The Trouble with Today's College Football

What happened to old-fashioned gridiron warfare?


We all know what a boom looks like. A frenzy of mad excess, with abundance rising to levels no one imagined, the old virtues of thrift and prudence giving way to a get-all-you-can mentality and everyone assuming the party will go on forever.

No, I'm not talking about the financial sector. I'm talking about college football.

Barack Obama has weighed in against the existing Bowl Championship Series as a way of determining the national title among college football's top-tier teams. What he has failed to address are two far more grievous afflictions plaguing the game: a gross surplus of scoring and a mortifying multiplicity of bowls.

In the golden days, the game consisted of a lot of blocking and a lot of tackling. Teams marched laboriously down the field, if they moved at all. Occasionally they scored. More often they didn't.

In those days, defense was not a dirty word. In the 1969 "game of the century" between No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Arkansas, both unbeaten, the Longhorns prevailed by 15-14, which was considered perfectly normal. In 1966, when No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State battled to a 10-10 tie, the stands were not littered afterward with the corpses of fans who died of boredom.

How things have changed. The last two BCS title games yielded an average of 65.5 points per game—more than both of those earlier "national title" games put together. If there was any surprise in the last two title matchups, it's that there wasn't more scoring.

Today, after all, the entire point of the modern game seems to be to avoid all that unpleasant blocking and tackling, in favor of 60 minutes of keepaway. Last season, major college teams hit an all-time high, averaging a total of 58.5 points per game—up by 11 points in the last 20 years. On average, there were more than seven touchdowns in every game. (By contrast, according to the sports data service STATS, NFL scoring has been stable since 1987.)

All the scoreboard activity at the college level is the product of more frequent and more effective passing. The typical team now spends more time airborne than JetBlue, throwing 34 times every time it takes the field.

But if I wanted to see two teams racing back and forth throwing the ball and scoring incessantly from start to finish, I'd be watching the NBA. In fact, one of the minds who shaped this new game, outgoing Purdue coach Joe Tiller, called it "basketball on grass," which he did not mean as a disparagement.

He also called it "sissy ball," which is undoubtedly one of the milder terms the legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes would have used. Hayes, who harbored a deep distrust of the forward pass, approvingly described football as a "crunching, frontal assault of muscle against muscle, bone upon bone, will against will." Those words do not conjure up the spread offense, which deploys up to five receivers whose goal is to elude touching, much less crunching.

Our forebears would have recognized this impersonation of football as a symptom of moral decline, reflecting an unwillingness to accept deprivation and a demand for instant and frequent gratification. The same phenomenon accounts for the mad proliferation of postseason bowl games.

This year, 34 of these will be played (more than double the number in 1980), creating the biggest glut this side of the housing sector. They include the EagleBank in Washington, D.C., the R+L Carriers New Orleans, the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia and the Gaylord Hotels Music City.

Think of it: Half a century hence, an elderly man will dandle his grandson on his knee and regale him with stirring tales of the 2008 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

He will be the only one who remembers. Filling all those instantly forgettable games requires 68 teams. Major college football includes only 120 schools. You don't even have to be average to make it. It is only a matter of time before bowls become like youth soccer trophies—guaranteed to every participant, no matter how inept.

Maybe we should all take the view that, as Mae West put it, too much of a good thing is wonderful. But as the folks at Lehman Brothers and Citigroup can attest, unbridled excess can be a recipe for regret.


NEXT: This Leaves a Sour Taste

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  1. k.

  2. But if Barack says “do it” we probably should.

  3. Wow. Did this article really need to be written? I highly doubt the public would want to go back to a time before the forward pass. If anything, the scoring disparity reflects the differences between recruiting of big name schools and lesser name schools. The point about the bowl system is ok, but why not comment on creating an 8 team playoff system. And tying it all in with Lehmann Brothers at the end, great idea. It has to have at least some connection with libertarian ideas. WTF.

  4. You kids get off my lawn.

    Personally, I think the Obammessiah should just pick the national champion for us, based on how highly their football program values social justice.

  5. If everyone who misses “old-fashioned blocking and tackling” were put on a raft and set adrift in the Pacific, I think the economy would rebound in a matter of weeks.

    If, um, well, I was going to make fun of anyone who gets excited about sports, but it’s too much trouble.

    Suffice to say, this piece is as about as entertaining as George Will giggling over the infield fly rule.

  6. I think the playoff idea is crap. If we had the top eight teams play in a playoff then whoever is ranked number 9 would bitch the way number 3 bitches today about not getting into the championship.

    Plus, I like that they have many bowls because I, well, like wathcing football games and this means more games. In addition with the bowl system you have twenty teams at the end of year who come out as winners while with the playoff you get one.

    Obama and Chapman are wrong on this one. When the Rose Bowl finally decided to be part of the BCS that really fixed things as well as they are going to be, we should stick with it.

  7. With the bowls you get forty schools getting revved up and excited and twenty get to go home going crazy with pride. These are kids playing a game you know, we don’t have to shove the “one ultimate winner” stuff down their throats in every facet of life. Let there be twenty teams who cap their season off with a big win, twenty schools celebrating and millions of happy fans like me getting to see twenty games.

