No more BCS: The playoff will secure college football's crown
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Sports thrive on elimination contests to crown champions, but tradition-bound college football has been slow to embrace the concept. That is soon to change.
In the beginning, colleges played other colleges in football and the teams that did well were invited to bowl games. When the results were finally in, sportswriters would vote in the Associated Press poll or something similar and a national champion was declared, often not to the universal satisfaction of fans and coaches.
Because of the capricious nature of the system, a new method was tried in 1998 -- the Bowl Championship Series. It borrowed some of the old ways to fashion a championship game of sorts. Today, poll and computer rankings are combined to pick the nation's No. 1 and 2 teams, which meet to determine the national championship in a bowl game.
But improvement was not perfection and the complaints continued. The problem is that picking the two best teams is as open to debate as picking one, especially in years when several excellent teams are in contention.
So, after some study by university presidents, yet another refinement has been made, with the new system starting in 2014. The top four teams will be picked by a committee -- No. 4 will play No. 1 and No. 2 will play No. 3, with the winners pitted in the final.
This will look more like a true playoff. As Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger observed, the new system doesn't go too far: "It goes just the right amount."
Human opinion will continue to play a part -- with no conference guaranteed a finalist -- but four teams vying to reach the final should mean less controversy. Fans who have sought a playoff system -- and that includes President Barack Obama -- pretty much get what they want.
The new system, however, means more money for colleges and the establishment of what will surely become a junior Super Bowl, with all the attendant hoopla and hype. That will not please those who think college football has grown too big and powerful, often at the expense of academics.
But this change was inevitable. At least now college football's annual champion will have a stronger claim to wear the crown.
First Published July 7, 2012 12:00 am