Writer says bowl alliance is start, but not the answer

by Richard Rosenblatt

(AP) — It’s Saturday, Nov. 28, 1998. Three teams — let’s say Nebraska, Penn State and Tennessee — are undefeated and ranked 1-2-3.
The Cornhuskers are playing in the Big 12 title game, the Volunteers in the SEC title game and the Nittany Lions have already won the Big Ten.
ABC’s new bowl alliance is about to kick in and the Orange Bowl has the first true national title game, No. 1 vs. No. 2 at Joe Robbie Stadium on Jan. 2, 1999.
Uh, oh.
Nebraska wins. Tennessee wins. All three teams are undefeated, untied and on Monday, ranked 1-2-3 by the writers’ and coaches’ polls.
What happens now? Let’s see. No. 1 plays No. 2 and 3 goes to … the Rose Bowl?
So where’s the clear-cut champion being promised by all these conference commissioners and TV executives?
You’re close, guys, but not quite there.
Sure, it’s great the Rose Bowl finally stepped off its pedestal and brought the Big Ten and Pac-10 with it into the bowl alliance. Now, the six top conferences and Notre Dame form a cozy group being touted as the “super alliance.”
But is this what college football really needs? For now, OK, but there’s still too many hitches. If it isn’t too many undefeated teams, it’ll be not enough undefeated teams. If it isn’t a conflict between the polls, it’ll be a bowl sniping about not getting a sellable matchup.
In order to end all this who, what, where and why stuff, here’s a proposal that will end all this madness:
Let’s have a playoff!
Of all the coaches who gave their blessing when ABC announced its four-year deal to match No. 1 vs. No. 2 — with the Rose Bowl a willing partner — only Florida’s Steve Spurrier made it clear he still favors a playoff.
“Until there is a true playoff system involving at least 16 teams, this is the best scenario we can hope for to determine a national champion,” Spurrier said after Tuesday’s announcement by ABC that a new bowl alliance had been created.
“There are some glitches in it — if three teams are undefeated or three teams have one loss.”
Although Spurrier suggests 16 teams, an eight-team playoff would work just as well.
For instance:
Each of the six conferences in the alliance would have a title game the last weekend of November, kind of like a mini-March Madness.
Those six champs, plus the two teams that either have the best records or are ranked highest, would get wild-card berths and fill out the field.
After a one-week rest (final exams, you know), the playoff would commence the weekend of Dec. 12-13, 1998, at four bowl sites — for example, the Sugar, Cotton, Gator and Florida Citrus, or whoever antes up the most money to help ABC recoup some of the $500 million it reportedly is spending on its new deal.
The next week, it’s on to the semifinals at two bowl sites (of course, three bowls will be willing to pay even more than the others and they will form a semifinal-final championship rotation). Let’s use the Fiesta and Rose bowls for the semis this time.
The winners then get two weeks off while the rest of the minor bowl games are played from Dec. 22-Jan. 1. That would give the Sun, Liberty and Peach bowls a nice window of opportunity.
Finally, on Jan. 2, 1999, the game for the national championship.
No ifs, ands or buts.
Playoff drawbacks? Not many.
ù Too many games? The two teams that make the final would end up playing 14 games. Brigham Young can play 15 this season.
ù Players missing too much school? It would be semester break.
ù The bowls will lose their appeal? Last year’s bowl alliance deal saw TV ratings sink for most of the bowls. In fact, the Fiesta (No. 1 Nebraska 62, No. 2 Florida 24), received a lower rating than the Rose Bowl, played a day earlier.
ù Why would the minor bowls want to keep going? Because sponsors would figure out a way to make it work, and television could use them as a vehicle to promote the title game.
ù What about television? Let the networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and ESPN — fight it out for broadcast rights. Sharing works, too.
It seems the biggest difference is, NFL players make millions for themselves and college players make millions for their school.
But that’s another issue.