  8. As a teenager, all I thought about was scoring.

  9. I know how to fix football.

    1: 18-man active rosters
    2: 15-second playclock


  10. Take a look at the guy in the photo to the right of Woody Hayes. Is he wearing glasses under his football helmet? And, doesn’t he looks like the guy on the TV show Myth Busters?

  11. bring back the lateral

  12. “Our forebears would have recognized this impersonation of football
    as a symptom of moral decline”

    Whoa, Nellie. That’s a bit of a stretch. I’d venture to guess that fans want more offense, and the various conferences are more than willing to oblige.

  13. Well, the forward pass was at least partly the result of government intervention into college football, when Theodore Roosevelt pushed for “reform” of the game. So there’s a libertarian connection…

  14. your time, Alan, your time.

  15. I know, football brings money to colleges. But it really rankles me that institutions of higher learning have to invest so much in something that has so little to do with learning. It almost makes me wish I was European.

  16. No rant on college football is complete without at least a paragraph or two on why the BCS sucks.

    I think college football is more pass-oriented because everyone is scared of injuries that are more likely to happen in the grind-it-out kind of football. Colleges want their players to get into the NFL as healthy as possible, and of course the players themselves do.

  17. The only legitimate bowl system is one that has Ohio State playing in a BCS bowl or the championship game every year. Mission accomplished.

  18. You kids get off my lawn.

    Didn’t RTFA, but I’m going to guess that’s about right. Football is about recruiting and fundraising, the rules of the game have little bearing to either.

  19. “Didn’t RTFA”

    You’re lucky.

  20. Chapman must not’ve seen Ohio St.-Penn St. or Ohio St.-Illinois.

    BTW, Woody Hayes…nice choice and good spot Michael Donahue…glasses under the helmet, that’s crazier than Kurt Rambis.

  21. but why not comment on creating an 8 team playoff system.

    An eight-team playoff would be an abomination equal to the current two-team playoff.

    The correct number of teams in playoffs, if we have to have them, would be eleven-or-twelve. All the conference champions, and occasionally the most plausible non-conference team. (If you aren’t your conference champion, you have no business even claiming to be national champion. Contrawise, if you win your conference, you deserve a chance to prove your worthiness on the field, however weak your conference supposedly is.)

    Four playoff rounds. Round one is on the second Saturday in December; the top four ranked conference champions get a first-round bye (the fifth-ranked conference champion gets a bye in years where no non-conference team is in the top 25). (Rankings for seeding are by pure computer algorithms, because that reduces human bias.) The eight remaining teams play round two on Christmas Day. The four remaining teams play round three on New Year’s. The two remaining teams play the championship game January 8.

    If you’re “screwed” out of a playoff berth because of how your conference determines its champion? Complain to your conference about how it determines its champion.

    (Bowls? Hey, let’s have, oh, 54 if we have a championship, and 60 if we don’t. Far down-list bowls are fine; nobody expects anybody but the players to care about them. Significant bowls retain their significance no matter how many other bowls are held.)

  22. John-David,

    word…I’m a huge Buckeyes fan.

    MNG, I agree with you about more bowls being kind of cool, but also concede that out of the 30 or so bowls, 20 at most are actually watchable or enjoyable to the ordinary fan.

  23. Another pointless Chapman piece. I did like this line:

    But if I wanted to see two teams racing back and forth throwing the ball and scoring incessantly from start to finish, I’d be watching the NBA.

  24. Here’s my solution for a playoff: Watch football on Sunday.

  25. The bias against defense comes about because of many rules tweaks over the decades. Changing the enforcement of two of them would go a long way toward rebalancing the situation:

    1. Pass interference is called absurdly often and this should stop. Instead, referees should be expected to ignore incidental contact that is not convincingly impeding the receiver’s progress and ability to catch the ball. Merely placing a hand on the body of an offensive player so as to navigate around him should not be called, but often is, even when there is no obvious shoving involved.

    2. Offensive holding is not called often enough.

  26. If I was the Czar of college football, I would politely decline Obama’a invitation for a playoff. Not having a playoff is unique to college football-why change it? I enjoy the debate. Sure, the BCS is flawed; both Boise State and Utah are undefeated and they are not playing for the national championship game. Oklahoma and Florida fans can counter that they play in a more competitive conference and therefore their teams are more deserving.

    Libertarian angle: Chapman should extol the innovations witnessed in college football over the last generation. Woody Hayes’ teams would be routinely smoked by average mid-majors and most bowl sub-divison teams today. Why? Chapman forgets to note that athletes are bigger, stronger and faster today than they were 30, 40 and 50 years ago. Moerover, “sissy ball” practioners are infinitely more skilled than their three yards and a cloud of dust predecessors. IMO, Texas Tech would drop 70 to 80 points on Hayes’ 1968 national championship Ohio State team.

  27. Ken-

    IMO, the fact that the rules do not permit the offensive player to hold a defensive player is an enormous boon for defenses. Why shouldn’t an offensive lineman or running back be able to hold a defender? If you are OK with incidental contact and are whining about all of the pass interference calls, why not apply the same logic to holding by offensive players? IMO, a good athlete should be able to deal with being held.

