Stage is being set for playoff expansion

selmaborntidefan

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I will go back and cover the late Dan Jenkins's playoff proposal from "Sports Illustrated" a little later. Now we come to the fallout from the 1969 national championship and a certain head coach who would later say he could not understand how President Nixon could know so much about football but so little about Watergate. It's sort of like wondering how that same man would know so much about a playoff but so little about what was going on in his shower stalls at Penn State.

In 1969, Texas and Arkansas played the final televised game of the college football regular season in early December. With both teams undefeated, President Nixon weighed in with his opinion prior to the game that the winner would be the national champion. (How much clout Nixon had, well, probably none). When Texas won the game and the national championship, the howls of protest from State College, PA were almost as loud as the protest that Preston Gothard DID, in fact, catch that ball cleanly for a touchdown in 1983. The Penn State coach, oblivious to the fact his team didn't really face anybody at that time during the regular season, began calling for a playoff as well. Naturally, the discussion....pretty much never happened.

In February 1970, Walter Byers announced that the colleges did not want a playoff. Of course, given his clout at the time, you can rest assured that if BYERS wanted one (e.g. felt it was financially better), we'd have had one then. The idea he was listening to the schools - the ones who wound up suing him for violating antitrust laws with his constant threats of sanctions against teams who wouldn't toe the line on the TV deals - is hilarious. Byers - like Jim Delaney in later years - was a smart man who knew how to keep the money coming in but like most guys in that roll said garbage the most naive rube would never actually believe. Kind of like Jeff Long and Kirby Hocutt and Bill Hancock and Ari Fleischer (BCS).

And then - like pretty much everything involving college football - a game with Alabama got everyone's attention.

In 1971, Nebraska and Alabama finished the regular season ranked 1-2 in the AP poll, with unbeaten Michigan ranked fourth. Because there was no Sugar Bowl obligation for the SEC in 1971, college football wound up with the two top-ranked teams playing each other in the Orange Bowl. This was only the 15th "one versus two" game in NCAA history, and it was about like the Super Bowls of that era, a 38-6 Nebraska blowout of the Tide's brand new wishbone. But a confluence of events was forcing a re-evaluation. ABC television wanted to reduce the monies being paid out for college football - despite ratings going up 7% during the 1971 season. This wasn't because of ABC but because the advertisers were demanding a lower per 1/2 minute rate. ABC came up with two proposals to combat the problem that "ratings for college football fall off in November as the season comes toward the end." Their two proposals? 1) Select the games to be televised ONLY for the first half of the season and then make choices based on attractive matchups for November; 2) have a special "playoff type" game the first weekend of December. The first one was pretty easy but the last one...well, it would take Roy Kramer to come up with that one.

Why not a national championship game?

The reasons for this can be boiled down to money, money, money. The bowl games - who were consolidating their clout - were adamantly against such an arrangement. If ONE GAME meant the world, the other games necessarily meant, well, nothing. Immediate questions broke out. "Who would select the two teams? Where would the game be played? Would it be rotated among the bowl stadiums with more than 75,000 seats? What about the already existing bowl contracts? Would this violate them?"

CFB thus in 1971- fifty years ago mind you - had a problem: "What do we do with our ratings going down knowing full well that one championship matchup will likely lower the ratings of the other bowls we depend upon even more?" In a column in "The Sporting News," Tom Siler wrote that college football KNEW the right answer to the entire thing back in 1971 when TV appearances were limited. Just show the big names on national TV every single week - Notre Dame, USC, Alabama, Ohio State. But, of course, we can't do that because the rich will get richer and CFB will be destroyed in the process.

So one played two on 1/1/72. And Bob Devaney, the Nebraska coach, expressed regret that there was not some sort of college football playoff, although his game was basically a precursor to the BCS. Thanks to bowl contracts, Michigan and Penn State were in different games. Why not have Michigan and Penn State (the other undefeated teams) play each other and have the winners of that game and the Orange Bowl face off for a championship?

And then on January 8, 1972, we got the musings of Cleveland, Ohio sportswriter "Sheep" Jackson, who began his column thusly:

"During the past ten years, one of the most discussed topics in collegiate athletics is the possibility of having a national playoff to determine a college football national championship."

Bear in mind this conversation continued for another 40 years...and even then they wanted a larger one. (Guess what's coming in 2030 y'all? Yep - 24 team playoff).

