in the polls.
Instituting a playoff in two seasons will certainly be a start to fixing this shoddy system. What it won’t do is relieve the system of the all-important polling system that keeps college football all-too-similar to gymnastics. There will be a four-team playoff to determine the champion, and while it is certainly a great step in the right direction, just thinking about it can give someone a headache.
College basketball uses a tournament selection committee to decide who enters the big dance every March. Every year there is controversy, but there are no outcries to replace this system. That is because it tries to get it right, and although there are always teams who feel like they got snubbed, it’s alright because there is enough opportunity. It’s hard to compare a 64-team college basketball playoff to football because of the difference in sports. Basketball can be played several times per week, while football’s once a week schedule limits the number of teams that could be in a playoff.
What’s not hard to do is see that a four-team playoff isn’t going to erase the problems with college football. Real sports are decided on the field, and this improvement won’t erase the fact that every team will still be taking part in a season-long audition. One could make the argument that any playoff tournament requires selection, and that no number of teams could change the disappointment that some are bound to feel. I have heard this argument, and feel that it has a glaring weakness. A four-team playoff means that only four teams participate in the postseason. How can that be considered a real playoff?! The New York Giants won the Super Bowl last season as the fourth seed in their conference. If the NFL had taken only the top four overall teams, the Giants wouldn’t have even gotten a shot.
To shock anyone who is reading this, the college football postseason is—NO!—based purely on money. Every sport is run from a business perspective, but college football takes that to a new level. The regular season ends in early-to-mid November, followed by a layoff. Wait, what? What kind of real sport just stops at the end of the season and waits over six weeks to play a national championship game that isn’t even decided by a playoff? The Bowl system is ingrained in America as a great tradition for college football, and that allows us to overlook that it, well, doesn’t make very much sense.
College football fans have been screaming for a playoff for years, so the powers that be responded. Kind of. We don’t just want a playoff; we want a respectable system that makes a concerted effort to give a fair number of teams a chance at a championship. With the current setup everything will remain the same except that there will be a play-in game for the championship, involving a grand total of four out of 119 Division 1-A football teams. Personally, I’m tired of hearing how the regular season is the postseason. That’s a way to defend something that doesn’t make sense. The four team playoff won’t take the auditioning out of college football, and until we rid our beloved sport of judging it won’t ever reach its full potential.