  28. Steve Chapman-

    Moral decline? How about the foresight, innovation and courage to change the template? How about striving for excellence?

    Take the skill of the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. I am sure that you are not ignorant of the fact that today’s college quarterbakcs and receivers are infinitely more skilled than their three yards and a cloud of dust predecessors. For example, the accuracy of quarterbacks today is light years better than 40 and 50 years ago. This accuracy is reflected in a higher completion percentage and the routine threading of the needle that quarterbakcs of your could never match.

    Moreover, quarterbacks today are much better readers of defenses. They also must process so much more information and make decisions more quickly. They have to be better prepared than the quarterbakcs of 40 and 50 years ago who faced off against much more vanilla defenses.

    If anything, we should be celebrating the innovations wrought by the spread and other complex offenses and the tremendous skill and preparation required to manage them.

  29. Correction:

    “quarterbakcs of yore”-bottom of 2nd paragraph.

  30. I know, football brings money to colleges.

    Actually, I read somewhere that an honest accounting fotball is a net loss for the big sports schools.

    I don’t know who did the study or how rigorous his methods were. And, hence, how valid his results were.

    But I would not be at all surprised if that was true.

  31. sb: “…an honest accounting [would show] fo[o]tball is a net loss…

  32. I’m tired of the spread! I want to see the return of the fullback and the flanker! Bring back the Wing-T!!!!!

  33. I love college football. I even like the corny bowl games that pit two 6-6 teams against each other in bizarre places. I just wish that Hooterville had been able to get the Rutabaga Bowl started.

  34. Want to bring “fairness” to college football. Here’s how:

    1. regular season becomes 25-game marathon from July-December.
    2. abolish all conferences and historic games (no more weak Big 10 to prop up Ohio State, no intra-state rivalry games, etc.)
    3. each team’s regular season is determined by random drawing from pool of all possible D1 schools.
    4. NCAA eligibility is cut back by 1-2 years; GPA requirement raised to 3.00; no rocks-for-jocks classes allowed.
    5. at the end of the season, 4-round playoff bracket seeding is determined solely by W-L record.
    6. national championship is played at the D1 stadium closest to equidistant from the two contenders.

    All that would make the game more “fair” by eliminating the severe intra-conference and inter-conference disparities in football programs.

    It would also defeat the entire point of the system, which is to allow young adults to drink heavily on Saturday mornings. Who the hell wants to be involved in a system that gives some podunk school the same footing as OSU, Bama, OU, Texas, USC, etc?

    The greatest part of cheering for your school in college FB is that you expect there to be severe disagreements between two schools’ fans. Nobody wants to tailgate and discuss the Gaussian distribution of D1 football players, which makes everything “fair” and happy. They want to scream at the opposing teams’ fans that they suck, their mothers suck, and their team’s players are the product of cousin-marriage.

  35. I think the playoff idea is crap. If we had the top eight teams play in a playoff then whoever is ranked number 9 would bitch the way number 3 bitches today about not getting into the championship.

    I’ve already solved the problem of an undisputed college football champion.

    Division Zero, consiting of 28 teams, 14 in each division. Top 8 make the playoffs for the national championship utilizing the prestigious bowls for playoffs. Holiday and Bluebonnet bowls need not appy.

    At the end of the season the bottom 5 division zero teams are replaced by the top five division one-A teams.

  36. The BCS doesn’t “solve” anything. This year, if Texas beats Ohio State and Oklahoma beats Florida, why should Oklahoma be the “national champion,” when Texas beat Oklahoma by 10 on a neutral field.

    I miss the days before the BCS, when there was no “official” champion. What’s wrong with people debating different viewpoints? The implementation of the BCS “fixed” a system that wasn’t broken.

  37. As a Florida Gator alum and life long fan, I am going to go ahead and say there is NOTHING wrong with college football!

  38. The NFL has a playoff system, and in any usual year 4-6 teams can claim to have beaten the eventual champion during the regular season.

  39. and you’re wondering why subscriptions are down?

  40. As a Florida Gator alum and life long fan, I am going to go ahead and say there is NOTHING wrong with college football!

    Apparently, it is not only football players that don’t receive an education at Florida state.

  41. I would hardly call a field in Texas a “neutral field”, anymore than Florida playing this year’s NCG in Miami as “neutral”.

    The NCAA needs to come over the top and force teams to go outside of their comfort zones. Ohio State at least goes outside of their conference to play a difficult game every year. When are the SEC and Big 12 teams going to man up and go play USC?

    No, Florida, your OOC games should not be The Citadel, or Hawaii. No, Ohio State (and I say this sitting on OSU’s campus right now), your OOC games should not be Youngstown or OU.

  42. Florida, Florida state, same ol’, same ol’.

  43. I disagree with the first part of your article for two reasons. The forward pass and the spread offense is an evolution of the game brought on by consumer demand and health of the players. Its more exciting, except in the last 5 minutes, to see a 40 yard touch down pass, rather than 10 4yrd runs in a row. Second, as far as the health of the players, those boys are faster and heavier than they were a decade ago, much less 25-30 years ago. If we remember Newtons equation Mass*Acceleration=force, then we will see that these guys are applying a lot more force to each other when they hit, and I just don’t think the body can sustain that increased level of force that a straight running/hit each other as hard as you can game would bring.

