Wisch: The Case For The College Bowl System

Editor’s Note: This column is part of a two-column debate between CBS Chicago’s Sam Zuba and Dave Wischnowsky regarding whether or not a playoff should be used in college football. To read Sam’s argument,  please click here.

By Dave Wischnowsky-

(CBS) The NFL has a playoff system (just ask Tim Tebow). Major League Baseball has a playoff system (just ask David Freese). The NBA has a playoff system (Derrick Rose says hello in advance).

College basketball has a playoff system (March nods its head). The NHL has a playoff system (One Goal). And so does soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, water polo and every other organized team sport known to man.

But then there’s major college football.

It doesn’t have a playoff system (perhaps you’ve heard). And, you know what? I’m totally OK with that.

Two hundred-some years ago, back when I think Joe Paterno was a grad assistant, the English poet William Cowper (1731-1800) penned the line, “Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.” Now, surely ol’ Bill wasn’t dreaming of sports when he wrote that ditty, but he just as easily could have been.

Because, the fact that college football is different also means that it serves up the most delicious regular season in all of sports.

Nothing else tastes nearly as good.

Tonight at 8 p.m., LSU and Alabama will square off in a rematch for the national championship. And since the game was set, many people have spent the past month griping, groaning and arguing about it, much like they gripe, groan and argue all season long about who’s ranked No. 1, who isn’t and who should be.

But what seems to annually get lost in all that hubbub, is that here in America – a nation where we absolutely love to debate – college football just gave us four nonstop entertaining months of it.

Don’t say you haven’t enjoyed it.

With no official playoff system, college football’s entire regular season is in effect a playoff, and it provides more week-to-week drama than the NFL, NBA or MLB can even dream of doing. Each of those leagues have to wait until the postseason to really amp up their excitement.

College football, on the other hand, starts playing high stakes from the get-go. Or, do you not think that this fall’s Michigan-Alabama season opener will be interesting – and incredibly meaningful?

Now, I don’t doubt that a playoff in college football would produce some high drama and great games, but if it’s at the cost of stripping so much drama and so many great games from the length of the regular season, is it really worth it?

I have my doubts.

Because, rather than making college football more interesting, I fear a playoff system would instead threaten to turn the sport into something I really don’t want to see it become.

Namely, everything else.

In conjunction with playoff complaints, many also complain about college football’s bowls. There are too many, they say. And they don’t mean enough, they howl.

But, really, since when is more football too much football? And try telling all those teams that win a bowl and get to finish their season on an up note that the games have no meaning. Other sports allow just one team – and one fan base – to end the year happy. College football, meanwhile, allows many.

But, because it doesn’t have a playoff system, so many people like to pretend that college football is broken. If you really think about it, though, it ain’t. So why “fix” it?

Rather, college football is unique. And, yes, it has its flaws and at times is “unfair,” but even with a playoff, somebody would always be angry that they didn’t get in.

No, college football isn’t perfect.

But, at the same time, yes it is.

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.

  • J-Dubya

    I will read the other side of this (haven’t yet).

    I am a fan of the bowl system. I am not a fan of the BCS.

    1. Because the BCS and other bowls keep so much of the revenue that is generated from the game. Where does it go? I have no idea.
    2. As long as people play in games, people should decide the outcome.
    3. There is nothing to play for after teams lose during the regular season. College sports is about player development yet the season is structured so that players have to peak on Week 1.
    4. I am in favor of a combination of bowls and playoff.

  • Matt

    I like the bowl system but you can’t argue that the regular season is one big playoff and then have a rematch in the national title game. If the regular season is a playoff analogy was true then Alabama couldn’t be in the title game because they already lost to LSU. So although I am fine with the bowls determining the National Champion that argument loses merit. The better thing to do is to tweek the system. Have a selection committee look at resumes to determine the two best teams. Require a team to win its conference to be considered. Still confusing how the best team in the Nation could be Alabama but they won’t be the best team in the SEC west.

    • J-Dubya

      Well stated, Matt. At a minimum you should be a conference champion. That isn’t asking a lot. Unless there is a true playoff, how can you be the best in the country but not the best in your conference? I don’t care how strong your conference is.

      I might be getting this wrong, but in the major conferences we had the following champions in 2011:
      1. SEC: LSU
      2. Big 12: OkState
      3. Big 10: Wisconsin
      4. Pac 12: Oregon
      5. Big East: West Virginia
      6. ACC: Virginia Tech
      7. Top Independent: Notre Dame
      8. Best of the non major conferences: Boise State

      With this list I think that it is pretty clear that LSU and OkState were the top two teams with Boise in the discussions. Also, why not play six of these teams off? The fact is that they will be on winter break during much of the preparation time.

      • J-Peter

        You can leave Notre Dame out of that conversation for a play-off. I’d rather fill in with another non major before watching ND play another game.

  • J-Dubya

    Amen J-Peter.

    Unless you can promise me that Brian Kelly will go off in an expletive filled tirade that is caught on camera again.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    The tv ratings this year support Dave’s position.

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