College Football's 'Playoff' Changes Nothing

Posted on July 13, 2012

By Phil Jackman

After days of reflection and study, and more reflection, I've come to one unalterable conclusion regarding the major college football playoff, which goes into effect a couple of years down the road. It can be summed up in a simple question: Isn't this the hated Bowl Championship Series multiplied by two, four teams now involved as opposed to two?

Despite learned Sports Illustrated declaring "This Changes Everything," I see the big-time conference commissioners still being in charge, the four finalists being picked pretty much the way the previous two have been and two big-time bowls being assigned the semifinal games, with the title game up for bid. So, again, what's the difference, save for a grab for a few more bucks? Well, more than a few more -- like the new windfall being as much as three times the previous take.

Isn't it amazing what has come to be with all the league jumping, the dumping of tradition and an end to supposedly sacred rivalries that college football still sees itself functioning under the guise of being an amateur sport? The big guys better make sure they spread the wealth around liberally, or the inevitable revolution could match the Civil War.

***

Speaking of amateurs, there's an old saying that the trouble with amateur sports is they're run by amateurs. This certainly applies to the dead-heat tie between Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh during the women's 100-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Oregon.

The sport's governing body, U.S. Track and Field, mostly a slap-dash outfit for years, had no procedure to cover the situation, strangely. Hey, you send in your check covering the sanctioning fee and you can do pretty much what you want. If this was a small-time meet in East Overshoe, say, no problem, just award two third-place medals.

But this was for a spot in the 100 meters at the Olympics in London, beginning July 27. Officials did nothing for a week before deciding to tack on an extra day to the Trials for the women to oppose each other. Tarmoh later said she didn't want to run, and conceded the third spot to Felix. The way to handle the situation would have been to provide a short rest period for Felix and Tarmoh (after all, we're not talking about a marathon here) and settle it on the spot. Next case.

***

Instead of cutting its 28-member men's outdoor track and field team in half to maintain the track program at the University of Maryland -- "It's going to be a difficult adjustment," coach Andrew Valmon said -- the Terps should go strictly with runners and relayists and continue to participate in cross country and indoor track.

Acting as an independent, the Terps could jump into invitational events throughout the fall, winter and spring seasons, not having expensive Atlantic Coast Conference travel schedules dictated to them. It used to be that track, wrestling and swimming were far from being called minor in College Park, and Maryland battled North Carolina annually for overall ACC supremacy in all sports combined (Carmichael Cup). It was a true athletic department then, not a semi-pro football-and-men's basketball operation.

***

Times must be tough at the University of Michigan. If you're looking for a place to get married, the school is charging $6,000 to host the nuptials in its football stadium. The place, often referred to as the "Big House," hosts about 107,000, in case you expect a lot of friends to show up. A dozen couples have already signed up, shunning the old college sweethearts' wishes to get hitched in the quaint little college chapel (Notre Dame, Navy and about a hundred other locales).

***

Why is Joey Chestnut gobbling down 68 hot dogs (with buns) in 10 minutes on the Fourth of July worthy of being on television and on sports pages? Years ago, at a newspaper company picnic, I won a corn on the cob-eating contest (24), and not only wasn't it mentioned in the paper, but I also had to clean up my own mess afterward.

***

I remember the last time an All-Star Game was in Kansas City as if it were yesterday. I was out for a run during the mid-afternoon and, for want of a course, dropped down into a lengthy culvert similar to the one you see in Los Angeles in the movies.

Going south was no problem when a light rain began. After a turnaround, the rain picked up and thunder and lightning began booming from up north. Soon, the water was an inch deep, and it was time to scurry up the side of the culvert to the street.

Back at the hotel, looking out from about 10 stories up, wow! The water was about 6 feet deep and rushing along at about 100 miles per hour. I had heard about these things called gulley washers, but I thought that was in Texas, not at a ballgame in KC. Live and learn.

***

Can you believe that in 1964 (on the Fourth of July), a curfew was established (and went into effect) for a Memorial Stadium game to allow a fireworks display to go off on time? That reminds that the first year high school football was played in 1967, the so-called championship game was postponed because it conflicted with a bake sale scheduled at the school listed to host the game.

***

A tennis match at the recent French Open in Paris was suspended at match point on a Tuesday, meaning Sara Errani and CoCo Vandeweghe had to come back and finish up Wednesday. So, after proper preparation and warm-ups, all the officials were seated and the announcements were made, Vandeweghe double faulted and the match was over. Sounds made up, doesn't it?

***

Any time I see a picture of Michael Phelps in the paper (there have been more than a few occasions), I think back to a story about the swimming phenom when he was first starting out, a million Olympic medals ago. Youngsters at the north Baltimore pool were asked whether they remembered him, and one girl said, "Yeah, is that the little kid who used to cry all the time?" That certainly humanized the guy, right?
 
Issue 175: July 2012

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