Five power conferences. Four playoff spots.
Someone was always going to be left out.
It’s early December, which means one thing: a contingent of the country will be whining about its place in the college football postseason. Pick your administrative acronym! Whether it’s the BCS, or this year’s much-discussed CFP (College Football Playoff!), a school or schools were going to get screwed, according to players, coaches, and supporters of that school or schools. In this, the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff, the screaming is particularly loud, as two teams from Texas — which happens to be the corporate headquarters of the playoff committee, and site of the national championship game — didn’t get an invite to the national semifinals.
Texas Christian University and Baylor, from the Big 12 conference, entered the weekend ranked third and sixth, respectively. They both took care of business this weekend: TCU trounced lowly Iowa State by 52 points, while Baylor beat No.9 Kansas State, 38-27.
But in college sports, that on-field business doesn’t always count. It’s the off-field machinations, conducted by highly-compensated bureaucrats, that determine the fate of unpaid amateurs.
The college sports business bit the Big 12. Schools like Missouri and Texas A&M and Colorado and Nebraska started abandoning the conference a few years back; the Big 12 now has only 10 teams. Under NCAA rules, you need 12 teams to hold a conference championship game; so the Big 12 didn’t have a clear champion in the eyes of the committee.
In lieu of a championship game, the Big 12 created a “One True Champion” campaign that now looks like a joke, since Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby presented both TCU and Baylor championship trophies on Saturday. Bowlsby played politics: he didn’t want to tick off either member of his club. But he got played. Without giving the selection committee a clear choice, even though Baylor beat TCU head-to-head in the regular season– no more logical tie-breaker on the planet exists — Bowlsby gave the selection committee an easy out.
Put Ohio State in the playoff.
The Big 10 has 14 teams. (We know, we know, the conference names really make no sense). So it played itself a championship game, and the Buckeyes, with their third string quarterback, destroyed 13th-ranked Wisconsin, 59-0. Such a decisive win in a high-stakes affair made the decision easy. Put the champs from four of the five power conferences in the playoff — Alabama (SEC), Oregon (Pac-12), Florida State (ACC), and Ohio State (Big 10). Leave the touchy-feely Big 12 — both of you boys win!! Trophies for everyone!!– out of it.
You have to feel for the players of TCU and Baylor: bad politics cost them a shot at the national championship. But we all know what the committee knows. College football wins here. Ohio State, with high-strung coach Urban Meyer, is a more compelling national draw than either TCU or Baylor. In the first year of the playoff, the New Year’s Day semifinals — Alabama vs. Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, Oregon and Florida State in the Rose Bowl — will get monster ratings.
As for the Big 12 — well, start adding teams. Or lobbying for a waiver start a championship game with 10 teams. Or change the tie-breaker rules.
In other words, get back to business. That’s what always wins here.
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Write to Sean Gregory at firstname.lastname@example.org