Per Jackson, two factors dominated discussion:
1) should we do away with the bowl games because there are too many now? (There were 12 then....)
2) should what we now call HUBCs be included? (of course not, but I have to admit segregation was a much bigger issue then than now, too; a Grambling would have had a much better shot at beating the late 60s Alabama teams than nowadays, and even that would have been iffy)

Bill Miller of N Texas supported a playoff, Bob Woodruff of the Univ of Tennessee opposed it. Miller's argument was the big schools opposed it because scholarship limitations would be tied to any playoff. Jackson also writes, "..for some time there have been some talk of super schools moving out of the NCAA and forming a new super alliance." Miller then says football is the only NCAA sport without a way to determine a champion - and then says "the present setup of the NCAA" prevents the adoption of such a concept.

Woodruff then says he's opposed to it because it would require a separate exam schedules for athletes (I love how he pretends Tennessee football players actually take their own exams, but I digress). Of course, this so-called problem did not prevent the Vols from playing in the 1971 Sugar Bowl against Air Force. Woodruff also fell back on the old "okay, how do you determine which teams play?" Woodruff also said that because of the time involved, anything larger than an eight-team playoff was impossible.
 

selmaborntidefan

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Then in September of 1972, the Big Eight commissioner (Chuck Neinas) and Big 10 commissioner (Wayne Duke) had a public forum meeting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (not that there's much else besides cow tipping to do there in 1972). Neinas likes a playoff but says it won't happen, Duke says he's opposed to a playoff (amazing what Rose Bowl money post-1966 did to the man).

And then in July of 1973, Duffy Daugherty (who had now added "former" to his title as Mich St head coach) AGAIN pushed for a college football playoff. Start summer practice two weeks earlier - no school - start the season two weeks earlier, and start the playoff the last weekend of November or first weekend of December. Have the games on the college campuses. Daugherty continued to state it would make more money than the bowls were making since most of them were exhibitions that didn't affect the title picture. But he WANTED TO RETAIN THE BOWLS as did Coach Bryant.

Daugherty also proposed another solution to the problem: "Give all the football coaches a one-year sabbatical and let the academic people come down and coach and THEN they can make the decisions affecting the teams" (note: not a direct quote).

So in September of 1973, THREE DIFFERENT PROPOSALS ARE BEING DISCUSSED BY WRITERS AND FANS...but NOT by the people that matter:

1) Daugherty Plan - start the season earlier, 8-team playoff, include the bowls, play on campus early rounds, bowl game late rounds, rotate the championship among 7 bowls

2) Football News Magazine Plan - includes smaller conferences in a 16-team playoff that uses the then existing bowl games

3) Beano Cook Plan (later called the "Plus One") - play out the bowl games and have 1 vs 2 in the off-week between the conference championship and Super Bowl games that the NFL uses. (Coach Bryant endorsed something similar to this in the 1980 Sugar Bowl pregame, saying it would draw big numbers, but he didn't want to undo the bowl system).

And then there was the sudden reversal of Ara Parseghian, who after winning a 1973 national championship he never would have won under the rules of 1966, was calling for a playoff (after expressly opposing one just two years earlier). Mere days after that phenomenal game, Parseghian suddenly had the zeal of a new religious convert, a born again playoff advocate if you will. He also stated - and he was smart here - that they needed to delay bowl bids until the last week of November. After all, he said, "What if Alabama or Notre Dame had lost their last two games of the year?"

He was opposed in this argument by Paul Bryant, Jerry Claiborne, and John McKay. McKay actually said - I'm not making this up - that the biggest problems would be the extra games required and it would make CFB like the NFL. In fact, this would make it like "the most boring game of the year" - by which he meant the Super Bowl - and said he never watched it (and not only because he was going to be coaching Tampa Bay, either). In McKay's defense, most of the first 30 Super Bowls were gosh-awful. Around the same time, Daugherty said he did not believe there would ever by any sort of playoff that involved the bowl games.

Then just before the 1974 season, Tom Osborne gave his opinion - he didn't want a playoff because it would hurt the bowl games. Osborne - using the same argument Charles McClendon (LSU) would later parrot almost verbatim - said that the bowl system allows the fans of 8 or 9 schools to exit the season happy, but a playoff would reduce that to only the champion being happy.

