Thursday, April 5, 2012

College football playoff: Be careful what you wish for

If reports are true those in charge of the BCS are considering a four-team playoff to decide college football's national championship, they should be applauded.

It's the step in the right direction. The next step, deciding the logistics of the semifinal round, and of course, the national championship game, is just as important.

The format for a four-team playoff has to be right.

Four proposals are under consideration, according to reports:

1. Play all three games at bowls.

2. Play the semifinals at bowls, and selecting a bowl game site for the title game.

3. Play all three games at neutral sites and not brand the games as bowls.

4. Play the semifinal games at campus sites and select a bowl for the title game.

I like what's behind No. 4, and it's not close. It makes the most sense, and would work logistically. The proof is in a lot of NCAA tournaments we see in other sports. 

Plenty of early round games during March Madness are played in front of empty seats, as are women's basketball and college hockey tournament games. Then, when those tournaments get to its final four stage, it's a fan extravaganza and an easy sellout.

In football, it's not that simple. Two mega trips in back-to-back weeks won't be easy for the fans, mostly because of cost and location.

For example, say Ohio State and Texas play in the Orange Bowl in a semifinal game with the winner advancing to the Rose Bowl in the national championship game. No doubt, a select number of fans could afford to pull that off, but probably not as many as you think. Don't forget, the NCAA tries to keep the highest-seeded basketball and hockey teams as close to home as possible. It's not just for the fans, it's for the teams too, because after a successful season, it deserves it. That isn't the case every time, especially with tournaments with large fields, but the NCAA tries its best.

Awarding the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked college football teams at the end of the season with a home playoff game in the semifinal rounds is easy, and would make for quite a scene. The excitement for the semifinal games would be incredible, with the possibilities and the intrigue endless. It wouldn't be the same in cities such as Miami, Glendale, Ariz. and New Orleans.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo



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