    But I totally agree with the amount of the crappy bowls. Make a 16 team playoff based off BCS rankings, then starting with the quarter finals, make those the traditional big bowls-Cotton, Rose, Orange, Sugar, Sun, Independence, Liberty, Gator, Fiesta, Holliday- you might have to go a little further back to get all these, and theyve been around since the 70’s. (Chick-fil-a too, but I just don’t like the sound of that.) and then rotate the championship every year, so it might the Rose one year, then the Sugar the next ect. Then I think most people are happy in the end.

  44. Ed’s solution:

    * Two 15-minute halves with no timeouts.

    * No commercial breaks until someone has actually scored.

    * No jingoistic truck ads from begging auto companies.

    * All cheerleaders will henceforth be topless.

  45. jsh: Texas and OU have the same record, so in the NFL Texas would have won the division due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

    My question is: how do Cincinnati (11-2) and, God help us, Virginia Tech (9-4) get into BCS bowls while Boise State (12-0) gets left out? Don’t give me the nonsense about “historically dominant conferences”, either. The WAC has done much better in recent bowl history than either the ACC or the Big East.

  46. I am so tired of hearing about Boise State. If BSU wants some cred, they’re more than free to schedule teams from the Big 10, the SEC or the Big 12. They played one legitimately ranked team (Fresno State) this year.

  47. Some people just don’t get it. Boise State and Utah are better football teams than Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma and FLorida.

  48. Chapman must not’ve seen Ohio St.-Penn St. or Ohio St.-Illinois.

    Or any game by Navy this year. They would attempt a pass typically less than 10 times per game, and half of those were spiking the ball to stop the clock. They also won a game this year without a single forward pass attempt.

  49. Here’s my $0.02:

    12 team playoff, ranked per current BCS procedures. Top 4 teams get byes (so the regular season matters). First round of playoffs played at the home field of the team with the higher ranking (again, so the regular season matters). Semifinals and finals played on a neutral field, probably the Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta bowls.

    I have a lot less sympathy for the 13th ranked team who gets excluded than I do for undefeated or 1-loss teams who are.

  50. Boise State and Utah are better football teams than Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma and FLorida.

    You must be joking. I was practically praying that OSU would face Utah this year. That would be Utah, who squeaked out wins against Michigan and TCU.

  51. TAO, how many ranked teams did VT and Cincinnati beat?

    No, I’m not saying Boise State and Utah should be playing for the national championship. I’m just decrying the fact that two slots in the BCS are awarded to the least pathetic team in two conferences that are but shadows of their former greatness.

  52. I should say, ranked teams outside their conference. Yes, Cincinnati beat Pitt and VT beat Boston Coll and Maryland, but those were in-conference games.

  53. Well, that is kind of the point, is it not? That BSU has to go outside of its conference just to play a ranked team?

  54. TAO-

    What about BSU’s victory over Oregon State on the road?

  55. TAO-

    BSU did beat the Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl 2 years ago-even though BSU did not play as well as it did during the season. I recall a plethora of pundits who proclaimed that BSU did not belong on the same field as Oklahoma.

  56. That would be Oregon, libertymike, but I do need to revise my statement: BSU took Oregon and Fresno State, and Oregon is still ranked.

  57. “In the golden days, the game consisted of a lot of blocking and a lot of tackling. Teams marched laboriously down the field, if they moved at all. Occasionally they scored. More often they didn’t”

    Really this seems well researched. In 1966 Notre Dame and Mich State battled to a 10-10 tie, this shows that more often then not teams didn’t score. I wonder what some of the other scores were in ’66 for the Notre Dame squad? Oh, it is right here on the internet-

    51-0 v USC
    64-0 v Duke
    40-0 v Pitt
    31-7 v Navy
    38-0 v OU
    32-0 v NC
    35-0 v Army
    35-7 v Northwestern
    26-14 v Purdue

  58. 31-7 v Navy

    It seems that ’66 was a good year for Navy.

    I have to wonder if Chapman liked this year’s Army-Navy game. I thought it was a good show.

  59. Texas and OU have the same record, so in the NFL Texas would have won the division due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

    Hey, I went to UT and want them in the BCS Championship, but Tech had the same record, too, and the 3 way head to head is a wash. That’s why the Big 12 South champion wasn’t settled by head to head.

  60. TAO,
    BSU doesn’t play good teams from other conferences because good teams from other conferences don’t want to face BSU. OSU is just as guilty as other teams for scheduling creampuffs. The home home v. Texas a few years ago and US this year are anomalies. Usually, OSU plays teams like Washington or Wazzu.

    Teams like Utah and BSU would love to play higher ranked teams, but those teams would never decide to play a home-home series against them.

    I look forward to the Utes making Saban eat his words.

    As for the 9th team bitching about not making the playoffs, tough shit. USC and Penn State have just as much reason to be in the national championship as the current teams.

    jsh: Texas and OU have the same record, so in the NFL Texas would have won the division due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

    No they wouldn’t. It would go to strength of schedule because Texas Tech also had the same record and beat Texas, but lost to Oklahoma.

