NCAA writer discusses potential playoff system
But what would college football be with a little controversy?
The four-team playoff announced Wednesday sparked debate amongst the sport's enthusiasts, including Sports Illustrated and SI.com writer Stewart Mandel, who has covered the sport since 1999. Mandel joined Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo Thursday to shed light on the playoff system and how it came to be.
"The problem with [college football's] current system is that the voters don't have to explain how they vote, and all but one of the computer formulas are a secret," said Mandel.
The new playoff will consist of four teams decided by a "selection" committee. These teams would then play in semifinal games to determine who would play in the BCS National Championship Game.
Where these semifinal games are played has yet to be determined, but Mandel points to the current BCS bowls being involved, meaning the Fiesta, Sugar, Orange and Rose Bowls would all rotate as hosts in some fashion.
"I don't know any specifics yet of that rotation or which bowls will be involved in that rotation," said Mandel. "I think the current BCS bowls have a shot to be part of that. Whether you get to host a semi-final every other year or every third year, we just don't know yet."
This means the Rose Bowl, traditionally played between champions of the Big Ten and Pac-12 conference, may feature a team like LSU or Oklahoma in Pasadena.
Mandel explains this is one of the many reasons the Big Ten conference is the loser in the decided playoff format.
"The Big Ten reluctantly joined this cause," said Mandel. "They're doing it because the rest of college football wants to." He elaborates, stating the nature of bowl games give Midwestern schools such as Ohio State and Michigan a "geographic disadvantage".
"Bowl games were designed to be a nice vacation for the fans. They weren't necessarily designed to determine a national champion."
"Mike Slive (Commissioner of the SEC) has been pushing for the four-team playoff the longest," said Mandel. "He's finally getting it and in the form that he intended."
But before the conspiracy theorists out there start pegging the playoff as being stacked in favor of the SEC, Mandel reminds us that it won't always be this way.
"I think people need to think long term, and not be so knee-jerk to react to this LSU-Alabama thing that happened last year," Mandel said. "Honestly, that was a 1-in-14 year thing and I don't think it's going to happen every single year."
What about this selection committee? How can we be sure they aren't picking teams based on an undisclosed agenda?
"That's going to be the big challenge going forward," said Mandel. "I think the [NCAA] basketball committee does a very good job. They have an established set of criteria they follow and without failure every year the teams that get left out, it's usually because they didn't schedule a tough enough non-conference schedule or they didn't beat one of the other teams head to head.
"A lot of these [NCAA] commissioners have served on the basketball committee. They like the idea of coming up with a set of criteria they consider important. Winning your conference will be one of those things. Strength of schedule will be one of those things. [Another] key component will be making sure it's equally represented geographically."
With this formula in mind, the big four conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) are the frontrunners for appearing in the playoff, but smaller conferences such as the Big East and ACC are at a disadvantage. Mandel also believes this will lead to more schools defecting out of their respective conferences to have a better shot at entering the playoff.
"I think there will be one last round [of defections] at some point, this year or next year."
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