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Will College Football Playoff Cause Even More Complaints?

January 16, 2014

Fitting, perhaps, was the way the Bowl Championship Series concluded after a controversial 16-year run, with top-ranked Florida State defeating Auburn during the national championship game Jan. 6. 

"Oh," some of you probably said. "I didn't know the Seminoles won the national championship. Was it a good game?"

It was spectacular. Florida State, behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, swept 80 yards down the field and prevailed, 34-31, on a touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining. 

Most fans probably can be excused for failing to tune in to the title game after two weeks of 34 previous bowl games and four captivating NFL Wild Card Round games adding to the cluster. OK, I confess, I didn't remember until the second half was under way. 

It was shortly after the BCS began in 1998 that numerous media types began picking on the way the title match was being staged, and the complaints became more numerous and nasty -- despite the fact that 13 of the 16 games ended up with the No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll going against the No. 2. 

Now, in lieu of numerous polls (wire service, coaches and media) and computer rankings (too numerous to mention), the College Football Playoff will be set up with four teams, selected by a 13-member committee. 

While many feel the new system will be an improvement, eliminating the bad publicity that comes when a third top team is left out of the present BCS system of two finalists, one wonders whether four teams won't lead to more teams wondering why they weren't included. 

Just as more arguments rose up as the BCS matured, the same thing figures to happen as the CFP goes forward. The championship tournament might be better served if the final field were raised to eight participants, but let's wait a decade or so before the new system corrects its mistake. 

Most probably don't remember the early years of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but it could be an example of what could happen to football ultimately. 

Initially, the tournament started out with eight teams. The field increased to 16 teams in 1951, 32 in 1975, 48 in 1980, 64 in 1985, 65 in 2001 and 68 in 2011. Television and the preponderance of good teams led to increased fields and regions, and it's inevitable the same will happen in football. Because football is a once-per-week undertaking, it doesn't seem likely that the CFP field will ever exceed eight teams.

But they probably figured the same thing concerning basketball back in the day. 


As long as I've been in this business, I've never been able to figure out why my colleagues -- good, bad and indifferent -- seem duty-bound to romanticize the preceding year's happenings while hauling out predictions for the coming year.

Reviews and previews have traditionally been a staple of the sports reporting business, but why do we insist upon painting an overly rosy picture of the past and picking local teams to have spectacular years dead ahead? 

One of the things I learned while stumbling through several months as the weekend sports guy on Channel 2 (circa 1975) was people didn't care if I predicted a Colts victory every Saturday night. In fact, viewers probably pressed the off button and hit the sack after the weather guy did his bit. 

But guess that the local team was going to lose to Miami (then a good team), and it was as if you were coming out in favor of the Vietnam War. So, naturally, I felt duty-bound to pick against the Colts weekly, even when they were playing Buffalo. It's amazing how many people fell for this gimmick and stayed tuned in. 

One year, I swear, there was a contingent of men, women and children at the airport specifically to berate me as the team returned from a division-clinching victory, even though I was helping Hurst "Loudy" Loudenslager set up his Colt fight song to welcome the conquering heroes. He later suggested I refrain from standing next to him if I kept picking against the Colts. 

It was at about that time that the Channel 2 station manager, who had hired me because he had thought I could liven things up, a la sportscaster Warner Wolf in Washington, D.C., told me to cool it and not even mention the Colts. Shortly after I followed the orders, people called and asked, "Whatever happened to that jerk who always picked against the Colts?"

It wasn't long afterward that my days as a hotshot sports purveyor came to an end, and it was as if a thousand-pound weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was a tougher business than I had initially envisioned. 

I ran into some of the same issues when working for newspapers -- after all, you were writing for fans of local teams, and said fans weren't interested in reading knock pieces often (ever).

For instance, when the Orioles retired to sixth place in the American League standings in 1967, following the World Series sweeps in 1966, it was suggested that the Knights of the Keyboard refrain from too many references to what had happened the previous year. Thus, I was never a big fan of reviews and previews, leaving such to other guys. Have at it, Stan "The Fan" Charles.

Issue 193: January 2014