  61. As a guy living in Boise, ID and an alumnus of our fine college here (BSU) I am mighty irritated we got skimped on for a Big Bowl. But I do not think there are necessarily to many bowl games. (BTW, I will remember the Poinsettia because BSU is in it this year)

    Ironically, for all the bowl-inflation the author complains about, the BCS bowls are kind of a fix for that. Every fan of college ball already knows that there are five bowls that “matter” and the rest are just reasons to throw games and make money watching match-ups that otherwise wouldn’t make a schedule (BSU playing TCU is probably the best match-up with the strongest teams outside of the BCS this year, and it is an intriguing matchup if you like college ball).

  62. OSU is just as guilty as other teams for scheduling creampuffs. The home home v. Texas a few years ago and US this year are anomalies.

    Oh, I acknowledge that to a certain extent, but OSU played Texas twice and is scheduled to play USC again. Also, when the games were being scheduled, OSU offered to take on Miami of FL for 2010-11 and 11-12, who was good when the games were scheduled.

  63. HAL-9000: I think the best non-BCS bowl is the Cotton Bowl (Texas Tech v. Ole Miss)

  64. So, TAO, you seriously think Virginia Tech is better than Boise State? Seriously?

  65. cunnivore: no, I do not. I am just not sure that eliminating automatic bids is a good idea because of the Orange Bowl. Frankly, I think the way the rest of bowls shook out makes total sense. The best teams are playing BCS bowls (excepting the Orange Bowl).

    Like I said, the best way to fix this is to make teams in the big conferences play each other more. This is why I’m not sympathetic to Penn State.

  66. Funny this article mentions the Poinsettia Bowl. It’s the most intriguing match-up in the entire lineup this year.

  67. Of course V Tech is better than Boise State.

  68. HAL there’s only one bowl that “matters”, at most two (the split championship in 2003). The only reason people watch the other games are because they are a) alums/fans of the team b) college football fans (how many games they watch is based on hardcoreness) or c) degenerate gamblers. I’d rather watch the Cotton Bowl than the Orange Bowl, the teams are better. You could keep the lesser bowls with a playoff.

  69. any game by Navy this year. They would attempt a pass typically less than 10 times per game, and half of those were spiking the ball to stop the clock. They also won a game this year without a single forward pass attempt.

    These are the guys who are being groomed to defend us against “nex-gen” attacks.

    We’re doomed.

  70. Of course the game has evolved and rules have enhanced offensive production. You also have lame computer programs assigning points so that teams are encouraged to wipe to floor with weaker opponents. So what?
    Instead of complaining about the spread like a cranky old man, try running the ball better on offense to limit time of possession of the spread team, tackle better on defense to prevent big plays, and focus on destoying the QB every time he drops back to pass. This is what elite teams do anyway.
    The previous suggestion of the playoff system combined with bowl system makes the most sense and would make more money for everyone. College presidents are just too timid to lead and innovate because they are making tons of cash under the current system.
    If you want Bowls to go away, stop watching them and don’t travel to them.

  71. The 12 team/11 game playoff system mentioned by hotsauce has merit. (The top 4 ranked teams get a first round bye.)

    The BCS could increase revenue for the colleges by auctioning the national championship game and the 10 playoff games to the highest bidding bowl game sponsors.

    The also-ran scavenger bowls (aka toilet bowls) could continue as before offering consolation games to mediocre teams with well-healed alumni.

    How’s that for a libertarian-free market angle?

  72. College football is the same as minor league baseball- a few pro-caliber guys and a bunch of future burger flippers. That’s fine, but I’ve never understood why it gets the level of attention that it does. They don’t even have a legitimate system for choosing a champion- polls and statistics for rankings and a one game playoff? Are you kidding me?

    The basketball comparison is right on the money. If I wanted to watch a game where two teams take turns scoring for an hour and the last one to score wins, I’d watch basketball.

  73. While I don’t expect Pulitzer prize level writing on a quick blog entry, I really have no idea why you posted this. As others have pointed out this is some serious “old man shaking his fist at those durn kids.” The game changes, adapt or die. The spread offense is easy to practice for and makes the most of skill position players. Which in college have a much greater impact due to the larger disparity of ability. On the other end, defense is difficult to practice and requires more time than most players can give in a four year college program.

    Regarding the BCS, there is no way college football will ever go to a large playoff system. You might, might be able to get a four team playoff. 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3. Then the winners play each other. The problem is the logistics of it. In college basketball you only need to fill up between 10-20 thousand for the playoff games. College football has attendance of 60,000 plus. You can’t expect that many people to show up at neutral site after neutral site. Especially if they don’t know if their team will even make it there. As usual it comes down to the money.

  74. A “libertarian” angle on big-time college sports would most likely include some mention of the ostentatiously “amateur” status of college athletes. It might even mention the huge transfer of wealth from the individual athletes, who are prohibited from owning their own skills, from profiting from them, or from freely offering them to the highest bidder, to individual schools and the NCAA.

    But this is a Chapman piece.

  75. P Brooks, nobody’s forced to go to college. They can sell their skills on the open market.

    I’d have a problem with state-run schools doing this sort of thing, but they tend to get more in freely-given donations from it than they spend on the program, so again, there’s little coercion involved.

