ESPN polled football coaches from the so-called power conferences — SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12 — recently when they came through Bristol, Conn., on the “Car Wash” series of interviews, and the results of this one stunned me. Thirty of the 65 coaches, a plurality approaching a majority, favor playing only games against each other now that college football has a four-team playoff.
Really? Is this the world we want? Shouldn’t there be a place for Boise State and BYU to play the power 65, to say nothing of a whole host of worthy teams in some of the lesser leagues?
A better compromise might be a ban on scheduling FCS (the old Division 1-AA) teams, which would roughly double the available pool suggested by the ESPN poll.
Seven Pac-12 coaches voted affirmatively, the story says, including Washington’s Chris Petersen. Only Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez opposed, while four — including WSU’s Mike Leach — were undecided.
I get that the average fan would love the Big Five-only idea. If you’re a Washington season-ticket holder, you hate the idea that a chunk of your several-hundred-dollar investment is going to watch Georgia State this year. Understood. But in the perfect world, the UW makes the commitment not to dig so deep into the pool of available teams and comes up with, say, San Jose State or Colorado State rather than Georgia State — just as Washington State could do better than scheduling Portland State, which it has Sept. 13.
Funny that the poll comes precisely at a time when the Big Five conferences have gained greater voting autonomy within the NCAA, and administrators and conference execs are trumpeting that the change is for the greater good of the student-athlete. Not sure how playing nine games in a tough league like the Pac-12 and three more rugged ones benefits the cause of the student-athlete.
The rider to the concept is that no longer would the NCAA hold teams to the standard of six victories to become bowl-eligible. Not that the current six-win standard isn’t a bit artificial because of scheduling, but how appealing is it going to be when a 4-8 team faces off against one that’s 5-7 (or worse)?
This calls to mind a debate advanced many years ago about the concept of a superconference, with only the nation’s best-equipped programs — 16, 32, whatever — playing the game. Somebody’s got to lose, and (duh), it’s going to be the lower echelon of that collection, and suddenly, being part of the superconference isn’t so super. And unlike relegation in British soccer, there’s no stipulation for the bad teams dropping down a division.
Not to keep flogging a dead horse, but I think the coaches are far too worried about conference-to-conference scheduling inequities and how they’ll affect the playoff. Guys, the selection committee is still going to have to make hard choices, and they don’t become a lot easier with an all-Big Five schedule. Non-conference games against Iowa State, Cal and Kentucky still have to be weighed against a schedule of Colorado, Maryland and Virginia.
Bad idea. But then, I’m not the season-ticket holder shelling out to see Idaho State come into my stadium, either.