Monday, July 9, 2012

new world order

For better or for worse, this year will be the penultimate (I have always wanted to use that word) season for the "BCS" as we know it.  It arose in its current incarnation (with some evolution along the way) for the 1998 season, after the Rose Bowl joined what was then the Bowl Alliance.  Thus was born the BCS, which will have lasted 16 years when its controversial present form flips to a "playoff."

I was hoping they'd come right out with this big announcement and say THIS IS HOW IT WILL BE but the honchos in charge of this thing basically just kind of set up a skeleton of a plan and let a lot of it fall into place on its own.  This is probably necessary: if they get too bossy about how the various bowls will exist in the New World Order, antitrust suits would probably follow. 

(After all, the NIT sued the NCAA for creating a monopoly on the grounds that NCAA teams weren't allowed to go to the NIT if selected to the NCAA tournament, despite the fact that nobody ever would have ever turned down a Big Dance bid, ever, even if given the choice.  And the NCAA had to pay $56 million to make that go away; imagine if the bowls got together and sued as well.)

Anyway, I'm one who likes things to set themselves up in a pretty standard, well-ordered fashion.  (A standard that I can be admittedly inconsistent about applying, but whatever.)  Thus I was OK with the BCS because it had pretty well-defined, easy-to-understand rules and created a definite pecking order.  Laugh all you like, but it did.  Thus also I'm not completely pissed off about the "playoff" even though I'm positive it'll expand some time in the future to a too-large number.  The elements of the system have pretty much come together, and they're not done, but they're close enough that we can kind of hash this out:

-- Six bowl games will constitute the New World Order BCS: the Rose, the Orange, the "Champions Bowl" which is the SEC-Big 12 version of the Rose and will probably get a shiny new corporate name at some point, and three more, but one imagines that the Sugar and Fiesta will not be left out.  (Though they will have to bid for their spot.)  The other is an as-yet-unnamed bowl.  They'll bid that out too, and it'll probably be either the Cotton or the ex-Peach, the latter of which has made no secret of its intention to join the party.

-- They'll play three of these games on New Year's Eve and three on New Year's Day.  Much, much better than the slow creep into January that saw big important bowl games being played next to the most insignificant ones and like on a Tuesday evening when we were basically done with bowl excitement thank you very much.

-- Five conferences have auto-ins to send their champs this New BCS, but through arrangements with the bowls themselves, not through a contract with each other.  I told you the little guys were killing their golden-egg laying goose by making noise about antitrust lawsuits.  That'll probably be it, too: the Big East is highly unlikely to be able to negotiate themselves a similar arrangement.

-- The semifinals of the four-team playoff will rotate among the six bowls.  If the ACC champ is a semifinalist, they'll play in the semifinals and another ACC team goes to the Orange.  If the Orange is a semifinal host, the ACC champ (if not a semifinalist) will play in the Sugar or Fiesta or whatever bowl is out there and not hosting a semifinal or filled up with another team's championship.  The same goes for the other four conferences and their tie-ins.

-- The championship will be played on the first Monday in January that is at least six days after New Year's.  So, like, the 12th in some years - in fact, the first year of the deal.  Ugh.  It'll be sold to the highest bidding city.

-- A committee will pick all the teams - both the semifinalists and the bowl participants - that aren't autobidded in through their conference's respective deal.

So I can get behind this, I guess.  The main thing is that the ACC is taken care of.  People have this wack-job idea about four superconferences but that's not happening, because it requires a higher power to force it to happen, and the NCAA has no interest in doing that.  The ACC is here to stay.  There's still a bright line between the haves and have-nots, it's just that the Biggish Eastish finds itself on the other side of it.  I consider that a good thing; it's a sign that building a hideously ugly Frankenconference is not a path to success.  Speaking of which, now is when you get to hear the good things about the whole deal:

-- The ACC is taken care of.  But I said that.

-- Games on New Year's Day and Eve.  When they should be played.  That's a really nice way to throw a bone to me and the rest of the getoffmylawners (ok, traditionalists) and it's good enough to shut me up if I get too criticizey.  Obviously, the emasculation of New Year's was a big issue in the BCS's brave new world; this is a fantastic step in the right direction.

-- No longer watching the ACC and Orange Bowl get stuck with the Biggish Eastish champion, which three times out of four made for a crap matchup and then ended up with the ACC looking like ass when the champion lost.  OK, it happened less often than it seemed like, but it's a guarantee that the ACC champion will always play a top team and not the last one in the barrel.

-- A greater chance to play in different bowl games, if you've got a good enough team.  It doesn't have to always be the Orange Bowl to be fun.  Watching Michigan play VT in the Sugar Bowl was neat stuff (for me anyway.)

-- Selection committee.  People complain a lot about the committees for the other sports, but they're like democracy: the worst system there is, except for all the other ones that've already been tried.  It's certainly better than leaving it up to a bunch of computers and voters with questionable levels of buy-in to the process.

And what I don't like:

-- That chances are it's a stepping stone to six teams or eight or sixteen or..... you know the NCAA and that they can't keep their paws off something good.  I would consider this an overall improvement because of the New Year's Day thing if it weren't for the likelihood that it would expand at some point.  That pretty much casts a shadow on the whole thing.

-- The fact that even with just four teams, it basically removes the requirement of perfection from the equation.  In other words, that late-season stumble by a once-perfect team is cause for a shrug instead of shock.  Some might call that good.  I call it bad.

I guess we'll see.....the weird thing about this is that we have two more seasons before this even comes into play.  Do you realize that it was barely two years ago that Nebraska was announced as the newest Big Ten member and the first realignment domino?  A lot can happen.  But, ever the optimist, I'd like to believe that this announcement will actually settle the dust.  Maybe one more round of it?  Notre Dame going somewhere?  The Biggish Eastish falling apart?  At any rate I would guess that, barring a Notre Dame move and something else to balance it out, the five major conferences are pretty much done changing their membership rolls.  If shutting down the realignment madness is the legacy of the New World Order, I can completely get behind that.

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