    I’m in favor of an 8 team playoff. The first round can be played at home stadiums of the higher seed. We’ve already got a lot of conferences with championship games. That’s four games down. Then you have bowl games for the 1/4 & 2/3 games, then a final bowl for the championship.

    You go from 4 BCS bowls to 3, but otherwise it should work.

    Hell, works for the subdivision formerly known as Div 1-AA.

  76. First off, Boise State would pound any team from the ACC. That’s the just the way it is. Also, Boise State beat Oregon in Oregon this year. When they played Fresno State, Fresno had already been exposed as pretenders and the outcome was fitting (BSU thumped them 61-10).

    BSU getting left out of the big Bowls sucked, but its a money decision. Ohio State can ship fifty thousand people to a bowl game, BSU’s home stadium seats only ~35000. So it isn’t right and I of course think there is no justice, but money talks.

    As far as a playoff is concerned, I like the idea but any playoff scheme still needs a ranking component. One of the things the rankings do is keep massive pressure on the best teams to win EVERY game. This makes every game matter. It also motivates underdogs to not just roll over, because picking off a ranked team is elixir for a moribund program. Without consequences stemming from the rankings, such pressure will disappear and games could turn into stuff like what we saw outfits like the Rams doing in the NFL yesterday: rolling over and waiting for next season. That would suck for college ball.

  77. Filling up a stadium won’t be a problem, even if all 3 rounds are in neutral sites (though home field for the first round makes getting a top 4 ranking that much more important). The championship game will be filled with sponsors, i-bankers*, lawyers, other assorted with Bluetooth headsets that spend more time on their Blackberries than watching the games douchebags and rich alums from the Paleozoic era. It’ll be quiet enough to cook a souffle (see: the Super Bowl). All the crazy students and alums that can’t afford a $1000 ticket will gladly go to the other neutral site games.

    * No longer

  78. Lunchstealer-

    You are absolutely right about being forced to go to college. But try to jump directly into the NFL at nineteen or twenty without the NCAA’s stamp of approval, and see what happens.

  79. Wow. I like this website, and I like it alot, but wow.

    Stick to politics, Reason. At least there you know something.


  80. Mo,

    You would have to have neutral sites for all playoff games. In college footabll home field advantage is immense. Much more so than in the pro realm. No college would agree to it. And I think you overestimate the amount of people willing to travel three times to an away football game. The final game would be pretty easy but the rest no so much.

  81. Great point. In trying to court new “fans” with little knowledge of the game and terribly short attention spans, (their $$ specifically), the NCAA and NFL have thoroughly adulterated a great game and its traditions.

  82. Pain,

    I’m well aware that home field is a huge advantage. If you were to do home field for any game, it would be the first. It would ensure that every team goes for a top 4 ranking, else they deal with a big hole.

    Also, my point wasn’t that you need to get people to travel for three games. The final game would be largely devoid of real fans, much like the Super Bowl. Most big football schools have large enough fan bases that there are enough people to travel once for the game, rather than worrying about people traveling 3 times.

  83. Also, my point wasn’t that you need to get people to travel for three games. The final game would be largely devoid of real fans, much like the Super Bowl. Most big football schools have large enough fan bases that there are enough people to travel once for the game, rather than worrying about people traveling 3 times.

    Your last point also illustrates why the colleges wouldn’t want it. The alumni and fanbase (which is what really makes college football unique) have to be satisfied. If they can’t be at the big game then why bother having it. And it is the alumni that fund the college. It’s doubtful that any big one time game fee from the broadcasters can replace that.

    The Superbowl wasn’t always the way it is now. It took quite some time for it to become the advertising juggernaught that it has become. It’s unlikely a college football championship would generate anywhere near that kind of revenue. Or enough to replace the current bowl format anyway.

    Just to be clear, I like the idea of a big playoff. But having done some research in to how important the bowl games are for the schools moneywise. It’s very unlikely that they would give up that cash cow for an unknown payout.

  84. The biggest joke in the BCS isn’t Va Tech, it’s Ohio State. Come on, they made it through a weak Big-10 conference and cream-puff OOC games while losing to the only two good teams they played. The only reason they’re there is the BCS rules don’t allow a conference to send three teams because the Big-10 (er, 11, but who’s counting) clearly does not deserve two. Once again look for them to get rolled in a BCS game they have no business playing.

  85. The biggest joke in the BCS isn’t Va Tech, it’s Ohio State. Come on, they made it through a weak Big-10 conference and cream-puff OOC games while losing to the only two good teams they played.

    What? I’d like to see Va Tech or Cincinnati play almost any Big Ten team and see how they do. If the Big Ten is weak, then what does that make the ACC and the Big East?

    Come on now. I know OSU hate is de rigueur, but this is ridiculous.

    And “creampuff OOC” games are common in every conference. Look at who Florida played OOC (The Citadel, Hawai’i, Kentucky, Vandy, Miami(FL)). If you want to complain about creampuff OOC games, that’s fair and I support that, but do it for all big conferences (because all of their top teams do it). I mean, what tough teams did FL or Oklahoma schedule OOC? The answer is NONE.

  86. oops, Vandy’s in the SEC. My point stands.