We've reached the end of 1974, and a playoff now is a mere 40 years away.
 

TideEngineer08

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Careful. Saban actually proposed that very idea a few years ago.
I don't recall Coach Saban ever advocating a 17 game season. Regardless, he knows better than any college administrator what kind of impact that's going to have on the player mentally and physically. So I'll yield to his judgement, obviously, but I'm still going to mock collegiate administrators whenever I get the opportunity.
 
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81usaf92

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I don't recall Coach Saban ever advocating a 17 game season. Regardless, he knows better than any college administrator what kind of impact that's going to have on the player mentally and physically. So I'll yield to his judgement, obviously, but I'm still going to mock collegiate administrators whenever I get the opportunity.
I was talking about expanding the power to commissioners. He even advocated to having a single commissioner like a Goodell.

It was an early morning (for me) post. So I must have misread or misinterpreted. Anyways
 

TideEngineer08

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I was talking about expanding the power to commissioners. He even advocated to having a single commissioner like a Goodell.

It was an early morning (for me) post. So I must have misread or misinterpreted. Anyways
Oh yes I do recall that.

No, I was more just mocking the thirst for more money that is obviously a large motivating factor for these commissioners, athletics directors, and college presidents.
 

selmaborntidefan

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In the spring of 1975, the NCAA committee on economy (better known as the "how can we make more money by giving less product" group) met and heard the proposal for a playoff. Former Penn State Coach Earle Edwards sent a letter that may as well have been written by "the Penn State Head Coach." It laid out a playoff plan and was presented by LSU's Head of Clueless Carl Maddox (if you know what happened with Cholly Mac, ,you know why I say this). Eight-team playoff starting the first week of December, two semi-finals between 20 and 23 December, and a title game no earlier than January 8. This won't interfere with the bowls they said.

Naturally, Darrell Royal was opposed, which is fine but rather than saying he wanted the money and the Cotton Bowl, he hid behind, "It will hit us in the middle of exams" as well as "we don't want to move our traditional Thanksgiving match with A/M." Of course, it was Texas who got huffy and ended that series and won't consider it but.....whatever.

Now it was time for Michigan Head Coach who couldn't win a Rose Bowl to pop off, and sure enough, he did. Prior to the 1975 season, he decided to say that there should be a playoff after the bowls between the "two teams that looked the best in the bowl games." What. The. Hell.

In August of 1975 - saying "the climate is better than ever" for a playoff - the NCAA AGAIN appointed a Committee On Why We Won't Change Things to study the playoff and tell why it was a terrible idea. The committee had 17 members...including Darrell Royal and John McKay, whose outspoken opposition was already well-known. There were to "givens" at this point: 1) don't interfere with the bowls; 2) a selection committee to determine the participants. The new idea - designed to not interfere with Tennessee getting tutors to take exams - was to have the semi-finals the week after the bowls and the final game the following week.

The first week of October, this is exactly what the study committee recommended: a four-team playoff after the bowls. Immediately - as in this was written no doubt by an attorney ten seconds before the committee was formed - four "no" votes were registered in an 8-4 "yes" vote for a playoff with five folks apparently having better things to do that day. The Two Families who Pretended to Love the Rose Bowl but what they really loved was the money that came from the Rose Bowl (not that there's anything wrong with that) and the SEC (who loved the money they were getting due to the fact the other conferences were just now discovering more than one bowl game) strangled this in the cradle.

So in the 60s, the SEC is anti-playoff while the Big Ten is for it.
Now in the 70s, they're both against it.

And who was FOR the playoff in this vote?
The ACC
Utah
Dartmouth
N Carolina
Toledo
Bob Devaney
Edmund Joyce (Notre Dame)
Ernest Casale (Temple)
 

selmaborntidefan

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This btw is the Dan Jenkins article from 1965



Winning a national championship of some kind these days is not really as hard as it may seem. After all, there are a lot of them to go around. Last year, for example, there were three champions. Alabama was voted the best by the Associated Press and United Press International, Arkansas was awarded the Grant-land Rice Trophy from the Football Writers Association of America and the No. 1 prize from the Helms Athletic Foundation. Even Ara Parseghian's exciting Notre Dame team was not left out. After it blew all the top ratings in the final game against USC, the National Football Foundation and the Howard Jones Memorial Award Foundation managed to cough up trophies.

