Jay Greeson: Football's playoff plan still lacking

Jay Greeson: Football's playoff plan still lacking

June 28th, 2012 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

The group of college presidents approved the four-team playoff model this week. It will take affect in 2014, and there was mention of a 12-year commitment to this plan. You may have heard about it; it was in most of the papers.

Everyone wanted a playoff, yet this feels so anti-climatic, so disappointing. It's like opening a sweater on Christmas. Sure it's a gift and the thought was nice and appropriate, but where's the X-Box games or a new Titleist pitching wedge.

College football fans opened a gift with the announcement of a four-team playoff on the horizon, but that gift was four teams too small. And 12 years? Really, 12 years? Sweet buckets, three presidential terms of snug sweaters and too tight decisions for a four-team draw.

Of course, it is fair to ask that if we wanted a playoff and are now unhappy with a playoff after about 14 hours after said playoff was announced then there's no pleasing us. Well, it would be fair to ask that, but it would be wrong and misdirected.

A four-team playoff is simply the lords of college football's manor giving the starving serfdom of fanhood a scrap from their table and expecting glorious applause of gratitude for their generosity. This is the worst type of plan; it's doomed two years before it starts. And it quite possibly could do what, until this very moment, was deemed unthinkable -- there's a very real possibility that a four-team playoff could make fans long for the good-old days of the BCS.

Don't think so? OK, play out last year's scenario: The four-teams that would have been in the field after the end of the regular season were LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Oregon. That's no Wisconsin and Stanford, which is not a good start. Now what if Boise had not missed a 35-yard field goal in a one-point loss to TCU. And what if Georgia had not dropped a half-dozen passes -- including a couple of for-sure TDs throws that could have meant a two- or three-TD lead -- in the first half of the SEC title game.

If just those two things had not happened, who was your four? Oklahoma State, Oregon, Boise State and ... Alabama? That leaves out the team that was No. 1 for most of the season in LSU and the SEC champ.

"It won't be easy to pick those four teams," ACC commissioner John Swofford told reporters. "There may be some years where it's really clear, but more often than not if you're fifth or sixth, you're going to wonder, 'Maybe I should have been there.'"

And Swafford is a playoff-supporter and a crafter of the four-team playoff second-guessing the plan the day the plan was to be hailed as the plan of all plans. Well, the stuff has hit the plan.

Granted, there still are semantics to be determined and maybe there will be delighted smiles in the details. There were no announcements about the selection committee, which must be as open as a love-stricken teenager's wallet, and a transparent selection committee could go a long way to calming some of this anxiety.

Plus, the biggest shock is not the four-team format as much as the 12-year commitment.

There are three things I have said and believed from the very beginning. This must not damage the integrity of the regular season, this needs to be an eight-team field, and this has nothing to do with fairness or fans and everything to do with finances.

While it was expected that the power brokers of college football to disregard or be indifferent to the first two, we banked on the last sentence as the great equalizer between the wants of the haves and have nots and between the powerful and the passionate.

But 12 years? Most of the marriages that end in divorce don't last that long.

Everyone knew the currents were blowing to a four-team field, and believed that a four-team field for three years -- and with a $500 million per year TV price --would allow the big wigs to see the big checks that were out there. Then the escalation to eight teams and a $1 billion -- yes, billion with a B -- deal would be there for the taking.

Big Ten commissioner/apologist Jim Delany told reporters this was "the best new property to come on to the sports marketplace maybe in our lifetime."

He's right, and it's still only half as good as what could have been.

More from Delany of the playoff: "There will be a period of time of celebration. We were probably the last defenders of the BCS, and we'll be the first defenders of this. We'll be the last off the wagon on it too. We won't be calling for eight. We'll be defending four."

Of course you were Jim because you are the puppets of the powerful. And if you don't believe so, how can you justify being defensive of your plan on the first day of the "time of celebration?"

The four-team playoff is better than the BCS. It's just not as good as the best sport in the country deserves. And sadly, it appears it will be 12 years before it can be fixed.