Monday, December 6, 2010

NCAA Division I-A Playoff Guidelines

The 2010-11 Playoff Bracket is posted here, but before we proceed, a few notes on the new playoff system:

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system has been dismantled because it became clear that the best interests of neither the sport nor of the student-athletes were in mind.  Further, as will be shown is another post, the BCS was not the ratings-grabbing money-maker that it was purported to be, and it was determined that not only could a playoff do a better job of determining a national champion, but it could also make more money for the schools, conferences, the NCAA, the networks, and the corporate sponsors, while not interfering with the student-athletes' educational interests.

Since we have switched to a playoff system for the "Football Bowl Series" or "FBS", that name no longer applies.  Therefore we are switching back to the traditional "I-A" and "I-AA" instead of "FBS" and "FCS."  The NCAA apologizes for this as one of many, many embarrassing and ridiculous errors during the BCS-era.

Many bowl games are still under contract with corporate sponsors, and fans enjoy the "bowl atmosphere", so we have decided to maintain the names of the bowls within the playoff format.  The four BCS bowl games were given prominent spots in the lineup.

In the BCS system, the national championship game rotated through the four BCS-bowl sites on a four-year cycle, so every four years, each of those four sites actually got to host two bowls: their own plus the national championship game.   This system will continue, with the Fiesta Bowl keeping its spot for 2010-11.

There will then be a lottery among the other three bowls to determine which games they host.  The winner will host a national semifinal game (Final Four) and gets to choose which side of the bracket they want (the 1 vs. 4 side or the 2 vs. 3 side).  The next winner gets the other national semifinal (Final Four).  The third team will host a national quarterfinal game (Elite Eight) and gets to choose which game (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, or 4 vs. 5).  The national championship host then gets to choose which national quarterfinal (Elite Eight) they will host as well.

The remaining playoff games (two Elite Eight games and eight Sweet 16 games) will be hosted by the next 10 most-prominent bowls based on last year's television ratings.  Beginning in 2011-12, all other bowl contracts will be voided and these 10 games will be up for sponsorship and will simply go to the highest bidder.  The same will hold for all 15 games' television rights.  2010-11 contracts will hold but all networks will have open bidding for all games starting in 2011-12.

This only allows for 15 playoff-bowl games, but 35 bowls had been scheduled for 2010-11.  After the 16-team playoff field is selected, those other 20 bowls may invite any bowl-eligible teams they choose.  In subsequent years, an N.I.T.-type secondary tournament is likely to arise, replacing (or absorbing) many of these lower-tier bowls.

Team Selection:  One automatic playoff bid will be awarded to the champion of each of the 11 I-A conferences.  At-large bids will be presented to the next five highest ranked teams.  Conferences will determine their own champions (based on regular season standings, a conference title game or ranking system).  The five at-large schools will be determined by the final BCS rankings.  Generally speaking, the BCS' ranking system is effective.  Each year it will be reviewed to fix any problems that arise, but for the time being, it will remain the official ranking system that determines the seeding.

The 11 conferences with automatic bids are the Southeastern, Pacific 10, Mountain West, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast, Western Athletic, Conference-USA, Big East, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences.  The inclusion of each of them will hopefully prevent the concentration of football powers in 3-4 leagues.  Since schools will be have good opportunities to make the playoffs from any conference, they will be more likely to stay in the conferences that suit their entire athletic departments and universities, not just one of the 3-4 "major" conferences from the current BCS system.

This automatic-bid system will preclude some possibly-deserving schools from making the playoffs and include some seemingly undeserving schools.  For instance, Boise State will be left out of the 2010-11 playoffs, but Troy will be included.  This is unfortunate, but no matter what the system, there will always be someone left out.  It is more fair to have the #11 team left out than the #3 team, which occurs currently in the BCS system.  There will be no minimum eligibility requirements for being playoff eligible besides winning a conference championship.

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