There is of course a way for the NCAA to satisfy the public: play to a national title. The chart on the preceding page, based on this magazine's scouting reports, illustrates what could happen if there were a playoff. The scores are intended to reflect this year's strengths—and Nebraska is the champion, with its closest call against Texas in the semifinals. The country is divided East and West as accurately as possible for balance, all major areas are included and the first-round games determine regional superiority. For playing sites, it seems needless to point out that there are eight major bowl sponsors who would be pleased to continue their promotions.

Although the NCAA decides national champions in most other sports—for instance, fencing—its main argument against a football playoff centers vaguely around overemphasis. But as long as the administrators fire coaches, sell tickets, recruit athletes, play postseason games and peddle their product to television they are kidding no one
 

selmaborntidefan

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As we continue back in history - once again - we pay tribute to the Big Ten.

Stu Holcomb, the Athletic Director of Northwestern, wrote a letter to K. L. "Tug" Wilson and NCAA Executive Secretary Walter Byers that arrived on March 28, 1960 (a Monday) and that advocated an on-campus an eight-team playoff consisting of six conference champions and two independents. This came shortly after the Big Ten and Rose Bowl had failed to reach a pact continuing their agreement that had run for nearly 15 years. Holcomb gave one helluva good argument, too - the bowl games never have the fervor that is the draw of CFB because the games are not on campus.

Play them at the home team's venue, have a sellout, and watch insanity reign.

Tom Hamilton, the commissioner of the AAWU (now the Pac 12), was apparently a Southern Baptist, though, as his response was that a "playoff was a novel idea...but it might be questionable to break tradition," which is familiar to those of you raised in the SBC as the typical "we never did it that way before" argument.
 

selmaborntidefan

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In January 1976, the NCAA had a problem on its hands. Well, it had ONE problem, but it had several aspects to that one problem. The Big Ten and Pac 8 had just recently decided to get into the TV/Non-Rose Bowl Game/Money Business...which hurt the SEC's bottom line since you now had the loser of the Michigan/Ohio State battle for the Rose Bowl NOW going to other bowl games. Face it, if you're a bowl game dependent on TV ratings for money, who do you pick, 10-1 Ohio State or 8-3 Tennessee? This is a no-brainer. And it had the potential to really hurt the SEC badly because all of the Northern states now in contention had bigger TV markets and - with the sole exception of Alabama - they could draw them to the television.

But the problem was very simple: since every member of the NCAA had an equal vote, the Ivy League (who had not pretended to be big-time for two decades) had the clout to prevent things from going forward, and because the small schools vote as a bloc, nothing could happen. The NCAA was basically lording over everyone, refusing to allow teams to negotiate their own contracts for TV, stipulating how many players could be on a team at a time, and also threatening sanctions and punishment on anyone who did not comply....yet continuing the transparent fiction that NCAA membership was a "voluntary" thing. Sure, kind of like the nerd volunteers his lunch money when threatened by the bully in third grade.

The big teams were getting sick and tired of it, so they let it be known they just might rebel. The only thing that prevented it....well, the Big Ten and Pac 8 were in a shotgun marriage known as the Rose Bowl, so the Big Ten's Wayne Duke spoke as Larry while the Pac 8 nodded silently like both Darryls. The only thing holding the entire fragile coalition together was sort of like the old nuclear threat between the USA and the USSR - mutually assured destruction. Just who the hell was Byers or anybody to tell teams what they could and couldn't do? Or as Darrell Royal said, "I'm tired of Hofstra telling Texas what they can and can't do."

So in January 1976, the NCAA met to vote on no fewer than 79 proposals left over from the pre-season August 1975 meeting. One proposal on the table was the creation of a college football "superdivision" that would have a national champion determined by playoff. But the most controversial proposal was to limit football scholarships to only those with a demonstrated financial need. That mere proposal sent Barry Switzer to making one of his generally accurate in that Gomer Pyle sort of way comments that if the NCAA passes this, they won't have to worry about any secession - because 70 schools would be out of the football business by sunset.