  87. OU played TCU, Cinn, and Washington. Washington was scheduled a few years back, so no way to tell they would be terrible. TCU and Cinn are both ranked currently (12 & 11)

  88. I actually agree with TAO about the cream puff OOC games so many of these teams play. But I think it’s less of a problem for Florida or Texas this year as their conferences were so very strong.

    This year the ACC and Big East are not so strong, but, and I say this as a huge WAC fan, they usually are much stronger conferences than the WAC and hence the yearly tie in.

    That being said I think Va Tech or Cin would still probably beat BSU this year. I’m not impressed by their win over Oregon as the Pac-10 is not so strong.

    Ohio State is another team I like (I like their linebacker core), but they should not be in the bowl they are in. Texas Tech deserved that spot. OSU got totally crushed and humiliated against USC this year and I doubt if USC could hang with Texas (whom TT beat).

    Ole Miss has improved but giving them the bowl game against TT will just ensure a TT win and more bitching about the BCS being broken, as will also be the case when Texas thumps OSU. The BCS selection committee dug its own grave with these picks. They should have paired Texas with someone who could beat them like Alabama or TT.

  89. A bowl game between two college varsities with losing records has just as much a chance of being an interesting game as one between high ranked teams. They’re still going to be better than the JV, and that doesn’t stop the JV from playing. And they in turn will be better than HS varsity, but people watch those games. Etc. I watch women’s football; nobody pretends they have playing ability equal to men’s, but the games can be interesting nonetheless. I also follow minor league men’s football, and have coached youth football. So what’s the BFD about the prolifer’n of college bowls?

    As to the game itself, most of you wouldn’t like what I’d do to it, at least for high levels of play (like the pros). Steven Chapman probably wouldn’t either, because he’s a curmudgeon who’d complain about change in any direction, even if it’s mostly back toward what it had been at some previous time.

    I would make forward passing more risky by returning to the original idea. An incomplete forward pass would remain live and recoverable by either team; if either team recovered in bounds, the opponents of the passing team would have the option of loss of down at the point of origin of the pass. However, there would be no eligible receiver numbering at all (returning to conditions up to the mid 1960s); interference would be penalized as possession plus 10 yds. from where the ball came down, or touchdown if by the defending team in their end zone. There would be no rule against intentional grounding because there’d be no reason under my rules to intentionally ground one’s own team’s pass.

    I would go back to earlier rules on use of the hands & arms in blocking, requiring them to be close to the body. However, I would outlaw wedge blocking (even though I coach it for kids).

    Kicks would be recoverable by onside players of the kicking team, with more liberal rules than Rugby Union for putting teammates onside (contagion would apply), and if the kicker was interfered with it’d be instant automatic onside status for all. However, the ball’s touching an opponent would not put players of the kicking team onside.

    The field would be 5 feet wider (to 55 yards), but would play wider than that because you wouldn’t need to come down in bounds to gain possession of the ball, as long as you jumped from inbounds — like basketball possession rules. The field of play would gain 5 yds. length from each end zone (to 110 yds.), leaving 5 yds. deep end zones. Players would be allowed to position themselves out of bounds behind their end line in preparation for play.

    Any number of backs could be in motion in any direction at the snap, but any back moving forward at the snap would have to stop moving forward at least momentarily before reaching the neutral zone, unless a kick was made before then. When a kick is made from behind the neutral zone, any player of the kicking team beyond the neutral zone at that time would have to stop moving forward until put onside or until the kick ended.

    Neither team would be allowed to call time out when the ball was ready for play by scrimmage and a team A player’s hand was on the ball.

    A touchdown would count 7 and there would be no conversions at all.

    A kickoff would be from team K’s 45, and it could score a goal, even on a bounce off the ground, as could any other place or drop kick. The team making a free kick would not have to wait for the kicked ball to touch the ground before playing it, and would remain live if either team recovered. I would restore the option of the team scored against by touchdown or goal to kick or receive. It would be legal to kick off out of bounds provided the ball touched the ground or any player in bounds. A ball kicked directly out of bounds thru the end zone (but not over the crossbar) would be penalized the same as if it’d departed via the field of play. A similar penalty would apply to all kicks directly out of bounds, not just free kicks. No place kick tees would be allowed.

    A differential touchback would apply: 15 yard line from any free kick or drop kick; 25 yard line from a punt or pass; 35 yard line from any place kick other than a free kick. After a goal, the team scored against would have the option of having either team kick off or of taking the applicable touchback.

    There would be no tiebreaking except in games where a winner had to be decided because they would advance a round in a knockout tourney. In those cases a mini-game would be played with shortened halves. The 1st half of the mini-game would end if a team scored before the time limit, and the 2nd half would be the same duration.

    Timing would be simplified: With few exceptions, the game clock would run any time the ball was in or ready for play, even for a kickoff. One exception would be that after a team time out, time would start only when the ball was put in play. Another would be that any time a down was repeated due to penalty, the repeated down would be untimed. The final exception would be that if a team illegally delayed the game trying to conserve time, the clock would run during adminstration of the penalty. As in Canadian football, a period would end only when a live ball became dead following expiration of time.

