2004 NCAA Football Playoff Proposal

It's time again for my NCAA Football Playoff Proposal. When I put together my first NCAA playoff proposal in 1999, I really believed that college football was on the path to adopting a playoff system. I could not have been more wrong. The NCAA, the men in the funny-colored sportcoats adorned with their bowl's logo and the university presidents of the top dozen or so power football schools will never allow such a sensible thing as a Division 1-A college football playoff to take place. The aforementioned groups who control college football are like activist judges. They make decisions that suit their own needs even though those decisions run contrary to the desires of 90% of the people involved. Anyway, if college football was in fact like every other sports league on the planet (including all other NCAA football levels, beer league softball, The World Series of Poker and even the WNBA), the playoffs might look a little something like this:

  • 8-team tournament
  • The quarterfinal games will be comprised of the four current BCS Bowls - Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta.
  • The champions from the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac Ten will be given automatic bids to the tournament. For the SEC and Big 12, this will be the winner of their conference's championship game. The ACC will host its inaugural championship game next season.
  • The highest ranked champion (based on the BCS) among the Big East, MAC, WAC, Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference will be guaranteed a spot in the tournament. This year, that team is Utah. Better yet, I would like to see the two highest ranked champions from these five conferences play each other on the first Saturday in December on a neutral site to decide who goes to the playoffs.
  • The two remaining spots in the tournament will be filled on an at-large basis by an impartial selection committee. In order to qualify for an at-large spot, a team must be in the top 12 in the BCS. All Division 1-A teams will be eligible for the at-large spots. This year, Texas and Cal would be the at-large qualifiers.
  • No conference can have more than two teams in the tournament. Put another way, the conferences that received automatic bids cannot take both at-large spots.
  • The committee will then seed the teams from 1 to 8. Seeds will then be swapped, if necessary, to avoid first round matchups between teams from the same conference. For example, if the committee originally seeded Oklahoma 3rd and Texas 6th (3 plays 6 in the first round), then Texas would be moved to the 5th or 7th seed.
  • In order to preserve some of the bowl tradition, the committee will guarantee that the highest ranked team among the Pac Ten and Big Ten champions will go to the Rose Bowl. The committee will also make an effort to send the SEC Champion to the Sugar Bowl and to make the Rose Bowl a Pac Ten vs Big Ten matchup. This will not always be possible. This year it would have worked out perfectly.
  • In the second round, the winner of the 1 vs 8 game will play the winner of the 4 vs 5 game and the winner of 2 vs 7 will play the winner of 3 vs 6. The semifinal and championship games will be given new bowl names.
  • Like the Superbowl, the sites of the semifinal and championship games will rotate. The two semifinal games will not be played in the same city.
  • Typically, the NCAA semifinal games would be played the day before the NFL's AFC and NFC Championship games. Because the NFL season ends late this year, the college semifinals will be played on the Friday and Saturday of the NFL Divisional Playoff week. This leaves two weeks between the quarterfinals and the semifinals and two weeks between the semifinals and the championship game.
  • Every team will play only 11 regular season games (this would maximize a team's game total at 15 including a conference title game).
  • All other bowls will be played as usual.

Here's how the 2004-2005 playoffs would shake out if I were the committee:

Sat Jan 1st 4:30 pm - Rose Bowl - #1 USC (Pac Ten) vs #8 Michigan (Big Ten)
Sat Jan 1st 8:30 pm - Fiesta Bowl - #2 Oklahoma (Big 12) vs #7 Virginia Tech (ACC)
Mon Jan 3rd 8:00 pm - Sugar Bowl - #3 Auburn (SEC) vs #6 California (at-large)
Tue Jan 4th 8:00 pm - Orange Bowl - #4 Texas (at-large) vs #5 Utah (Mountain West)
* Automatic Bid

SEMI-FINALS - Friday Jan 14th and Saturday Jan 15th
Game One - Friday 8:30 pm
Game Two - Saturday 12:30 pm (the NFL now plays at 4:30 and 8:00)

CHAMPIONSHIP - Saturday Jan 29th (Superbowl off week)
Championship Game - 6:00 pm

2003 Playoff Proposal
2002 Playoff Proposal
2001 Playoff Proposal
2000 Playoff Proposal