Temple's Ernest Casales AGAIN proposed TWO playoff options for consideration:
1) a two-team playoff (like, you know, the BCS)
2) a four-team playoff

Of course, neither passed. And then the new Michigan State Athletic Director (Joe Kearney) - reading from the same sheet of music as the other Big Ten voices in the 70s - took the opposite position of the old MSU coach, Daugherty. Asked about a playoff he said, "Why do we need it?" And then - showing that flip-flopping is not limited to people seeking public office - it was good ole Dan Jenkins again, suddenly somersaulting into, "I'm opposed to a national football playoff," suddenly deciding the polls are good and "keep the fans guessing" and increase the interest in the bowl games.

And then for maybe the first time ever....in 1976.....someone ran a story not on what the FANS or the WRITERS or the COACHES or the ADMINISTRATORS wanted but.....what the players wanted. Ricky Bell, a talented tailback and Heisman candidate from USC, asked why there had to be "only one winner" (one surmises he figured out why once he was carrying the ball for the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers). He was joined by Brad Shearer of Texas, who argued that the month post-bowl game was literally the only time college players had off. Luther Fry of Notre Dame said he didn't want to play more than 11 games a year.

And then in April of 1977, some guy named Bryant was (again) interviewed on the subject. As always, the man was maybe the most forward-looking coach of his time.

Bryant liked the super conference IDEA, but not the name, saying instead that the NCAA should simply place teams in different divisions (which would happen, in fact, in 1978). He also said he sort of favored a playoff, but it wouldn't happen in his lifetime because of the issue of academics. Bryant, in fact, was on a committee in the late 60s, and the study died quickly for lack of money.
 

selmaborntidefan

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Then in November of 1977, Ara Parseghian, perhaps looking ahead to the oncoming car crash that would create controversy and angst for years to come, basically came up with, "Look, if we can't have a playoff, could you not at least make the bowls wait until after Thanksgiving to make their choices?" This, of course, was "Ara's Greatest Hits" from 1974. Ironically, Parseghian's motivation was to help Notre Dame, and he seemed more bothered by the Irish getting hurt than anything else. He pointed out that Notre Dame was agreeing to go to the Cotton Bowl because in mid-November Texas was number one. But what if Texas lost and now Notre Dame wasn't playing number one anymore? (The fact this only affected his school did not dissuade this guy in the least. Every other school was doing the same thing, looking out for themselves).

In 1970, Parseghian had proposed what is often called the Plus One model. Take the final polls after the bowls and have a final championship game called "The Challenge Bowl." It died on the vine.

One obvious question: how in the hell can you have playoffs at the lower level and it doesn't affect class, but you can't have them at the higher level?

Then in the first few days after the controversial end to the 1977 season, there were enough playoff proposals to strangle Audrey Hepburn (it's a big neck joke on an old actress if you don't get it). One proposal was an eight-team playoff selected by (wait for it) a "blue ribbon committee" (Tim Brando was barely out of college, it wasn't his words) that would utilize the minor bowls for the first round, the major bowls for the final four, and a title game ALWAYS in the Rose Bowl (which is what Joel Klatt was saying yesterday, although he was getting butchered by his Twitter followers saying that the picture on TV is a whole lot better than the stadium is). Lou Holtz, angry over what he felt was a snub of Arkansas (who would have a legit complaint had they beaten Texas), had a similar plan.

A year later after Alabama beat Penn State in "the greatest game Keith Jackson ever saw until the next great game he saw," the playoff beat began again since, you know, it was so unfair Alabama got a claim of the title. The consensus was that four 11-1 teams - Alabama, Clemson, USC, and Oklahoma would have played in a post-bowl 1978 title tournament, which is hilarious if you think about it with what you're reading today.

In January 1979...a 28-team playoff was proposed. Yes, I'm serious. Well, I should qualify that. What would happen is the 28 bowl teams would reduce the field to14 by keeping the same arrangements. Then a (wait for it) "special committee" would pick the four finalists. That's actually NOT a bad idea save for the fact you could then have the football title game on the same day as the Daytona 500.
 

selmaborntidefan

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TideEngineer08

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It is the only Alabama football game I have ever turned off before it was finished.
That was the last game I watched with my dad.

Because of the stupid stupid stupidity of having that damn game on a Monday night, we had to leave at halftime in order to get kids in the bed. So I missed a large portion of the second half.

I'm not sad I missed it. But I hate that that was the last Alabama experience I had with dad.
 
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