    The hash marks would be 15 yards from each sideline, and there’d be a center line between them. If the ball became dead in a side zone or out of bounds, it would be centered for the next down.

    When the ball was to be scrimmaged, players on A’s line would be allowed to shift from an actual or simulated 3- or 4-point stance if they were within a yard of the ball, and aside from that restriction on other line players, all players would be allowed to make any kind of shift, even quick & jerky, as long as they didn’t simulate moving or receiving the ball.

    Any number of forward passes would be allowed per down (as was the case in Federation rules for many decades until a couple years ago) as long as they met all other conditions for legality.

    There would be a rigid substitution procedure that would be enforced by letter, not spirit. If you could work a hide-out play in conformance with those procedures, it would be legal.

    The down and distance to gain for a first down would remain the same following a penalty for a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct.

    During the interval when the ball was not yet ready for play by scrimmage, team B would be allowed to concede the distance for a 1st down or a TD.

    A ballcarrier touching the ground with some part of the body other than hands or feet would not be down unless simultaneously touched by a part of an opponent’s body above that opponent’s waist. However, a ballcarrier kneeling, sitting, or laying on top of a teammate would be deemed to be touching the ground with a part of the body other than hands or feet. Tripping the ballcarrier would be illegal.

    The kick forward in scrimmage (abolished early in the 20th Century) would again be legal. In other words, the ball when ready for play be scrimmage could be place kicked forward instead of snapped.

    A team giving up what would be a safety on 4th down under current rules would give up a touchdown by my rules. A penalty causing the down to be repeated under conditions where it would’ve been 1st down anyway (because of a possession change or distance gained) would lead to a zeroth down play — a down during which there’d be no line to gain set yet, and no forward pass would be allowed. The next down would be 1st-&-10.

    And a bunch of other stuff. for related articles.

  90. Dude, the spread offense is just the modern-day version of good-ol’-fashioned option football. The splits and widths of the formations force defenses to show their hand prior to the play. All a quarterback has to do is make an if-then decision. If you can figure out how to defend this consistently, please let me know. We’ll get rich selling the scheme to college coaches across the country.

  91. Also, the author omitted the Game of the Century that is most widely-recognized as such: the 1971 OU/Nebraska game. Nebraska 35, OU 31 in a game that was all about speed and offense. People liked offense back then, too.

  92. I liked this, but I don’t think it was curmudgeonly enough.

  93. Waldo,

    Isn’t the option the modern version of option football?

  94. NFL scoring stays level because they adjust the rules and the officiating every year to keep it that way.

    College scoring is going up because the coaches are switching to the spread offense, and the defenses haven’t figured it out yet. It’s happened before, with the wishbone, the power I, the split T, etc. — some coach comes up with an unstoppable offensive scheme, everyone starts to copy it, and eventually the defensive coaches catch up.

    As for the BCS, I can’t believe it hasn’t been scrapped already. A playoff system would make MUCH more money than the current bowl system, so there ought to be a way to divide it to keep everyone happy.

    The only playoff system that makes sense is a 16-team playoff, not 2 or 4 or 8. The lower divisions of college football already use it, so any academic or athletic objections are without merit.

    There are 11 Division 1-A conferences. Let all 11 conference winners in, along with 5 at-large teams. You would get all of the top 10 to 12 teams, so anyone left out wouldn’t have much claim to a national championship to begin with.

  95. One of the things the rankings do is keep massive pressure on the best teams to win EVERY game. This makes every game matter.

    Unless you’re LSU last year, who lost twice, including late in the season, and still made the BCS “championship” game.

  96. Boise State has a great program and would be a top contender in the ACC or Big East, but how about some love for Utah? The Utes are undefeated, and beat a ranked Oregon State team that was good enough to beat USC.

  97. What I don’t understand is why opposing coaches don’t just blitz the QB like mad in spread offenses. The offensive linemen are spread way apart, and there’s no tight end — just load up 7 guys over the ball and go get him. Maybe Michael Vick or Dennis Dixon could get away, but not most QBs.

  98. Craig,
    If you have a quarterback like Bradford, with an experienced line, you end up giving up a quick six points. Teams that fared the best against OU this year were able to get pressure with 4 linemen and keep 7 in the passing lanes. After watching a little, TX, FL, and TT, it’s the same.

  99. Please people, isn’t it thrilling enough that there exists the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl?

    Where is the Citibank Bowl? Other than something unimagineable these days.

    Jesus Christ, I fear soon that we’ll see the Department of Justice Bowl, or the EPA Bowl or God-forbid the SEC (no folks, not the South-eastern Conference) Bowl.

    Chapman, there is much scarier shit to write about!

  100. Steve: Your disparagement of the Poinsettia Bowl this year makes me think you don’t follow college football at all, or at least not since the ’60s. TCU and Boise State present one of the best bowl matchups this year in that very bowl. If you want to see an innovating and thrilling defense matchup against a fundamentally brilliant offense, this is the game for you.

    But if two-squad play, five-wide formations, skill players, and color television turn you off, perhaps reruns of that ND-Michigan 10-10 tie game would better suit.

  101. With America going to hell in a hand cart, all you people have to be concerned about is college football and the forward pass? Man, not wonder we are where we are.

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