Yesterday was January 1, and we now have a new NCAA Division I football champion. Congratulations to the ________ of ________ University, who persevered through a grueling playoff run against top teams in each round, and then dominated _________ in the final game to win the well-deserved championship trophy.
Oh wait, that’s not the way it works.
Although every other sports league in the world — including every other NCAA sport (even the other divisions in football) — has a structured playoff system in which the leading contenders play each other in a series of games to determine a champion, the NCAA has polls of coaches and sportswriters, and then a trumped-up “championship game.” to decide who will be the No. 1 team in Division I football.
It’s a ridiculous scheme, and it’s only allowed to continue because people actually continue to watch the exhibitions that are put up as “bowl games.”
Let’s take the National Football League by comparison. The NFL will begin its playoff schedule next weekend. Four of the 12 teams in the post-season tournament will have byes the first week. The rest will play win-or-go-home games, and after the weekend, the tournament will be down to eight teams. The next weekend will feature four games, and then two games the following weekend, leading up to the Super Bowl on February 6. Each of the games will feature the league’s elite teams facing each other in high-stakes games; you win, or your season is over. At the end of it all, the winner will have had to run a gauntlet of three or four tough games against top competition over a period of five weeks. The Vince Lombardi trophy actually means something.
In the NCAA Division I, on the other hand, we’ve had a gaggle of exhibition games featuring second-tier teams to fill the time between the real season and the “championship game.” On New Year’s Day alone, there were two games in which both teams had 7-5 records. The two teams who have been anointed to play in the so-called championship game — Oregon and Auburn — played their last games on December 4. That means it will be more than five weeks before they play the game that will supposedly determine the championship of college football.
Five weeks. Where else in sports is there a five-week gap between games?
I won’t be watching. And frankly, I don’t know why anyone would.