I will be the first to admit that I am one of the few in Chicago’s legal community that has a lot of issues with the political philosophy of President-elect Obama. However, his apparent passion for the creation of a college football playoff system, as shown in the above video clip from his interview this past week on 60 Minutes, is admirable. Indeed, as a fellow South Sider and White Sox fan, I would be more then willing to lead the Presidential Commission on the Establishment of a College Football Playoff System in the spirit of bipartisanship. I can tell Obama has given this issue a ton of thought judging by the “You can’t remember to pick up a carton a milk from the store within 5 minutes of asking you to do it, but you can instantly recite the names, positions, and social security numbers of the 1992 Chicago Bears roster that had a 5-11 record” look from the future First Lady as soon as brought up the subject. (Brad Muster, your table is ready.) I have been on the receiving end of that look more than anyone in history assuming that the guy from “Stump the Schwab” hasn’t found a life partner yet.
The interest of the President-elect has brought back up one of the few posts that I have written that has aged relatively well: this “modest proposal” for taking the existing 4 BCS bowls, keeping the traditional conference tie-ins such as the Big Ten and Pac-10 always being in the Rose Bowl, and making it into an 8-game playoff. (As horrific as the actual Rose Bowl game last year was for me as an Illini fan, once you’ve experienced the spectacular pagentary around Pasadena on New Year’s Day, you understand exactly why those two conferences don’t want anything to do with giving up that game. President-elect Obama should be aware from a political standpoint that the all 8 of the Big Ten states and 3 out of the 4 Pac-10 states, with the lone exception being John McCain’s home state of Arizona, voted for him, making those conferences his strongest supporters in the BCS. He should remember this when he starts hearing suggestions from SEC fans that believe that the winner of the SEC Championship Game should be automatically crowned the national champion, since Florida was the only Obama win among the 9 states in the conference. On another note, I am sincerely humbled by the fact that Professor Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated’s legal expert, linked to my playoff proposal post on the Sports Law Blog. I love my job, but I have certainly dreamed of becoming a sports law professor of Professor McCann’s stature.) The only item that I’d alter from the original proposal from 2 ½ years ago would be the timing of the playoff so that it would be in line with the comment from Slant reader Richard Gadsden, such that the national championship game would be played one week prior to the Super Bowl. It’s such an obvious open date on the sports calendar that I can’t see any downside to it (other than the faux bemoaning of how long the college football season would be at that point, which I addressed in my original proposal post). That way, the Rose Bowl and the other BCS games would continue to be on or around New Year’s Day as they always have, while the semifinals would be one or two weeks later in prime time weeknight slots (so that they do not conflict with the NFL playoff games that occur on the weekends in January). Otherwise, every single item that I brought up then would still apply today.
The main overarching point that I can’t emphasize enough is that the only reasonable way that we will ever see a college football playoff in my lifetime is if the process is driven by the BCS conferences as opposed to being imposed on them. There are plenty of proposals out there that advocate an NCAA Tournament-style system with automatic bids to the non-BCS conferences and an abolishment of the bowl system, which might work if we were living in a theoretical vacuum, but pretty much removes any type of incentive for the BCS conferences, who are the ultimate decision-makers here, to actually agree to such a playoff. If people advocate an “all or nothing” approach to a college football playoff system, then no one should be surprised when the BCS conferences reflexively opt for “nothing”. The reason why I believe that my proposal would have a reasonable chance of actually being enacted is that it would simply add to the bowl system that already exists as opposed to taking anything away.
For his part, President-elect Obama has preached pragmatism to addressing America’s issues more than any Presidential candidate in recent history. In this case, the pragmatic approach would be to provide an incentive to bring the BCS conferences to the table with a proposal that allows them to keep the same disproportionate share of television and postseason revenue that they currently enjoy while still adding a playoff system that the general public craves. It’s very easy for people to throw out college football playoff proposals that they believe would be perfect for their personal purposes, but my proposal is aimed at instituting a playoff that the BCS conferences would actually agree to at the end of the day. Otherwise, we’ll still be debating this same issue thirty years from now.
(Video from YouTube)